Police custody in Derbyshire failing to meet standards, say inspectors

By agency reporter
August 23, 2018

Derbyshire Constabulary custody was not delivered to the standards required or expected in many important areas, with little improvement over the last five years and some poor outcomes for detainees, according to criminal justice inspectors.

Problems identified in a joint unannounced visit by two inspectorates in April 2018, included a significant number of failures to comply with Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) codes of practice on custody.

Inspectors also found little effective performance management of custody suites, and unreliable record keeping. There had been little investment in the suites, with a number of potential ligature points, which posed a significant safety risk to vulnerable detainees.

However, inspectors also found that custody staff generally dealt with detainees respectfully and the force, though it had improved little on a previous custody inspection in 2013, had a clear governance structure and was committed to improvement.

The inspection was carried out by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS). Inspectors were particularly concerned by evidence that the force did not always consistently comply with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes of practice. Areas of non-compliance included:

  • Not informing the detainee about the offence for which they had been arrested and why they had been arrested;
  • Not bringing the detainee before the custody officer as soon as practicable on arrival in custody;
  • Not informing the detainee that their detention had been authorised and not giving detainees a written copy of their rights and entitlements documentation;
  • Not notifying the appropriate adult (AA) – an adult who accompanies children or vulnerable adults – or asking them to attend the custody suite to support the detainee as soon as practicable.

The quality of custody records was generally poor, inspectors noted, and they often failed to record key information or the justification for important decisions. There was insufficient oversight of the use of force in custody.

Detainees were generally treated respectfully, and staff were patient with challenging detainees, only using force as a last resort. However, there were insufficient adaptations for some detainees with disabilities. Women detainees were rarely offered a named female member of staff to discuss gender-specific issues, and they were not routinely offered sanitary items.

There was a good understanding of the importance of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. The force had a clear strategy to divert vulnerable people – including children and vulnerable and mentally ill adults – away from custody and the criminal justice system, and there were some positive working arrangements with partners to deliver this. Only one person detained under the Mental Health Act had been taken to custody as a place of safety in the last year. However, though children were only taken into custody as a last resort, the force was urged to improve work with partners to avoid children refused bail being kept in cells overnight.

Overall, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and Wendy Williams, HM Inspector of Constabulary, said: “There had been little improvement since our inspection in 2013, and we identified several causes of concern that were leading to poor outcomes for detainees. The force was, however, open to challenge and recognised the weaknesses that needed addressing. We found committed staff and a strong culture of wanting to improve. Early discussions with the force gave us reassurance that it was taking our findings seriously, and we are confident that it will take the necessary steps to deliver the required improvements.”

* Read the inspection report here

* Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/

* Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/


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