Suffolk and Norfolk custody ‘positive though with some concerns’

An inspection of Norfolk and Suffolk’s custody facilities showed that they were run by well trained staff but were stretched and lacked oversight. 

Oct 2, 2018
By Serena Lander

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services visited six custody suites across the two force areas – which are run in collaboration – in May. 

All the custody suites were reported to be “well maintained and there was a notable lack of potential ligature points and graffiti in the cells across the estate”. 

The inspectorates commended the staff who were patient, despite being stretched at busy times, and were generally respectful of detainees. 

Staff were also particularly capable at de-escalating situations with detainees.  

However, oversight of the use of force in custody was not adequate, which left room for risk and lack of safeguarding. 

Not all incidents were recorded, which they are legally required to do. Where good work was carried out to address occurrences of possibly disproportionate treatment, it was at times thwarted by “inaccuracies or incomplete data, including in information on self-defined ethnicity (disclosed by detainees themselves) and waiting times for appropriate adults”.  

The inspectorates also recommended that incidents should be cross-referenced to CCTV to demonstrate that the force used is proportionate and justified. 

The forces showed too many areas which did not comply with legislation, requiring “immediate remedial action, with arrangements to demonstrate compliance”. This mostly referred to code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) codes of practice, which relates to reviews of custody detention. 

The inspectorates did note that the work of Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies put a great deal of emphasis on understanding vulnerability “and were confident about taking it into account when deciding whether to arrest someone or take alternative action”.  

Where possible, frontline officers were able to divert mentally unwell people from custody.  

Unfortunately, due to partner agencies’ deficiencies, the report said that too many children who were charged and had bail refused were detained in custody overnight when alternative accommodation should have been provided. 

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Wendy Williams, HM Inspector of Constabulary, said: “Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies made efforts to achieve the recommendations made at our previous inspection (in 2012) and demonstrated progress in many areas. This inspection…was positive overall. We identified two causes of concern and a number of areas requiring improvement, which we were confident that the forces’ leadership arrangements would enable them to address.” 

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