Devon and Cornwall Police custody - Many positive features and good care

Devon and Cornwall Police were assessed by a joint criminal justice inspectorates team as delivering good outcomes for detainees held in custody.

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Devon and Cornwall Police – Joint inspection of police custody

Inspectors who visited the force’s seven custody suites in May 2019 found a very clear strategic focus on diverting people, especially the most vulnerable, away from police custody. Children were only taken into custody as a last resort. Those who were detained received good care and were treated well.

There was one cause of concern and some areas for improvement highlighted in the report. The one cause of concern related to the need to collate accurate data of all areas of custody and scrutinise them to ensure performance was managed properly.

Inspectors found many positive features including:

  • Staff were well trained and showed a strong caring culture.
  • The force worked well with partners and arrangements for dealing with children and detainees with mental ill-health were good.
  • The overall quality of custody records was generally good and the force learnt from any adverse incidents.
  • Custody staff managed challenging behaviour well, de-escalated situations appropriately and only used force against detainees as a last resort.
  • Custody staff identified and managed risks well with checks on detainees conducted at the required frequency and consistent attention to rousing detainees who were under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Detainees were treated with care and good consideration given to their welfare.

The report noted: ‘The force displayed a particularly strong culture of treating detainees with care and consideration throughout our inspection and detainees’ welfare interests were at the forefront throughout’.

Among the areas for improvement, inspectors found an over-reliance on overtime to cover the custody suites and the force did not always meet the requirements of code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 codes of practice, especially in relation to reviews of detention.

Overall, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, and HM Inspector of Constabulary, Wendy Williams, said:

“We found a good strategic focus on diverting people, especially the most vulnerable, away from police custody and those who were detained received good care and were treated well. The force had progressed many of the recommendations made during our last inspection and was open to external scrutiny. We were confident that it would take action to address the cause of concern and areas for improvement highlighted in this report.”

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Devon and Cornwall Police – Joint inspection of police custody


  1. A copy of the full report, published on 11 September 2019, can be found on HMI Prison’s website.
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. On 19 July 2017 HMIC took on responsibility for fire & rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.
  4. HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies. HMICFRS will inspect all 45 fire and rescue services in England.
  5. This report is part of a programme of unannounced inspections of police custody carried out jointly by the two inspectorates and which form a key part of the joint work programme of the criminal justice inspectorates. These inspections also contribute to the United Kingdom’s response to its international obligation to ensure regular and independent inspection of all places of detention. The inspections look at strategy, treatment and conditions, individual rights and health care.
  6. This report describes the findings following an unannounced inspection between 13 and 24 May 2019 of custody suites in Barnstaple, Camborne, Exeter, Newquay, Plymouth, Torquay and Isles of Scilly – a total of 144 cells with an annual throughput of 15,600 detainees.
  7. Please contact John Steele (HMIP Press Office) on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452 or the HMICFRS Press Office on 020 3513 0634 if you would like more information.