North Yorkshire Police custody – some significant improvements

Police custody in North Yorkshire had improved and there was better support for people with mental health issues, but still more to do, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary. Today they published the report of an unannounced inspection.

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North Yorkshire – Joint inspection of police custody

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody and the second inspection of North Yorkshire police custody cells. The first inspection was in February 2010 and since then the custody estate had been reduced by two custody suites (Selby and Skipton). Inspectors visited the custody suites at Harrogate, York, Northallerton and Scarborough.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • there had been notable progress in working with partners to reduce how often a police cell was used as a place of safety for people with mental ill-health under section 136 of the Mental Health Act, but the force needed to do more;
  • there were good efforts to try and ensure children got bail;
  • staff and detainee interactions were generally courteous, although the individual needs of some detainees were not always met;
  • individual rights of detainees were explained to them when they arrived in the custody suite;
  • custody sergeants were confident in refusing detention when it was not merited;
  • the youth offending service provided a good appropriate adult service for children up to 10pm; and
  • skilled and experienced health care practitioners delivered a good standard of health care and substance misuse services were reasonable.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the use of anti-rip clothing was too often disproportionate to the apparent risk and officers needed to demonstrate greater understanding of the welfare of women in custody;
  • although initial risk assessments were reasonable, subsequent care plans did not always match identified risks;
  • there was insufficient oversight of the use of force and officers did not always complete use of force forms;
  • the local authority out of hours appropriate adult service was inadequate for children and poor for vulnerable adults; and
  • there was only one forensic medical examiner covering the county, which led to significant delays.

Martin Lomas and Dru Sharpling said:

“North Yorkshire police had demonstrated some significant improvements in some areas since the last inspection, but more was required. Useful strategic oversight and some good work with partners was leading to some positive outcomes. While the report is critical of police cells being used as a place of safety, there is recognition of the progress made to date. Our main concerns relate to the treatment of detainees, with the disproportionate use of anti-rip clothing, inadequate oversight of the use of force and some risk-averse practices. This report provides a number of recommendations to the force and the Police and Crime Commissioner. We expect our findings to be considered and an action plan to be provided in due course.”

Get the report

North Yorkshire – Joint inspection of police custody


  1. 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.
  2. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
  3. Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 enables a police officer to remove, from a public place, someone who they believe to be suffering from a mental disorder and in need of immediate care and control, and take them to a place of safety – for example, a health or social care facility, or the home of a relative or friend. In exceptional circumstances (for example if the person’s behaviour would pose an unmanageably high risk to others), the place of safety may be police custody. Section 136 also states that the purpose of detention is to enable the person to be assessed by a doctor and an approved mental health professional (for example a specially trained social worker or nurse), and for the making of any necessary arrangements for treatment or care.
  4. This joint inspection was carried out from 24-29 August 2015.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452, or Phil Gillen (HMIC) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.