Police custody in Norfolk and Suffolk – positive, though with some concerns, say inspectors

An inspection of custody facilities run in a collaboration between Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies was “positive overall”, though inspectors identified some causes of concern.

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Norfolk and Suffolk – Joint inspection of police custody

Visiting six custody suites across the two force areas between 14-25 May 2018, inspectors from two criminal justice inspectorates found strong governance and clear, joint accountability for custody.

Strengths included clean, well-maintained modern suites, with no identified potential ligature points or graffiti.

The suites were run by well trained staff who, though stretched at busy times, showed patient respectful treatment of detainees. In particular, staff dealt well with challenging detainees, often de-escalating situations.

Officers and staff also had a good understanding of their safeguarding responsibilities to children and vulnerable detainees. The two forces had significantly reduced the number of people detained in police cells under the Mental Health Act and both forces also recorded falls in the numbers of children entering custody.

The joint inspection team – from HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services – identified principal concerns related to:

  • Too many areas where the force did not comply with legislation or guidance, notably code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) codes of practice, which relates to reviews of custody detention. Inspectors said: “This required immediate remedial action, with arrangements to demonstrate compliance.”
  • Though de-escalation was evident, the governance and oversight of the use force in custody were not adequate. Data were unreliable and some use of force was disproportionate to the risk posed. “Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies did not record all incidents involving force in the custody suites,” inspectors said.

Inspectors also noted an area for improvement that is regularly seen in police custody inspections. Though officers and staff deal well with children in custody “other partner agencies’ lack of capacity or capability meant that too many children who were charged and had bail refused were detained in custody overnight when alternative accommodation should have been provided.”

Overall, 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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Norfolk and Suffolk – 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. On 19 July 2017 HMIC took on responsibility for fire & rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
  3. The Norfolk and Suffolk inspection, from 14 – 25 May 2018, covered six facilities, with more than 140 cells, in Wymondham, Aylsham, King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth, Bury St Edmunds and Martlesham.
  4. Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies had a clear governance structure for the delivery of custody. As part of a well embedded collaboration agreement under section 22 of the Police Act 1996, the overall responsibility for custody lay with a jointly funded assistant chief constable who covered both forces. The responsibility for custody lay with a member of police staff who was head of the criminal justice department and a chief superintendent who was the head of the joint justice department, supported by two chief inspectors.
  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. Please contact John Steele (HMIP Press Office) on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452 or the HMICFRS Press Office on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.