#003/2013 Police custody in Merseyside – good strategic grip, but day-to-day management less convincing

Police custody provision in Merseyside was generally good but more attention needs to be paid to treatment and conditions in the suites themselves, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection.

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody. It looked at five custody suites operating 24 hours a day: St Anne Street Liverpool, Belle Vale Liverpool, St Helens, Wirral and Copy Lane Liverpool, as well as two standby suites at Kirkby and Wavertree, and Southport, open Friday to Monday. Overall there were some areas of excellent practice, but some areas which still needed to be addressed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • strategically the force had a good grip of its custody work and performance was actively monitored, with the support of active engagement by the Police Authority and the custody visitors;
  • staff were polite and appropriate in their manner with detainees, and competent at handling difficult or disruptive people;
  • the provision of showers, and of food and drink to detainees was satisfactory;
  • force policy had moved towards a greater emphasis on detaining only those for whom it was necessary;
  • detention reviews were timely, those detained had their rights explained and staff worked to ensure that detainees arrived promptly at court;
  • the health care service had improved considerably, aided by attention to governance issues and active monitoring of performance; and
  • substance misuse and mental health services were performing well and many detainees had been diverted into hospital care.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • some suites were not sufficiently actively supervised by custody managers, and some sergeants and detention officers did not work sufficiently as a team;
  • staff did not make proper provision for women and young people in all cases and there was little to support those with disabilities;
  • the organisation of regular observation of those in cells, and of passing information from one shift to the next, was insufficiently systematic;
  • assessment and support in respect of pre-release needs was patchy; andthere was a large amount of graffiti in the cells.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“Altogether, there was a good strategic focus on the force’s custody operation, which has borne fruit in areas such as health care and a re-emphasis on arresting only where it is necessary. This focus now needs to be sharpened through more rigorous ground-level attention to treatment and conditions in the suites themselves, including both physical conditions and the response to individual risks and needs. This report provides a small number of recommendations to assist the force and the Police and Crime Commissioner to improve provision further. We expect our findings to be considered in the wider context of priorities and resourcing, and for an action plan to be provided in due course.”


Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 01 March 2013 at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/police-cell
  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. 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 and authorities to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing bodies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the British Transport Police and HMRC.
  4. This joint inspection was carried out from 8-15 October 2012.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMIP Press Office) on 020 7035 2123 or 07880 787452 or Ruth Allman (HMIC Press Office) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information or to request an interview.