#027/2013 Police custody in Cheshire – positive and professional

Police custody staff in Cheshire dealt with detainees positively and professionally, 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 three custody suites operating 24 hours a day: Blacon (Chester), Middlewich and Runcorn. The inspection indicated a generally good approach. Some improvements were identified but staff were engaged and detainee welfare was prioritised.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • senior managers were actively involved in the management of risk;
  • there were some good policies for the care of young people, including managers routinely monitoring local authority provision of bed spaces for young people in custody;
  • the three modern purpose-built custody suites were among the best structures inspectors have seen, and were clean and well maintained with little graffiti;
  • staff required little direction and often anticipated and responded to custody demands;
  • detainees were treated with courtesy;
  • risk assessments were thorough and identified need and welfare issues;
  • video-enabled courts were in operation, ensuring detainees could be dealt with quickly; and
  • the health care contract was well managed and it was easy for detainees to see a health care professional as there was usually a nurse in each of the three suites at all times.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • some practice remained risk averse and disproportionate, such as presenting some detainees in rip-proof clothing when they appeared in front of the video-link to court;
  • arrangements for the management of shift handovers were weak; and
  • the force adhered to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) definition of a child, treating 17-year-olds as adults meaning the young people were not supported by an appropriate adult.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“Overall, Cheshire provides a good quality custody service in very good purpose-built facilities. This report provides a number of recommendations to assist the force and the Police and Crime Commissioner to improve policing 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 28 August 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 to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
  4. This joint inspection was carried out from 16-20 April 2013.
  5. In all other UK law and international treaty obligations, 17-year-olds are treated as children. In April 2013, the High Court ruled that the PACE definition was incompatible with human rights law and the government announced that it would accept this judgment.
  6. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMIP Press Office) on 020 7035 2123 or 07880 787452 or Phil Gillen (HMIC Press Office) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.