#040/2010 – Police Custody in Harrow – generally positive

Police custody in Harrow was generally positive, though some further improvements could be made, said Sir Denis O’Connor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, and Nigel Newcomen, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of a joint inspection into custody suites in the London Borough of Harrow.

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections and was conducted at Harrow, the single custody suite for the London borough. Overall, it found some good practice and some areas of excellence. Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • there was some good partnership working with local health care providers and the local criminal justice board;
  • relationships between staff and detainees appeared relaxed, and good de-escalation skills were observed;
  • vulnerable detainees were well supported, risk assessments were good and records generally excellent;
  • custody sergeants ensured an assiduous approach to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), although this meant appropriate adults were rarely sought for 17-year-olds;
  • forensic samples were efficiently processed; and
  • support for those with mental health issues was very good.

Good liaison with the UK Border Agency had ensured a marked reduction in the time immigration detainees were held in police custody.

Inspectors also found that:

  • management arrangements were generally sound but the breadth of senior staff responsibilities limited their focus on custody;
  • there was limited management information to call on, including a lack of appropriate monitoring of the use of force, both locally and Londonwide; and
  • clinical governance required improvement and there were some weaknesses in medicines management.

The Chief Inspector and Deputy Chief Inspector said:

“Overall, we report positively on police custody in Harrow, although there is inevitably scope for further improvement, and we set out a number of recommendations that we hope will assist the MPS and MPA in taking matters forward. We expect these recommendations to be considered in the wider context of priorities and resourcing, and for an action plan to be provided in due course. Some recommendations also have national implications and we will progress these directly with the appropriate authorities.”


Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 11 November 2010 at www.justice.gov.uk/inspectorates/hmi-prisons.
  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. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the 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 and the British Transport Police and HMRC.
  4. This joint inspection was carried out from 17-19 May 2010 as part of an ongoing programme of joint inspections of police custody conditions. The programme is projected to be over a six-year period, during which time all police forces in England and Wales, and all London Boroughs will be inspected at least once each.
  5. All London boroughs are policed by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), but most aspects of the provision of custody services are the responsibility of local command teams and therefore areas of concern will normally need to be tackled at that level. In addition, there are some aspects of policy and strategic management which are handled at the force level and some recommendations in individual reports are therefore directed more widely to the MPS and/or the Metropolitan Police Authority.
  6. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMI Prisons press office) on 020 7035 2123 or 07880 787452 or Robert Stansfield (HMIC Press Office) on 020 7802 1824 if you would like more information or to request an interview.