As the Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire, I am providing the following response to both the Secretary of State for the Home Office , and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), and in respect of the HMICFRS ‘Report on an unannounced inspection visit to police custody suites in Warwickshire’ as published on the 9 February 2021. This action is pursuant to my obligations under Section 55(1) of the Police Act 1996.
Local Policing Body’s Comments
I welcome the report and would like to convey my thanks to HMICFRS and HMI Inspectorate of Prisons for their unannounced inspection between the 6 to 17 September 2021 of Warwickshire Police’s two custody facilities located at the two Justice Centres at Nuneaton and Royal Leamington Spa.
I understand that the inspection is part of a programme of inspections covering every police custody suite in England and Wales. The inspection assessed the effectiveness of custody services and outcomes for detained people throughout the various stages of detention. It examined the force’s approach to custody provision in relation to safe detention and the respectful treatment of detainees, with a particular focus on vulnerable people and children.
The last inspection of Warwickshire Police’s custody facilities occurred in 2014. At that time Warwickshire provided its custody services in collaboration with West Mercia Police as part of the strategic alliance between the two forces. The recommendations arising out of the inspection applied to both forces, but for this inspection the assessment was solely of Warwickshire Police’s progress against them.
Of the twenty-nine recommendations made during that previous inspection, Warwickshire has achieved, or partially achieved, fifteen of them. Two recommendations are no longer applicable, the remaining twelve have been identified in this latest inspection as areas still requiring attention.
To aid improvement, three recommendations have been made to the force addressing the main causes for concern, and have highlighted an additional twenty- two areas for improvement: –
Causes of Concern
1. Cause of concern: Meeting legal requirements and guidance:
The force is not always complying with section 40 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). Some reviews of detention are missed. Reviews of detention are carried out in a way that frequently does not meet the requirements of Code C of PACE for the detention, treatment and questioning of persons. The College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice (APP) is not always followed.
Recommendation 1: The force should take immediate action to ensure that all custody procedures and practices comply with legislation and guidance
2. Cause of concern: Quality of custody records:
- The quality of recording on detention logs is poor
- There is not enough detail in many of the entries
- Entries are often confusing and contradictory, and rely on pre-populated text
- The reasoning and justification for decisions taken is not always clear
- Important information is sometimes missing from the detention logs
- It is often not possible to establish what actions have been taken and when; and
- There is little quality assurance of records, so their standard is often not
assessed and concerns cannot always be identified. This makes it difficult to establish how detainees have been attended to and treated in custody, and whether all custody processes have been applied correctly.
Recommendation 2: The force should ensure that custody records are detailed and clearly reflect the individual action taken for each detainee. It should robustly quality assure custody records to identify and act on any concerns.
3. Cause of concern: Detainee safety – risk management:
- The force is not always assuring detainee safety
- Queues for detainees to be booked into custody are not triaged to mitigate risks
- Detainees under observation because they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs are often taken off rousal checks too quickly, and the justification for this is not always adequately recorded
- Checks on detainees are often conducted through spyholes, are sometimes done late with poor justification recorded, and are frequently carried out by different detention officers, making it difficult to assess changes in a detainee’s behaviour
- Custody staff routinely remove cords and footwear from detainees without an individualised risk assessment
- Anti-rip clothing is used, often without justification or adequate reasoning
- Level 3 (constant observation) and Level 4 (close proximity) watches are not always conducted or recorded in line with APP guidance
- Handovers between shifts are not attended by all custody staff, and those taking over do not always visit the detainees in their care
- Not all custody staff carry anti-ligature knives; and
- Custody staff do not maintain control of cell keys.
- Many of these practices do not follow APP guidance and place detainees at significant risk of harm.
Recommendation 3: The force should take immediate action to mitigate the risk to detainees by ensuring that its risk management practices are safe, follow APP guidance, and are consistently carried out to the required standard.
Areas for Improvement
Leadership, accountability, and partnerships
- The force should strengthen its approach to performance management by collecting and monitoring information for its main services and showing the outcomes achieved for detainees.
- The force should improve its monitoring of the use of force so that it can show that any use of force in custody suites is proportionate and justified. This should be based on comprehensive and accurate information
First point of contact
- The force should ensure that frontline officers have access to good quality and timely information to help them respond to incidents and make appropriate decisions
In the custody suite: booking in, individual needs and legal rights
- The force should improve its approach to detainee dignity and privacy by:
- Advising detainees early in the booking-in process that they can speak with a member of staff in private to discuss any sensitive information; and
- Routinely advising detainees that they are being monitored on CCTV in the custody suite and in cells, where applicable.
- The force should strengthen its approach to meeting the individual and diverse needs of detainees by:
- Making adequate provision for detainees with disabilities
- Asking all women if they would like access to, or to speak with, a female member of staff in private
- Having satisfactory disposal arrangements for menstrual care products
- Using private telephone interpreting services at all points during detention where important information needs to be given or requested; and
- Providing sufficient religious texts and items in all the main faiths and storing them respectfully.
- Detainees should be booked into custody and have their cases dealt with promptly and effectively so that they do not spend longer than necessary in custody.
- Detainees who do not receive their rights and entitlements when booked into custody, or who have them withheld, should receive these as soon as practicable. This should be clearly recorded on the custody record
- Detainees should be able to make a complaint easily, and before they leave custody. They should have access to up-to-date information about the complaint procedures.
In the custody cell, safeguarding and health care
- The force should:
- Address the safety issues involving potential ligature points and, where resources do not allow them to be dealt with immediately, the risks should be managed to ensure that custody is provided safely
- The force should ensure that all custody staff are briefed and trained in the procedures to be followed in the event of a fire or other emergency requiring the custody suite to be evacuated, as per APP guidance.
- The force should improve its approach to the use of force on detainees by:
- Only using approved restraint techniques that are appropriate to the circumstances of the incident
- Quality assuring enough cases, and looking at CCTV footage where possible, to assess that the force used on detainees is justified and proportionate; and
- Removing handcuffs as soon as possible from compliant detainees.
- The force should improve the care of detainees by:
- Providing signage in cells to advise that the water is drinkable
- Routinely providing reading materials and other distraction activities
- Ensuring there are staff available of the same gender as the detainee to help with access to showers and washing facilities
- Routinely providing replacement footwear, adequate replacement clothing and toilet paper; and
- Ensuring pillows and mattresses are in good condition.
- The force should monitor appropriate adult provision to ensure detainee needs are met:
- This should include recording how long detainees wait for an AA to arrive.
- The force should improve care for children in custody by
- Providing easy read documents explaining custody, and rights and entitlements
- Offering and providing child-suitable reading and other distraction materials; and
- Ensuring girls are assigned a female officer to look after their welfare.
- The force should continue to work with its local authority partners to improve the provision of alternative accommodation for children who are charged and refused bail.
- Clinical staff should complete patient clinical records in a timely manner.
- There should be regular managerial and clinical supervision, properly documented in line with professional standards, for all health care professionals.
- Clinical consultations should take place confidentially unless an individualised risk assessment suggests otherwise.
- Stored medicines, including controlled drugs, should be checked regularly and consistently in line with national guidelines.
- All L&D practitioners should have access to the police electronic custody record and be able to record interventions on it.
Release and transfer from custody
- The force should ensure that all detainees can get home safely and offer those without the means an alternative to police transportation.
The principle of treating persons in police custody as safely, expediently, and humanely with dignity is of critical importance in a civilised society, so I value the report’s findings, causes of concerns and recommendations. My responsibilities as the Police and Crime Commissioner not only extends to ‘holding to account’ the Chief Constable to secure an effective and efficient police force for the communities of Warwickshire, but I also have also initiated two schemes that are particularly relevant to the police custody landscape.
Comments from the Chief Constable
I am grateful to HMICFRS for its inspection and report, it is this scrutiny which helps us not only to drive improvements but also to ensure we provide the best possible service to keep everyone across Warwickshire safe; and ensure that anyone who comes into police custody is treated with the utmost respect and care. I am pleased that the report has recognised the progress we have made in Warwickshire custody suites since the last inspection in 2014.
There are however several areas in which we can improve as a force, and we welcome the HMICFRS recommendations. We recognise the opportunities we must improve our custody provision. Many of these had previously been identified by the force and the force immediately developed an extensive and robust action plan to address the areas identified by the inspectors. Each of the recommendations and observations has been incorporated into this detailed action plan, across all five areas of the report:
- Leadership, Accountability and Partnerships,
- Pre-custody: First Point of Contact
- In the custody suite: booking-in, individual needs and legal rights
- In the custody cell: including safeguarding and health services
- Release and Transfer from Custody
A large number of improvements have already been made and the action plan continues to drive our response, processes and compliance.
The report also highlighted a number of positive areas of our work. We are pleased that the inspectors commented positively on how effectively we work with partners to keep children and vulnerable people away from custody where possible. Custody is an option of last resort and it is essential that we avoid the unnecessary deprivation of individuals’ liberty. They also highlighted good conditions, the use of force, care of detainees and safe release from custody. We will continue to build upon this positive work.
We have taken the learning from the latest report and we are using it effectively to continue to raise awareness among our workforce at all levels so that we can ensure the safety and best possible treatment of all detainees.
Inspectors returned to the force in October 2022 for a virtual revisit, where they reviewed the progress made. The force took this opportunity to demonstrate the improvements made in the past year and our roadmap for continued progress towards excellence. The Inspection Team were greatly encouraged by the progress made and signed off the force to continue managing the final actions locally. Progress will continue to be overseen through the governance of the Force Assurance Board.
Comments from the local policing body on the CC’s comments.
As the Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire, my office operates two volunteer schemes for the force’s custody suites: –
Independent Custody Visitors
The Independent Custody Visitors (ICV) are a statutory requirement to help uphold detainees’ human rights and general well-being when in police care. Ensuring that people who are detained in police custody are treated fairly and that their welfare is given a high priority is hugely important for public confidence in the police
I very much value the work of the volunteer members of the ICV scheme, the fact that independent observers can provide scrutiny of police detention at any time is powerful in ensuring that the correct treatment is provided and consequently the detainee’s rights and entitlements are upheld. This public oversight helps to prevent harm and provides public reassurance that the custody environment is safe and treats the detainee with dignity and respect.
Adult Appropriate Adult Scheme.
Adults in police detention may be vulnerable for a variety of reasons. They may have disabilities, learning difficulties, addictions, be neuro-diverse, have mental health concerns, or have had experiences in the distant or recent past causing emotional and mental trauma.
The role of the Adult Appropriate Adult Scheme is to be present at key times in their period of custody (for example during their police interviews) to ensure that they are being fairly treated, that they understand what is happening, that the police understand how to appropriately engage with them, and that they feel supported.
Appropriate Adults for young people are provided for by local authorities, but adult provision is not clearly covered by statute. Whilst there is an already-existing paid for service to provide Appropriate Adults for Adults, this initiative has been implemented to supplement this service with volunteers who can be called upon to attend custody and support a vulnerable adult.
Both schemes have greatly valued the findings of the inspection to improve their work and provide additional scrutiny and assurance to this critical area of police operation.
In respect of Warwickshire Police’s progress against the causes of concern and recommendations, my office have continued to monitor improvement through the existing governance arrangements of Warwickshire Police’s Force Assurance Board and the formal ‘holding to account’ Governance and Performance Board (GPB), which I hold monthly with the Chief Constable. The matter of this inspection and the associated force’s action plan was raised at the meeting of the GPB in July 2022 where assurance was sought and provided.
I am pleased that the HMICFRS re-inspection in October 2022 was successful in that the Inspection Team were encouraged by the progress made and have consequently signed off the force to continue managing the final actions locally.
As I do in relation to all HMICFRS inspection reports, I will continue to ‘hold to account’ the Chief Constable in affecting these changes and I expect to see Warwickshire Police demonstrate the required improvements in its custody arrangements.
This response will be published on the website of the Warwickshire Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC).
Philip Seccombe TD
Police and Crime Commissioner