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PCC backs calls for improved custody conditions for female detainees

October 2, 2018

Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe has united with nearly 40 of his counterparts across the country to urge the Government to update legislation around the treatment of female detainees held within police custody.

At present, there is no statutory requirement to provide female detainees with access to a female police officer. In addition, there is no requirement for police officers to check if female detainees need any menstrual products whilst in police custody or to make them aware that these will be provided free of charge.

In Warwickshire’s two custody suites at Leamington Spa and Nuneaton, female detainees are given information about the availability of sanitary products routinely as part of the booking-in process and Mr Seccombe says that this should be mandatory across the whole country.

He said: “The provision of sanitary products has been something that has been in place in Warwickshire for some time as part of the routine assessments carried out with female detainees. However, ensuring the dignity of female detainees in this way should not be something which is essentially left for forces to decide as part of best practice.  Instead this entitlement needs to be set out clearly in the law and I am pleased to see the large number of Police and Crime Commissioners across the country who also support this change.”

The Home Office is currently consulting on changes to parts of the PACE Codes of Practice, which govern how detainees must be treated when brought into police custody. In response, the members of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) have offered to work closely with Home Office to refine the wording of the legislation. They have also suggested that similar provisions ought to also be put in place to maintain the dignity of female detainees while in the custody of the courts.

Police and Crime Commissioners and other elected local Policing bodies have a statutory duty to make arrangements for detainees to be visited by Independent Custody Visitors from local communities. It is through such arrangements that Commissioners, strongly supported by the Independent Custody Visiting Association, have been able to monitor detainee well-being and come together to help drive moves to improve conditions for individuals in police custody, including female detainees.

Katie Kempen, Chief Executive of the Independent Custody Visiting Association, said: “Female detainees have had to suffer through humiliating experiences, poor products and face barriers to basic needs like being able to keep clean. These detainees often have complex needs and cannot ask for menstrual products in what’s very often a male-dominated environment.  This treatment is wholly unacceptable and has no place in 21st century policing.  The reforms to the PACE Codes embed dignity and require police forces to overcome the taboo of menstruation to deliver what should have already been in place.

“I am delighted that Police and Crime Commissioners, alongside other partners, have come out in such numbers to demonstrate strength of feeling and support for the reforms.  This acknowledges the vital work of independent custody visitors and the essential role they perform to safeguard dignity and human rights in police custody.  The support is overwhelming and underlines the need for change.  We will continue to work with PCCs to monitor the reforms and ensure that they are successfully implemented.”