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Custody in Lewisham looking good

September 18, 2012, 8:32 am

Police custody provision in Lewisham had seen significant improvements in the recent past but further improvements could be made, 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 the main custody suite in Lewisham which operates 24 hours a day. A further suite in Catford was currently being used by the neighbouring borough of Southwark. Only the physical environment of the Catford suite was included in this report, not the operations. Overall there were some areas of good practice, but some areas which still needed to be addressed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • there was a robust governance structure, with dedicated managers and permanent, suitably trained staff and good visibility of senior managers;
  • the processes of initial risk assessment and care planning were carried through well;
  • care of detainees was good; and
  • the standard of primary health care and medicines management was good, although some issues of cleanliness needed to be addressed.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • there was insufficient control of the suite, especially at pressure times, and detention officers and custody assistants did not work together to best effect;
  • non-custody staff were allowed free access to the cell area, and detention reviews were not always properly carried out;
  • there were shortfalls in the timely availability of interpretation, whether in person or by telephone;
  • pre-release planning was frequently cursory or absent; and
  • there were some gaps in mental health provision and staff had not been trained in mental health awareness.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“Overall, the custody function in Lewisham was moving in the right direction, and further improvement will depend largely on greater clarity and consistency in the roles played by staff at all levels in the suite itself, together with the specific recommendations set out below. 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.”

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