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Still more to do about police custody in Greater Manchester

September 5, 2012, 2:26 pm

Police custody provision in Greater Manchester was heading in the right direction but there were some significant concerns, 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 ten custody suites operating 24 hours a day in: North Manchester, Longsight, Pendleton, Swinton, Tameside, Cheadle Heath, Bolton, Wigan, Bury and Chadderton, as well as two standby suites at Stretford and Oldham. Overall there were some areas of excellent practice, but some areas which still needed to be addressed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • there was a clear strategic approach to custody provision, and a move to central management of the custody function was raising standards and leading to greater consistency;
  • the modernisation of custody programme provided Greater Manchester Police (GMP) with a firm foundation to improve the quality of provision and broader outcomes for detainees;
  • most staff interactions with detainees were professional, but management of civilian detention officers needed to be improved;
  • an appropriate balance was maintained between progressing cases and the rights of individuals;
  • there was an effective volunteer scheme to supply appropriate adults, which provided a service for young people, supplementing the youth offending teams, and also for vulnerable adults; and
  • health care monitoring arrangements were good.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the force needed to engage more positively with independent custody visitors;
  • while some suites were in good condition, others contained a large amount of graffiti and needed a deep clean;
  • there was inadequate awareness of the needs of vulnerable groups including young people, women and those with disabilities;
  • the assessment and management of risk needed greater attention to ensure the safety of detainees, and handover arrangements were a cause for concern at some suites;
  • as with other police forces, there was no effective monitoring of the use of the force;
  • staff needed to be more proactive in providing elements of detainee care and welfare; and
  • there were serious gaps around mental health diversion, which the force was seeking to address.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

‘Overall, police custody provision in GMP was heading in the right direction but there were some significant concerns. There was clear strategic direction and management support, but the force was at a critical point where there was a need to embed some key changes and engage staff in the process. This report provides a small number of recommendations to assist the forces and the Police Authority in addressing these issues and improving provision further. We expect our findings to be considered and an action plan to be provided in due course.’

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