West Mercia custody failings ‘not good enough’ – police commissioner

West Mercia Police was strongly criticised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) over “critical weaknesses” in the standard of custody services it provides.

The force has two custody suites in Shropshire, one at Shrewsbury Police Station and one at Malinsgate Police Station, in Telford.

Inspectors from HMICFRS and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), issued a series of concerns following an unannounced inspection earlier this year.

The verdict came after the force was criticised by HMICFRS last week as needing to improve when it comes to both investigating crime and responding to the public.

Responding to the findings, West Mercia’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Conservative John Campion, said appropriate care for those in custody is ‘non-negotiable’.

Mr Campion said he was assured that action over the failings identified “is already being taken”.

A series of areas were criticised, with inspectors saying the force does not meet all its legal requirements – including “providing detainees with information about their rights and entitlements”, and “the way in which reviews of detention are carried out”.

There were also concerns about oversight in the use of force in custody, including “information on what force is used, by which officers, or why it is necessary is often incomplete or inaccurate”.

The report stated: “Governance and oversight of the use of force in custody are limited. Information on what force is used, by which officers, or why it is necessary is often incomplete or inaccurate. There are few reviews of incidents on CCTV to assess how well they are handled or whether the force used is necessary, justified and proportionate.”

Other areas highlighted by inspectors were that “food and drink are not proactively offered or provided”, and access to other aspects of care, such as washing, showers, exercise, reading materials and other activities is “very limited”.

Mr Campion said “West Mercia Police have a duty to those in their care, and the findings of this report are not good enough. These are issues that the force and I are already aware of. I am reassured by the action that is already being taken.

“The report highlighted that a clear structure is in place and highlighted some good practice. The force must build on this, and their swift response gives me hope that they will deliver.

“My Independent Custody Scheme provides important continued scrutiny and I will continue to formally hold the force to account to ensure those being detained can trust that they will be safe and cared for appropriately.”

Mr Campion said he had invested to update CCTV and has ensured that other remedial works which will make custody buildings safer are already underway.

West Mercia Assistant Chief Constable Richard Cooper said: “It’s important that our custody provision is independently scrutinised and we welcome and accept the findings of HMICFRS’ inspection, and their acknowledgement that we were quick to respond to feedback.

“We know there are still improvements we need to make and have already put in place an urgent action plan to address the critical weaknesses identified by the report.

“We are committed to ensuring detainees are kept safe and cared for while in our custody; it is crucial we improve those areas of custody which are causes of concern.”

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