Report slams Lincoln police holding cells

A report following visits to police custody suites in Lincolnshire in January has found the facilities “disappointing”.

Inspections at custody suites serving Lincoln, Skegness, Boston, Grantham and Spalding revealed that Lincolnshire Police needs to make improvements to its services.

Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary, published the report into custody suites in Lincolnshire on Friday.

The inspectors found too little attention was paid to the specific needs of different groups of detainees, such as women, children or those with disabilities.

They also found mental health provision was extremely poor, and in too many cases, police stations were used as places of safety under the Mental Health Act, rather than detainees being taken to community provision.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that interactions witnessed between staff and detainees were professional, and custody suites were clean.

Hardwick and Sharpling said: “Overall, this is a disappointing inspection.

“It came at a time when the force was undergoing significant change, which perhaps helped explain why we identified continued failings that had been previously identified by other external bodies.

“More strategic emphasis on custody was required, with particular attention to improving risk assessment and mental health services.

“This report sets out a number of recommendations that we hope will assist the Chief Constable and the Police Authority to improve the quality of custody provision.

“We expect them to consider these in the wider context of force priorities and resourcing, and to provide us with an action plan in due course.”

Changing times

Lincolnshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Keith Smy said: “We welcome the HMIC report on our custody facilities following their visit in January.

“We were pleased to note the positive comments made by the Inspectorate whilst also accepting that action needed to be taken in those areas identified for improvement by the inspectors.

“The new policing arrangements for Lincolnshire, which come into operation from Tuesday, May 31, will complete the majority of the work to rectify concerns raised.

“We have increased the number of staff working within custody to reduce the need for temporary staff cover. This, together with recent briefing and advice to staff should ensure more consistent performance.

“Also, for the first time, all custody teams across the county will now be led by one management team providing clear leadership.

“We accept that some of our buildings are older than others, and despite being originally built to the appropriate specifications for that period the requirements continue to change.

“We have an ongoing building maintenance and development programme and this work is expected to cost nearly £100,000 to meet the issues raised by the inspectors.

“Although the inspection was of police premises and practices it also highlighted issues in relation to mental health provision in the county.

“The police have extremely limited facilities for detaining and managing persons who are believed to have mental health issues. The local National Health Service has a statutory duty to provide places of safety for such detained persons but this provision varies around the country.

“In Lincolnshire it was assessed as inadequate. This has been the subject of negotiation with NHS Lincolnshire for some time and those discussions continue in the hope that agreement can be reached that our local health service to provide the proper facilities for such people to be detained safely and appropriately other than in police cells.

Source: HMI Prisons and HMI Constabulary | Related Reports: Lincolnshire Echo, BBC Lincolnshire