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14 September 2016, 08:17 | Updated: 14 September 2016, 08:23
Inspectors say people held in Dorset police custody are treated decently and in good conditions.
A report - following unannounced visits to suites in Bournemouth, Weymouth and Poole - has found the force has made progress in several areas. However, it says more improvement's needed in dealing with children in custody.
The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody, and the second inspection of Dorset police custody cells.
Inspectors said there were pleased to find that:
- the physical conditions detainees were held in were good and the treatment they received was appropriate and met their basic needs;
- staff were polite and focused on providing safe custody;
- risk assessments were generally undertaken to a high standard;
- the force used performance data and managed staffing resources well;
- the monitoring of use of force was commendable, with each incident recorded, reviewed and used to inform training and learning;
- the way information was shared at staff handovers was highly effective;
- the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner was actively involved in the provision of safer detention for vulnerable detainees, especially children with mental health concerns;
- there was an active independent custody visitor scheme;
- health services (provided by the force, CRG Medical, mental health providers, substance misuse services and NHS England) were good; and
- the strategic partnership with mental health services had resulted in a significant reduction in the number of people being brought into police custody.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- the quality of pre-release risk assessments were variable and some were poor; and
- the provision of alternative accommodation for children in custody who were charged and not bailed was poor and, although this wasn't the sole responsibility of Dorset Police, the force had only recently begun to discuss this with the local authority.
The report noted that Dorset Police needs to improve its procedures when dealing with detained children in order to try and reduce the number of children being held unnecessarily in police cells. However, it is recognised that the number of children brought into custody had reduced and they were treated as vulnerable due to their age.
Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary, said:
"This is a positive report. Overall, Dorset Police managed its custodial services well. Detainees were generally treated well, and the conditions they were held in were good. Since the previous inspection, significant progress and improvements has been made in a number of important areas.
"We were particularly impressed at the progress made in relation to mental health provision. Our report identifies three areas of good practice, makes one recommendation to the force and highlights 13 areas for improvement. We expect our findings to be considered and for an action plan to be provided in due course."
A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/dorset-police-custody-suites/
Dorset Police Assistant Chief Constable, Mark Cooper, said:
"I very much welcome the HMIC and HMIP's report on our custodial services and that our efforts are being viewed positively.
"The report demonstrates that we have made great improvements in a number of areas and we will continue to ensure further progressions for our custodial services.
"I am pleased that once again the Force is being recognised for how it deals with vulnerable people, and notably those with mental health concerns."
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill said:
"I am pleased that Dorset Police is being recognised for its efforts in dealing with vulnerable people in custody and that the number of people being detained in custody under the Mental Health Act is continuing to reduce.
"It is clear from the report that the Force is working hard to ensure that vulnerable people receive the appropriate care and it is important that those with mental health concerns are looked after by a health care professional, not by a police officer and not in a police cell.
"The report also highlights the dedication and commitment of our independent custody visiting team, who volunteer their time to check on the welfare of detainees. We're currently looking to expand this team and would like to invite applications from across Dorset. More information can be found at www.dorset.pcc.police.uk/ICV"