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Cleveland setback as custody service told to improve by Inspectorate

Cleveland’s progress has taken a step back after HM Inspectorate warned its custody services need to improve. Areas of concern include detainee monitoring and use of force records.

Cleveland Police needs to improve its custody services, including the care and safety of detainees, HM Inspectorate has warned.

The force has been ordered to deal with three areas of concern and address an additional 15 areas of improvement.

It followed an unannounced inspection visit to police custody suites by HMICFRS and HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) in May 2021.

It was the first visit of its kind since assessment visits were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The inspection assessed the effectiveness of custody services and outcomes throughout the different stages of detention. 

Inspectors found that found of 29 recommendations made during the previous inspection, 14 had been achieved, six had been partially achieved, eight had not been achieved and one was no longer relevant.

Their report warned improvements were still needed in three areas:

One of the reasons the notice was issued was the force had not addressed concerns raised by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

The force has adopted Authorised Professional Practice (APP) – Detention and Custody as set by the College of Policing, and also developed some local policies and procedures. But these are not always followed across teams leading to different outcomes for detainees.

Concerns were also raised over risk management and the monitoring of data from Cleveland’s contract with Mitie Care and Custody who provide custody detention officers and health services.

Data about outcomes collected by the force, including ethnicity and detention logs on use of force, cannot be relied on.

The report is a setback for the force which has been given two positive assessments since being rated as failing in 2019.

But there were positive findings as well.

The force now has better healthcare for detainees, and a good focus on diverting people away from custody when detention might not be appropriate – for example children or those with mental health problems.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke said: “Anyone detained in custody should be treated fairly and kept safe from harm. Since we last inspected Cleveland Police’s custody services, the force has made some positive changes, including appointing a dedicated chief inspector for custody and putting a greater focus on improving outcomes for detainees.

“However, we still have significant concerns about the way some custody services are run, such as the management of risk and ensuring detainees are properly cared for and kept safe.”

Mr Cooke added he was confident that as Cleveland is now making significant gains in performance, the issues raised would be addressed.

He said: “We will be working closely with the force and monitoring its progress against our recommendations. The improvements the force has made so far give us more confidence that our concerns will be addressed.”  

The force responded that the inspection findings would be used as "a tool for continuous improvement" - and highlighted the challenging environment staff work in due to the risk of assault.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Bent, Head of Crime, said: 
“We have completed, or are currently implementing, the recommendations. We are delighted good practice was also recognised, including how we deal with vulnerability, for example from mental health. It was identified that we offer good quality healthcare within Custody.

“We are pleased it was recognised that we treat detainees with respect and we will continue to build on these strengths.”

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