Custody suites are ‘disappointing’

A DISAPPOINTING inspection of Lincolnshire police custody facilities has identified numerous failings and a need to improve its services.

The report, which covers Skegness Police Station, suggests the problems may be partially due to the significant structural changes undergone in the wake of budget reductions.

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick 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 previously been identified by other external bodies.

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

A team of inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary made unannounced visits to five custody suites throughout Lincolnshire in January.

Despite identifying some areas of good practice, there were many other causes for concern.

Skegness custody suites provided no wheelchair access for disabled detainees and mental health provision across Lincolnshire was describes as ‘extremely poor’.

Despite 17 per cent of those taken into custody suffering from some form of mental health problem, there was no strategy in place for dealing with their specific needs and in many cases custody suites were being used incorrectly as places of safety for those sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Skegness town councillors have expressed concerns at the impact the £125million budget cut would have on local policing issues and were disappointed to see some of their fears confirmed by this report. Coun Mark Anderson said: “We are all concerned about the reorganisation and how it is affecting the police force.

“Again the cuts have hit the most vulnerable hardest and we have to ask ourselves as a society - is it civilised to have mentally ill patients picked up off the streets and locked up in custody suites where they could do harm to themselves?”

In response to the report’s findings and recommendations, Lincolnshire Police have increased the number of staff working within custody to reduce the need for temporary staff cover to ensure a more consistent performance.

It is also in discussions with NHS Lincolnshire in the hope that it can provide the proper facilities to detain mentally people safely and appropriately other than in police cells.