Lincolnshire Police has rejected the implication that they were ‘neglectful’ after a report into how the force handles custody revealed a 16-year-old girl was left naked in a police cell for around 10 minutes.
The incident was noted in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s report on its inspection of police custody, published today (Friday).
In it the report raises concerns over the forces safeguarding arrangements in relation to children that it felt ‘there was little acknowledgement of the vulnerability of children; they were offered no specific support or care, and girls under 18 were not routinely assigned a named officer’.
It said it reviewed a custody record and some associated CCTV footage of the teenager who threatened to self-harm while being detained.
It said: “She threatened self-harm and firstly had her bra removed by two female staff, who returned shortly afterwards with an anti-rip suit.
“Staff appeared to spend some time negotiating with the girl before she was restrained; staff then left the cell, inexplicably, taking the anti-rip suit with them, leaving the girl naked in her cell for a period of around 10 minutes.
“At this point, the top half of the anti-rip suit was posted through the cell hatch, followed by the lower half about 10 minutes later.”
It noted a male officer pushed the girl twice while she was naked after her behaviour was ‘challenging’.
The report noted: “The vulnerability of this girl in police custody was compounded by her being left naked in a cell.
“Not enough was done to maintain her dignity.”
According to the report the girl complained to the sergeant the next day that she had been ‘violated’, however, the report said: “The force did not refer this matter to the local authority to scrutinise the overall care and treatment of this girl independently as they did not regard this as necessary, and her complaint was not taken.”
The Deputy Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police Heather Roach refuted that the force was neglectful in its dealing of the girl.
She said: “I was particularly concerned at their mention of a 16-year-old girl being left naked in a cell. The fact of this case is that the custody officers were concerned that she would harm herself and decided that she needed to be given an anti-rip suit. Due to the first suit being the wrong size, another was produced within minutes.”
“The way the report is worded implies that we were neglectful and I reject that contention.
“We were particularly concerned for her safety and mental state.”
Deputy Chief Constable Roach has said she is ‘disappointed’ with some of the latest inspection report but said she is committed to making the necessary improvements.
She said: “I am disappointed with the findings of the inspection, because despite what it says, we have done a lot of work since the last inspection which said we ‘required improvement’”
“We have also already addressed some of the most pressing recommendations of this most recent report. When I saw the draft copy of the report I wrote to the Inspectorate and took issue with the context of a number of the points they have mentioned.”
According to the HMIC report, following the inspection, a safeguarding referral was made.