HAMPSHIRE Constabulary cannot show when use of force against detainees in its custody suites is ‘necessary, justified and proportionate’, government inspectors have found.

A report into police custody suites in Hampshire has revealed that the constabulary needs to improve how it governs and oversees its use of force on people being detained.

Feedback following the joint inspection by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) stated that while custody provision has improved since the last visit in 2016, “especially with regard to the physical environment and facilities in custody suites”, there were still cause for concern.

Issues were raised regarding the use of force as “incidents aren’t always managed well because there is limited oversight by custody officers”.

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The report, published on Tuesday, July 9, continued: “There is limited recording on custody records and some incidents aren’t recorded at all. Use of force forms aren’t always submitted, and there is insufficient quality assurance to support effective scrutiny. The constabulary can’t show that when force is used in custody, it is necessary, justified and proportionate.”

Inspectors were also concerned about how the constabulary manages risk in custody to keep detainees safe.

They stated: “There aren’t always enough personnel on duty, which increases risk to detainees, especially during busy periods. Some detainees wait a long time in van docks or holding cells to be booked in.

“When officers and staff are stretched, care plans with observation levels are sometimes lowered to be able to cope with the demand.”

Inspectors said that the two 'causes of concern' should be dealt with with 'immediate effect'. 

The inspection, which took place between Monday, February 19 and Friday, March 1, assessed the effectiveness of custody services and outcomes for detained people throughout the different stages of detention.

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The constabulary has four custody suites including Basingstoke, Portsmouth, Southampton and Newport, and inspectors found that there aren’t ‘always enough custody personnel to provide safe custody services’.

The suites, including those in Northern Police Investigation Centre, Jays Close, Basingstoke, were ‘generally clean and well maintained’ and the design of the suites mean “custody personnel can maintain privacy when booking in detainees”.

Provisions in Basingstoke for detainees with disabilities were also noted, including lower call bells and adapted toilets and showers.

The report also said: “At Basingstoke, easy read and Braille versions of rights and entitlements are stored in folders behind the booking-in desks. In the other three suites, custody personnel didn’t know where these were kept. They couldn’t find them when we first asked, although they did eventually find them.”

Detainees can observe faith while in custody, although in Basingstoke inspectors only found the Qur’an and Book of Psalms, but staff said that more religious items had been ordered.

Inspectors issued a number of areas of improvement that should be made by the constabulary, including its approach to safeguarding, custody records - saying they should be 'accurate and include all relevant information' and the training of police officers who cover the duties of detention officers.

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Deputy Chief Constable Sam de Reya said: “The report from HMICFRS recognises the force delivers safe detention for the 25,000 people who every year come through our custody suites across our sites in Basingstoke, Portsmouth, Southampton and Newport.

“It highlights our clear governance structures, clean and respectful environment and comments on the quality of our care provision and facilities, including the support of a mental health nurse for those suffering from mental health episodes.

“Importantly, the inspection found our custody staff and officers were well trained and equipped to deliver in this important role for our communities, operating in accordance with the College of Policing code of practice.

“It also noted that our custody personnel are polite and treat detainees with respect and dignity, showing empathy and understanding towards them and their circumstances.

“Authorisation of detention is proportionate and appropriate and the inspection reflected positively on the work to divert children and vulnerable adults away from custody.

“As in all inspections there were areas for improvement which we have already responded to. One of these areas included the administration of how we record the use of force when someone is in custody. There were no issues identified regarding any inappropriate use of force by officers and staff and this recording process has now been strengthened. Use of force on a detainee is only ever done as a last resort and we have clear guidance, training and scrutiny to ensure when we do apply force, it is proportionate and necessary.

“We welcome the inspection in this important area of policing and the public can have confidence that when we use our policing powers to arrest and bring people into our custody suites, we will do so with compassion and care.”