South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner describes police custody report as ‘uncomfortable reading’

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has described a report about police custody arrangements as ‘uncomfortable reading’.

Wednesday, 2nd October 2019, 11:40 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 12:02 pm
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner.

The report, by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services and HM Inspectorate of Prisons, made a series of recommendations for improvements after a number of concerns were raised about custody arrangements for police prisoners.

South Yorkshire Police was told to take ‘immediate action’ on how it deals with children in custody after one was held for eight hours without review.

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The force was judged as not ‘consistently’ meeting the requirements of codes of practice for detention.

Around 100 cells in Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield custody centres - which held 22,229 people between June 2018 and May this year - were examined and there were ‘several causes of concern and areas that required improvement,’ inspectors found.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke and Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said in a joint statement: "While we found a number of positive features, there were several causes of concern and areas that required improvement.”

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, said: “The joint inspection makes for uncomfortable reading, not least

because the force has just been rated as ‘good’ overall by inspectors.

"There were many good points, such as booking people in speedily and appropriately and ensuring detainees were treated respectfully and kept safe. But I was concerned by some of the inspectors’ comments about the treatment of children, some aspects of which were serious breaches of the rules.

"While the force had a good focus on children getting home safely, it is clearly unacceptable that a young person should be detained for eight hours or not prioritised when being booked in.

"The review of children being detained every four hours was also not being done consistently and girls were not always in the care of a female officer, as is required. The force will need to understand how any of this could possibly happen.

"All of these will feature in the weekly ‘holding to account’ conversations I have with the Chief Constable.”

He added: "I know that every area of policing has been under pressure in recent years and there is a need for more officers. But this is why I increased the precept this year to start to put back the numbers that had been lost during the nine years of austerity.

“The custody suites must have their fair share of resources and I know this is already being addressed by district commanders and senior officers.”