Inspectors raise concerns over record keeping and risk assessment at custody centres

Record keeping, risk assessment and care planning at Police Scotland’s custody centres in Fife is “inconsistent” and needs to be improved, according to inspectors.

Mar 28, 2024
By Paul Jacques

In a report published on Thursday (March 28), HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) expressed concerns about omissions in relation to the matching of risk assessments to care plans, documenting of searches of detainees, cell visits, provision of food and drink, washing, contact with named persons and medicines.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, Craig Naylor, said: “It was unclear if these gaps reflected poor and inconsistent practices or poor recording. However, we could not be confident these activities were taking place consistently.”

As part of a joint inspection of police custody facilities at Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy, a sample of records from the Police Scotland National Custody System (NCS) were examined.

The inspection was carried out jointly by HMICS and Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) and provided an analysis of the quality of custody centre operations as well as the provision of healthcare services. ‘HMICS Custody Inspection Report – Fife’, contains 15 recommendations for Police Scotland and the NHS.

Mr Naylor added: “We identified issues in the records regarding the discrepancy between some risk assessments undertaken and the corresponding care plans in place.

“There were instances where the care plan appeared to be set at a lower level than the risk assessment would suggest as appropriate. In 47 per cent of cases within our sample where the risk assessment was recorded as high, the care plan was set to level 1 or standard observations. Rationales to support those decisions were consistently absent from custody records.

“Given that those in custody described being respected by the staff and provided with everything they needed, the findings from our review of records may reflect poor recording rather than poor practice. But it was difficult to draw conclusions in the absence of comprehensive records.”

HMICS said staff had been provided with electronic tablets to carry out contemporaneous recording of observations but were not using them at the time of the inspection and we found no evidence that supervisors were promoting the use of these devices to ensure the accurate and timely recording of cell visits.

The report also identified issues with the physical layout of the two centres and a general lack of facilities. Some of the sleeping plinths in Dunfermline presented a potential ligature hazard, the unconventional layout of the charge bar at Dunfermline led to inefficient working, and the areas set aside for CCTV observation of detainees were not fit for purpose due to being in busy offices where the operator could become distracted.

There were adequate staffing levels at both centres and detainees were complimentary about the custody staff and their surroundings which were clean and reasonably well maintained despite being within older properties. However there were no showers in either location and the only sinks were in central corridors, which could limit privacy, said inspectors. Kitchens were tidy and hygienic with a variety of appropriate food stuffs available.

The booking in process followed at both sites was considered to be good practice by inspectors although there was an element of risk while the detainee remained in the vehicle used for transport to the centre with one officer as the other went inside to brief the sergeant.

Inspectors commended the appointment of a pharmacist to oversee the management of medicines in custody centres across south east Scotland, nurses offering harm reduction advice and referrals to a support project, known as Navigators. Take home nasal Naloxone kits were also available for detainees once released.

Three months following the inspection of the premises, HMICS said a death was recorded at the custody centre in Kirkcaldy.

It added: “The incident is being investigated, as required, by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner and a mandatory fatal accident inquiry will be held in due course. It would not be appropriate for HMICS to comment on the circumstances while investigations are being carried out.”

Related News

Select Vacancies

Constables on Promotion to Sergeant

Greater Manchester Police

Copyright © 2024 Police Professional