‘Limited progress’ in South Wales Police custody services and further improvement needed

South Wales Police has shown “limited progress” in some areas of its custody services and still requires further improvement, a report has found.

Oct 13, 2023
By Paul Jacques

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that while South Wales Police has “clear governance arrangements” for the provision of custody, oversight of these is “not robust enough” and that there has been little improvement since the force’s previous inspection.

In particular, inspectors found the governance and oversight of the use of force in custody was not good enough.

“South Wales Police cannot show that when force is used in custody it is necessary, justified and proportionate,” said the inspectorates.

Other causes of concern identified by HMICFRS and the CQC were:

  • Senior leaders in the force do not oversee custody services well enough to make sure that appropriate outcomes for detainees are achieved;
  • The force is not always meeting the requirements of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and its codes of practice when carrying out reviews of detention. These are often of a poor standard and not conducted in the best interests of the detainee; and
  • The approach to meeting detainee physical and mental health needs is not good enough. This includes the healthcare contract not allowing for healthcare practitioners to be embedded in all the custody suites, and that arrangements for referring detainees with suspected mental health conditions to mental health nurses aren’t appropriate.

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: “Anyone detained in custody should be kept safe from harm and treated fairly.

“South Wales Police has a clear governance arrangement for its provision of custody services. Frontline officers have a good understanding of vulnerability and consider this when deciding whether an arrest is appropriate, and custody staff are patient, reassuring and treat detainees with respect.

“However, in some areas progress has been limited and there remain several areas of concern. This includes the governance and oversight of the use of force in custody, as well as senior leaders failing to oversee custody services well enough to ensure that appropriate outcomes are achieved for detainees.

“The force responded positively to our inspection findings, quickly starting work to improve the service provided to detainees in custody.

“We will be working closely with South Wales Police and monitoring its progress against our new recommendations.”

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