Essex: Police custody staffing levels need to be addressed, says report


- Credit: PA

Police custody provision in Essex has improved after recent moves to manage it centrally but staffing levels and the safety of detainees on release need to be addressed, according to a new inspection report.

The report published yesterday by the HM Inspectorate for Prisons came after an unannounced inspection of nine custody suites operating 24 hours a day in the county, including Braintree, Chelmsford, Clacton and Colchester. The visits were part of a national programme of inspections.

The custody operation in Essex was centralised less than a year before the inspection and while some benefits were being seen, it also mentioned the need for improvements in some areas.

The inspectors noted that sergeants were skillful in assessing and managing risk while detainees were in custody and that staff treated detainees with kindness, although the actual care offered was inconsistent. It also found “a reasonable primary health care service” was offered to people in cells.

However, there are concerns around inadequate staffing levels, the privacy in booking-in areas and the fact that detainees sometimes stayed in handcuffs for too long after arrival.

The report authors, Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, and HM Inspector of Constabulary, Dru Sharpling also noted that the current refurbishment programme needed to continue to bring all the suites up to an acceptable standard.