Cheshire’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) is commending Cheshire police following “vast improvements” made to conditions in custody suites.
A number of measures have been introduced to improve conditions for detainees and provide more protection for custody staff.
This includes improved access to showers, pillows and exercise facilities for overnight detainees, the issuing of anti-ligature knives to all custody staff and a new process implemented for the management of cell keys within the three custody suites in Cheshire.
It follows an unannounced inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Service (HMICFRS) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) in September 2018 which rated the suites in Blacon, Middlewich and Runcorn as ‘good’ but highlighted improvements that could be made.
As part of his scrutiny of Cheshire Constabulary, PCC David Keane asked the chief constable to draw up a Custody Continuous Improvement Plan to ensure the areas of concern were addressed.
At the latest Scrutiny Board meeting, the commissioner received an update on the plan from chief constable Darren Martland and was pleased to see that all areas of action have been completed or are being progressed.
David Keane said: “A huge amount of work has been carried out by Cheshire Constabulary to make improvements to all of the custody suites in Cheshire. These are basic human rights issues that need to be in place to ensure we protect peoples’ dignity.
“I’m also pleased that Cheshire were in-front of a change in the law guaranteeing that female detainees have access to sanitary products while in police custody. This is a further step in ensuring detainees are treated with respect.
“I’ll now be looking to my volunteer Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) - who do a fantastic job checking on the welfare of detainees - to ensure detainees continue to have access to appropriate facilities and to suggest further improvements.
“ICVs act as ‘critical friends’ providing me with invaluable feedback on the welfare of detainees from an independent, impartial and non-discriminatory view of all parties involved in the custody process.
“Over the last year, ICVs made a total of 150 unannounced visits to custody suites across Cheshire, offering to check on the welfare of 1,189 detainees. I am extremely grateful for their commitment and support in ensuring the standards of our custody suites remain at a good level.”