Police Custody - A follow-up review of inspection recommendations

Publication: 28/02/13
Police Custody
Inspectors find limited progress on police custody inspection recommendations

A follow-up review of the standards and conditions of police custody arrangements in Northern Ireland has found only one quarter of inspection recommendations have been fully implemented three and a half years after the original inspection report was published.

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) first inspected police custody in 2009 in line with their responsibilities as members of the UK's National Preventive Mechanism. 
This follow-up review published today (Thursday 28 February), assessed practice within the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) against its legal requirements under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, expectations designed to meet the OPCAT principles and human rights standards and progress made against 12 recommendations for improvement.
“CJI Inspectors and colleagues from the RQIA found that custody services in general, had been delivered to an acceptable standard when compared against the assessment criteria” said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“However, we were disappointed to find that only three of the 12 recommendations made in our original inspection report had been achieved and a further six partially achieved.
“The inspection team also found limited progress in respect of some of the more challenging overarching recommendations, particularly in relation to achieving consistency of service delivery and moving to a centralised model for the provision of police custody services,” said Mr McGuigan.
Concerns were also raised in the follow-up review around the level of compliance with police service policies around the retention and storage of drugs and other prescription medication and shortcomings identified in relation to the storage and retention of out-of-date medication and forensic samples.
 “While we welcome the work the PSNI has undertaken to update its policy on the stocking of drugs cabinets in medical rooms of PSNI stations, Inspectors found that preventing unauthorised access to medication could not be assured and there was still no clear audit trail available for the management of medications,” stated Mr McGuigan.
“We welcome the fact that staff working within police custody suites remain committed to their role and were focused on providing an effective service and discharging their responsibilities in relation to the treatment and conditions of detainees.”
Mr McGuigan continued: “It is important the PSNI moves to make decisions around the future structure for the provision of the custody service and begins to implement the necessary management arrangements to provide governance for this. The inconsistencies in practice and service delivery highlighted throughout this report will be much easier and quicker to address through consistent management and governance."
In conclusion Mr McGuigan said the PSNI also needs to continue to work with all relevant partners in order to ensure delivery of an effective custody service which meets the needs of detainees in their care.
In view of the limited progress made to date, the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice indicated CJI Inspectors colleagues from RQIA planned to carry out a full inspection of police custody facilities during 2013-14.