Police Custody in Scotland Under Inspection

06 June 2019

Significant changes have been made in the delivery of police custody since 2013 and there have been a number of recent positive developments, states a report published today (Thursday, June 6).

The report follows an assessment by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland of the strategic arrangements for the delivery of police custody which considered leadership, governance, planning, people, resources and partnership working.

Police custody is a high risk area of policing business and, as such, has been subject to considerable scrutiny by HMICS in the past six years. Progress towards delivering as effective and efficient a police custody service as possible has been hampered by the under-resourcing of custody and the variable quality of the custody estate. Recently however, Police Scotland has sought to address these issues via a custody remodelling project.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, Gill Imery QPM, said: “We commend the progress which has been made, in particular Police Scotland’s reduced dependence on local policing officers to help deliver its custody service. Benefits are being realised from the remodelling of custody provision although planned improvements to the custody estate have been affected by recent decisions taken by Police Scotland about how to allocate its budget.

“While efforts are being made to involve partners in promoting better outcomes for detainees and communities, significant investment in the custody estate should be a priority as many current centres lack the facilities to cope with the challenges of modern policing or meet health and safety and human rights requirements.

“The challenge now is to drive improvement in the delivery of custody across Scotland but there remains a disconnect between the positive changes we witnessed at a strategic level and the service being delivered on the ground. It is important that the more remote custody centres and the thousands of detainees held in ancillary centres also benefit from the custody remodelling project and that there is consistency across the country.

”It appears that legacy cultures persist and some custody personnel are resistant to change. This is concerning, given that custody practice has evolved significantly and will continue to do so.”

In its report, HMICS also encourages more transparency around custody provision. It recommends that data about custody is published, particularly around deaths in custody.

As HMICS reported last year, its ability to assess the support provided to vulnerable people is impeded by the lack of scrutiny of health services in custody facilities by Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

During this inspection, HMICS reviewed outstanding custody-related recommendations, closing 11 recommendations and 18 improvement actions. Police Scotland will be asked to create an action plan to address the 12 new recommendations contained within this report. HMICS will monitor progress against the plan and will continue to monitor progress against outstanding custody recommendations.

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