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‘Good overall’ care, but too-long stays, poor disability provision and no toilet paper, for people in custody at Romford

11:16 09 January 2014

Romford Police Station

Romford Police Station

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People in custody at Romford Police Station are well cared for, a report found this week – but provision is poor for people with disabilities, people are being kept in for too long, and detainees are not routinely provided with toilet paper.

The report, which follows an unannounced inspection by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, concluded the standard of police custody in Havering was “good overall”, with clean cells, “reasonable” staffing levels and appropriate use of handcuffs and strip searches.

But it found delays in getting assessments of people’s mental health, a “culture of keeping detainees in custody overnight, rather than pursuing their cases” and poor provision for people with disabilities.

In particular, the Main Road station has no cells, showers or toilets adapted for disabled people, and no hearing loop fitted.

Staff also had no easy way of identifying the direction of Mecca for Muslim detainees, but there were prayer mats and holy books available for both Christians and Muslims.

And a new staffing model meant “team spirit” had been lost among workers.

More than 5,000 people, among them suspected criminals and a handful of people detained under the Mental Health Act for their own safety, were detained at Romford Police Station in 2012/13. 11 per cent of them – 589 people – were strip-searched.

People were rarely brought into the cells in handcuffs, while those who were received checks for injuries. But there was no system for recording and monitoring the use of force.

In a joint statement, chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick and HM Inspector of Constabulary Dru Sharpling said: “Overall, custody provision in Havering was good, with evidence of consideration and care being given to detainees.

“However, some detainees stayed in custody for too long and the new staffing model had resulted in any sense of a ‘team spirit’ being lost.

“The lack of nurses and the reliance on an overstretched FME [forensic medical examiners] service was of concern, and mental health services needed developing.

“This report provides a small number of recommendations to assist the force and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to improve provision further. We expect our findings to be considered in the wider context of priorities and resourcing, and for an action plan to be provided in due course.”

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