Inspection of Met Police custody suites finds not all use of force is recorded

The use of force in custody suites across Britain’s largest police service has not always been recorded properly, according to a report.

An unannounced inspection visit to Metropolitan Police custody suites resulted in inspectors noting concerns about the length of time some detainees remained in spit and bite guards (known as spit hoods), use of poor techniques, and the proportionality of some of the force used.

The joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services found “positive features” but identified two principal causes for concern.

The report said: “The governance and oversight of the use of force in custody were not adequate to ensure that all use of force was proportionate and justified for the risk or threat posed.

“Not all use of force in custody suites was recorded, or the force used was not always accurately reflected in the custody record.

“Not all staff involved in use-of-force incidents completed individual use-of-force forms.”

The report said the number of strip searches was high, and included many children and a significantly higher proportion of black and minority ethnic detainees.

“Not all the strip searches that we saw during the inspection were warranted or properly justified,” it said.

Inspectors referred two cases to the force for full review due to what appeared to be a lack of proportionality of force used.

Noting the second cause of concern, the report said: “Strategic oversight of the provision of healthcare was poor, outcomes for detainees were inconsistent, and not all detainees received prompt access to medical care.”

In a recommendation, the report said all use of force in the custody suites should be recorded, accurately reflect the force used, and be fully justified on the custody record.

It added that governance and oversight of the use of force should ensure that all use of force is proportionate to the risk posed, and include comprehensive review of CCTV records.

The report said the force should have robust oversight of the delivery of healthcare services and assess the outcomes achieved for detainees.

The findings are the result of an inspection of 12 full-time and three contingency suite custody facilities in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in July 2018.

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