Report highlights concerns over the recording of force used by police officers at Hampshire custody suites

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Concerns have been raised that the use of force used by police officers at Hampshire custody suites is not being properly recorded.

It follows an inspection in February 2024 by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), alongside the Care Quality Commission with the resulting report stating that the use of force was not accurately recorded which meant they could not assure the public that it was justified.

Inspections focussed on Hampshire & Isle of Wight Constabulary custody suites, which include a site in Portsmouth, Basingstoke, Southampton, and Newport.

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The report stated that the “constabulary’s governance and oversight of the use of force in custody isn’t good enough.” It went on to add that “Incidents aren’t always managed well because there is limited oversight by custody officers” and “there is limited recording on custody records and some incidents aren’t recorded at all.”

This was listed as a cause of concern with use of force forms “not always” being submitted and “insufficient quality assurance” in place to allow for effective scrutiny. As such the report concluded “the constabulary can’t show that when force is used in custody, it is necessary, justified and proportionate.”

The report recommends for the Hampshire constabulary to immediately rectify the situation and ensure it “scrutinises” the use of force in order to demonstrate it is proportionate and justified. The report adds: “This scrutiny should be based on accurate information and robust quality assurance.”

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There were further areas of concern listed in the report including having the required staffing levels to ensure risks were managed and detainees kept safe. The constabulary itself has set a minimum staffing level which it struggles to meet due to a combination of staff vacancies and absences due to sickness.

This was relevant to all custody sites which the report found where being run with “minimum staffing levels.”

Despite areas of concern the report showed the custody suites and practices had “improved” since the last inspection in October 2016. In particular it praised senior leaders for “taking an active interest in custody” and for the improvement of “provisions” and “facilities” in custody suites.

Responding to the report, deputy chief constable Sam de Reya said: “The report from HMICFRS recognises the force delivers safe detention for the 25,000 people who every year come through our custody suites across our sites in Basingstoke, Portsmouth, Southampton and Newport.

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“It highlights our clear governance structures, clean and respectful environment and comments on the quality of our care provision and facilities, including the support of a mental health nurse for those suffering from mental health episodes.

“Importantly, the inspection found our custody staff and officers were well trained and equipped to deliver in this important role for our communities, operating in accordance with the College of Policing code of practice.

“It also noted that our custody personnel are polite and treat detainees with respect and dignity, showing empathy and understanding towards them and their circumstances. Authorisation of detention is proportionate and appropriate and the inspection reflected positively on the work to divert children and vulnerable adults away from custody.

“As in all inspections there were areas for improvement which we have already responded to. One of these areas included the administration of how we record the use of force when someone is in custody. There were no issues identified regarding any inappropriate use of force by officers and staff and this recording process has now been strengthened. Use of force on a detainee is only ever done as a last resort and we have clear guidance, training and scrutiny to ensure when we do apply force, it is proportionate and necessary.

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“We welcome the inspection in this important area of policing and the public can have confidence that when we use our policing powers to arrest and bring people into our custody suites, we will do so with compassion and care.”