Criticisms over ‘grimy’ conditions at Portsmouth police station cells

Portsmouth Central police station
Portsmouth Central police station
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Inspectors have raised concerns about the state of police custody cells.

Grimy walls were found at Portsmouth Central police station, in Winston Churchill Avenue, with one shower for 29 cells.

Criticism was also drawn over the governance in the use of spit hoods, which have now been rolled out across to frontline police officers.

The HM Inspectorates of Prisons and Constabulary said 11 cells had no toilets and had to use two communal toilets, with one of those being recessed into a wall but with no screening.

‘This was unacceptable. These toilets remained unchanged from our previous inspection,’ the report said.

Peter Clarke, chief inspector of prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM inspector of constabulary, said there custody cells in Hampshire were ‘generally positive’.

In a joint statement they said: ‘This was a positive inspection and given the very constructive immediate response to our initial findings, we are confident that the force has the necessary drive and commitment to make the required improvements.’

It comes after a 10-day unannounced inspection in October last year of the force’s custody centres.

The report revealed:

• Ligature points were found in custody suites.

• Inspectors were not assured there was ‘sufficient governance’ of spit hoods and limb restraints.

• CCTV showed a toilet in a FAreham cell, which inspectors said was ‘undignified and inappropriate’.

• Portsmouth Central has the ‘poorest environment’ for people arrested, with two dirty holding rooms.

• A huge rise in immigration detainees to 536 in the year to September 30, 2016, up from 312 in the year to September 30, 2014.

• One person arrested at 2.30am on Saturday was held all weekend in Portsmouth as magistrates’ court staff refused to take the person.

• Children charged and refused bail were kept in custody as local authorities did not provide accommodation.

• The number of people held under section 136 of the Mental Health Act as a place of safety had increased significantly in the previous six months, despite pledges to reduce this.

A Hampshire police spokeswoman said: ‘In line with the inspector’s comments, we are confident we have the right plans in place to make the required improvements and we are pleased to see that this is a largely positive report reflecting the good progress we are making.’

Inspectors said police dealt with detainees in a ‘respectful, compassionate and positive way’, cells were clean, there were health care improvements and support for detainees on release was good. They also said there had been ‘reasonable attention’ to problems after a self-inflicted death in custody in Southampton in 2014.

The Office for the Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Michael Lane, has yet to respond.

Mr Lane’s office has submitted a planning application for a police investigation centre off Airport Service Road, Portsmouth, to replace Portsmouth Central and Fratton police station.

A police spokeswoman added: ‘The point raised with regard to governance of spit guards relates to our ability to analyse our paper records.

‘Every usage of spit guard is recorded, however HMIC were concerned that we were unable to see a full picture of spit guard use.

‘This has been raised at our new Use of Force board and as a result a new electronic system will be in place by April 1, 2017.

‘This will address the issues raised with regard to governance, whether this is relating to the use in custody or the wider roll out.

‘Police cells are not the right place for people suffering from mental illnesses.

‘We are aware that the number section 136 detentions has gone up after reductions for a number of years previously.

‘We are confident that we have the right partnerships in place with health providers to understand these issues and respond accordingly.’

A spokesperson for the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner said: ‘Following the inspection, a number of issues with the custody estate were raised with the Commissioner’s estate team, and we have actively been working to ensure these are resolved before receiving the final report. It should be noted that Fareham is now closed and no longer used as an operational facility as we move to deliver the Commissioner’s estate strategy for the eastern area to provide modern, fit-for-purpose facilities.

‘The Commissioner is working to ensure that Hampshire Constabulary’s estate provides shelter and care for everyone using it, including appropriate care for those who have caused others harm. The planning application for the Eastern Police Investigation Centre is currently under consideration by the Planning Authority of Portsmouth City Council.’