Inspectors Raise Concerns Over Record Keeping And Risk Assessment Processes At Police Custody Centres

Inspectors Raise Concerns Over Record Keeping And Risk Assessment Processes At Police Custody Centres

By Tony O’Reilly-

Inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) have highlighted inconsistencies in record keeping and risk assessment procedures at Police Scotland’s custody centres in Fife, calling for urgent improvements to ensure the consistent provision of care and oversight for detainees.

In a report published on Thursday, concerns were raised regarding omissions in various aspects, including the matching of risk assessments to care plans, documentation of detainee searches, provision of food and drink, and contact with named persons and medicines. HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, Craig Naylor, expressed uncertainty regarding the root cause of these gaps, citing potential issues with both practices and recording.

During a joint inspection with Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) of custody facilities in Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy, a review of records from the Police Scotland National Custody System (NCS) revealed discrepancies between risk assessments and corresponding care plans.

Notably, instances were found where care plans appeared inadequate given the assessed level of risk, with rationales for such decisions consistently absent from custody records.

Despite positive feedback from detainees regarding the respect and amenities provided by custody staff, inspectors noted a lack of comprehensive records, which may indicate poor recording rather than poor practice.

Furthermore, the underutilization of electronic tablets for recording observations raised concerns about the accuracy and timeliness of record-keeping, with no evidence of supervisors promoting their use.

The physical layout of the centres also raised issues, with potential ligature hazards identified in Dunfermline and inefficient working conditions due to the charge bar layout. Additionally, CCTV observation areas were deemed unfit for purpose, posing challenges to effective monitoring of detainees.

While staffing levels were deemed adequate and detainees praised the cleanliness and maintenance of the facilities, concerns were raised about the lack of showers and privacy-limiting sink locations.

However, commendations were given for the booking-in process, harm reduction initiatives, and the provision of Naloxone kits for detainees upon release.

Notably, three months following the inspection, a death was recorded at the Kirkcaldy custody centre. While investigations are underway by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, HMICS refrained from commenting on the circumstances pending further inquiry.

The report underscores the importance of robust procedures and oversight in police custody settings, emphasizing the need for consistent and comprehensive record-keeping to ensure the welfare and safety of detainees.

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