The HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Constabulary report on police custody suites in Hackney is a mixture of praise and criticism. The national media coverage has focused on the conclusion that: “while DNA samples were efficiently dealt with overall, some had not been submitted appropriately to the national DNA database.”Some of these samples were “linked to violent crimes, rape and homicide, although the homicide sample appeared to have been taken and dealt with by an investigation squad not based in the borough.”
The 44 page inspection report focused primarily on the two principal custody suites at Stoke Newington and Shoreditch that are both open 24 hours a day and receive juveniles as well as adults. The enquiry also investigated a smaller suite at Hackney police station opened only when required to support specific police operations.
The inspectors made the following criticisms:
- custody sergeants and police constable gaolers were not permanent and the latter lacked specific training for the role;
- use of Independent Police Complaints Commission publications was not systematic;
- staff demonstrated limited awareness of the specific needs of juveniles and female detainees, access for those with disabilities was limited, and fire evacuation arrangements required improvement;
- inspectors found a number of potential ligature points in the rather tired accommodation, and more could be done to aid detainees’ access to hygiene arrangements;
- a significant number of immigration detainees were held, and some were not expeditiously processed by the UK Border Agency;
- clinical governance arrangements for healthcare required improvement, as did oversight of attendance times by forensic medical examiners;
- some clinical rooms were in poor condition, and medicines management required thorough review;
- staff needed to be properly trained for their tasks, not least to ensure appropriate recognition of the needs of the diverse range of detainees who pass through the suites;
- healthcare provision also required improved management to ensure that a comprehensive and accountable service is provided.
But the inspectorate team also had positive feedback and recognised:
- the Hackney suites benefited from a clear local management structure.
- there were trained designated detention officers;
- there were examples of good partnership working, including with mental health service providers and the Crown Prosecution Service;
- they observed appropriate and respectful relationships between staff and detainees.
- staff used de-escalation techniques well to defuse aggressive encounters;
- staff took a rigorous approach to ensuring that the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act were adhered to;
- custody staff demonstrated good patient care, and support for those with substance misuse issues were good;
- mental health services were exceptionally good.
“In what was an overall positive report into custody suites on Hackney borough, the HMIC raised some concerns about the retention of a small number of DNA samples. The HMIC did not make any specific recommendations and we are satisfied that no investigation was compromised; however Hackney borough acknowledge the comments and has, as a result, reviewed its supervision of the DNA-retention process.”