North Yorkshire Police comes under criticism around custody suites

19 October 2022

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary have published a report on an inspection visit to police custody suites in North Yorkshire Police
between 27 June–8 July 2022.

The report has raised significant causes of concern, and has made a recommendation for immediate action.

The inspection assessed the effectiveness of custody services and outcomes for detained people throughout the different stages of detention. It examined the force’s approach to custody provision in relation to detaining people safely and respectfully, with a particular focus on children and vulnerable adults.

North Yorkshire Police operate three custody suites, Harrogate, York, and Scarborough.

Cause of concern: use of force

The force’s governance and oversight of the use of force in custody isn’t good enough. Limited recording on custody records, a lack of use-of-force forms for incidents, and limitations in the way quality assurance is carried out means it doesn’t have accurate information to support effective scrutiny.

Our CCTV review found incidents weren’t always managed well. The force can’t show that when force is used in custody it is always necessary, justified and proportionate.

Cause of concern: managing detainee risks
The management of risk isn’t good enough, and the force isn’t always assuring detainee safety.

  • Custody officers don’t triage queues to risk assess detainees for booking in.
  • Detainees under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs aren’t always placed on level 2 observations with rousals.
  • Checks on detainees are frequently carried out by different members of custody staff, making it difficult to assess changes in a detainee’s behaviour.
  • Detainee welfare checks aren’t always on time, carried out properly, or recorded accurately.
  • Level 4 (close proximity) watches aren’t always conducted or recorded in line with Authorised Professional Practice (APP) guidance. Bespoke briefings to officers aren’t recorded, and custody staff don’t carry out welfare checks or rousals of detainees on this level of observation.
  • All custody staff routinely remove cords and footwear from detainees without an individualised risk assessment.
  • Anti-rip clothing is used too often, sometimes without justification or rationale. It is sometimes removed by force, which can lead to an escalation in risk.
  • Handovers between shifts aren’t attended by all custody staff, and staff taking over don’t always visit the detainees in their care.
  • Not all custody staff carry personal-issue anti-ligature knives.
  • Custody staff don’t always keep control of cell keys.
    Many of these practices don’t follow APP guidance and place detainees at an increased risk of harm

To read the full report from the

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report on custody suites in North Yorkshire


Elliot Foskett, Assistant Chief Constable for North Yorkshire Polic, said:

We welcome the HMICFRS report, as it helps us to further understand how we can continue to improve our custody provision here in North Yorkshire Police.

Working within the legislative framework, our absolute priority is the safety and welfare of detainees, avoiding any adverse level of risk.

It is acknowledged that some processes, such as the recording of information, are not of the highest possible standard and this is something we have already started to look at.

We are pleased the HMICFRS has recognised we have good measures in place to oversee the safe and respectful provision of custody.

It’s also good to see the acknowledgement of the good work of our custody staff in relation to how they deal with detainees respectfully, patiently, and reassuringly, recognising the array of diverse needs.

The North Yorkshire, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Zoe Metcalfe, has so far not commented.

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