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Avon and Somerset welcome HMIC custody report

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Avon and Somerset has welcomed the findings of the HMIC inspection of custody facilities and the positive work in the force area it has highlighted.

The force is particularly pleased that the "professional" approach of custody suite staff was highlighted.

And it was pleased the report acknowledged the force was a field leader in the way in which it deals with under-17s and its approach to voluntary attendance – both schemes helping to free up custody facilities and staff.

Staff in Avon and Somerset have been praised for their being "professional" and "staff generally displayed a respectful approach to detainees."

The report also acknowledged "signing was available for those with impaired hearing and religious needs were well supported."

"Voluntary attendance (as an alternative to arrest and detention) was systematically encouraged. The neighbourhood justice panels, through which community volunteers use restorative justice to deal with anti-social behaviour and low-level crime, were well developed in this force area and also made a contribution," said the report.

Additionally it acknowledged, "Rights and entitlements documents were available in many languages at all suites" and "record keeping was largely satisfactory. There was access to the national strategy for police information systems in all of the medical rooms and in general, sufficient health information was recorded on police systems and shared with police staff."

Avon and Somerset Police's custody services were originally inspected during August 2010 when some concerns were highlighted. Following the inspection, improvements were put in place. HMIC returned and afterwards acknowledged significant improvements had been made and their report on Avon and Somerset was significantly better.

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: "The report has highlighted what we have recognised, for some time and the very reason we embarked on private finance initiative to modernise our estate, particularly custody. Our custody facilities will be updated over the next 18-months and this will speed up processes for police staff and centralise custody provision making it more efficient.

"I would also like to praise our volunteers who carry out independent checks on the welfare of detainees. We have the largest Independent Custody Visiting scheme outside of London and I thank our volunteers for their hard work and efforts in offering an independent view of the conditions in police custody."

Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: "The safety of detainees is, of course, our paramount priority."

"Custody accommodation in Avon and Somerset caters for around 50,000 individuals a year who stay in our custody suites on a very short-term basis, some for just a matter of hours. Our job is to provide a safe "no-frills" environment for detainees and to treat them in an appropriate, professional, manner."

"We are pleased with the report which acknowledges the work we have completed and also praises the future plans for custody provision in the force area," said ACC Bangham.

Posted on Tuesday 4th December 2012
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