Inspectors urge safety overhaul for police station cells

CONDITIONS in police cells in South Yorkshire's major police stations require improvement to ensure they are safe for staff and prisoners according to a new report published by the chief inspector of constabulary, Sir Denis O'Connor.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Inspectorate of Prisons carried out a joint inspection on custody suites in Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley earlier this year and said the picture was "generally positive".

But a series of concerns have been raised in the 43-page document, particularly in relation to the age and maintenance of some of the cell blocks, the standard of cleanliness and the presence of "ligature points" which could be used for suicide attempts.

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According to the inspection team, better guidance should be issued to officers over the use of force in custody and arrangements for monitoring the healthcare and the administration of medications of those in custody were in need of a major overhaul. The main custody suites in town centre police stations in Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley were inspected, along with custody suites at Sheffield's Ecclesfield, Moss Way and Bridge Street police stations.

Inspectors said that they were pleased to find that staff were well-trained, with regular refresher courses on offer and that relationships between staff and detainees appeared to be good.

Arrangements for dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues were also praised alongside the way in which DNA and forensic evidence was gathered by officers from those in custody.

Sir Denis said: "In general, this is a positive report. It does, however, raise some systemic issues about the poor physical conditions in most suites and the management of medications.

"We hope that our recommendations will be helpful to South Yorkshire Police in continuing to improve custodial conditions and treatment."