Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Concerns Raised over Police Cells across Force Area; Inspectors Say Handcuffing Policy 'Unjustifiable'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Concerns Raised over Police Cells across Force Area; Inspectors Say Handcuffing Policy 'Unjustifiable'

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson

CONCERNS have been raised over police custody conditions in the North East.

Northumbria Police has been told improvements must be made in cells across the region after Government inspectors made an unannounced visit.

Officers at HM Inspector of Constabulary said custody standards were adequate but in some areas they saw worrying signs.

High among the concerns raised in a report following an inspection last summer was the routine use of handcuffs even when no risk was identified.

Inspectors covered eight 24-hour custody suites serving Newcastle at Etal Lane and Clifford Street, Sunderland's Gillbridge and Washington, South Shields, Gateshead, Bedlington and Wallsend.

In their report Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, and Dru Sharpling, of HM Inspector of Constabulary, said the use of handcuffs by Northumbria Police officers gave them concerns.

The report states: "Staff said force policy was that everyone arrested should be handcuffed and the many police officers we spoke to said they would do so regardless of the alleged offence, the compliance of the arrested person or whether the officer was alone or with a colleague.

"This had resulted in children, pregnant women and compliant detainees being handcuffed, which was disproportionate and unlikely always to be justifiable."

The inspection recommended improvements in how women and children are treated in custody suites.

Their report said: "Seven of the 60 custody records we analysed related to female detainees, none of whom had been offered the opportunity to speak in private with a female member of staff."

It adds: "We saw one 12-year-old in tears in a detention room but staff made no attempt to reassure him or keep him occupied. Another 12-year-old boy appeared bewildered as he was being booked in and was treated much as an adult would have been. …

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