Hastings is the benchmark for Sussex Police custody provision

The successful completion of a two-year project to refurbish the custody suite at Hastings police station, re-opened in September last year, has benchmarked the standards Sussex Police now seeks to attain in custody provision across the county

Following a major inspection of its custody facilities carried out in November last year Sussex Police has been praised for its approach towards those being held in custody.

There’s still room for improvement though, with a need ti create ‘a safer environment’.

The joint report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services to assess the effectiveness of the service, outcomes for detainees, the approach to safe detention and the respectful treatment of detainees, with particular focus on vulnerable people and children. It had been three years since the last inspection of this kind.

Superintendent Simon Nelson said: “We are committed to addressing the findings of the report and recommendations it makes.

“Several suggested improvements, delayed by contractor negotiations, are already being incorporated into the work we are undertaking countywide to provide custody facilities fit for the future.

“This is a wide ranging and comprehensive report which provides plenty of positive feedback for our custody staff, who the report describes as ‘patient and positive with detainees with most interactions clear, courteous and reassuring’.”

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne and Hastings and Rother district commander Chief Inspector Sarah Godley at the opening of the new custody centre last year.

Inspectors said that ‘custody staff were aware of and paid good attention to meeting the diverse needs of detainees’, and that aspects of care for women, detainees practising a religion and those with disabilities were better.

They went on to add that the ‘the force had a clear priority to divert children and vulnerable people away from custody, and engaged well with partners to achieve this’, where necessary working with the mental health street triage scheme to find appropriate health-based solutions. Good care was shown to children in custody, with a strong focus on minimising the time spent there.

The successful completion of a two-year project to refurbish the custody suite at Hastings police station, re-opened in September 2019 with ten cells, has helped to benchmark the physical standards for custody now being pursued, the report says.

Works are in hand to update facilities at the 27-cell Crawley unit, and at sites at Brighton, Eastbourne and Worthing will follow.

Mr Nelson added: “We never take it for granted that we are performing as well as we might and the watchwords we constantly seek to apply to the way we treat those in custody are safety, dignity and professionalism.”

Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne said: “I’m pleased to see acknowledgement of the emphasis Sussex Police places on understanding and protecting vulnerable people and the effort made to divert young people from custody.

“I was also pleased to see inspectors recognise that the Force is open to external scrutiny from my Independent Custody Visiting scheme. Volunteers across the county perform unannounced visits to check on the welfare of detainees and have won national awards for working with the Force on improvements, including providing female detainees with sanitary packs.

“However, it is clear from the report that a number of key areas require action. It is important that Sussex Police’s custody procedures comply with legislation, that data is reliable, physical conditions kept up to scratch and oversight is consistent when it comes to use of force.

“We have a strong leadership in this area within Sussex Police and a working group was set up months ago to address these concerns, with many soon to be rectified. I will soon be visiting a busy custody centre for myself to see the protocols in place to keep detainees safe.”

We spoke to Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne and to hastings divisional commander Sarah Godley about the new £1.6m custody suite at Hastings Police Station… click the link below to hear what they had to say.

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