CUSTODY suites in Colchester and Clacton remain in poor condition, but staff are treating prisoners well according to a new report.

A joint inspection of police custody in all suites across Essex was carried out earlier this year by chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke and HM inspector of constabulary Dru Sharpling.

Despite Colchester being closed at the time for a number of improvements, including the removal of ligature points, the inspectors still visited the site.

The report said environment at older suites, which includes Clacton and Colchester, remained poor.

Other problems found in Clacton were:

  •  a lack of privacy in the cells although officers tried to not place prisoners side by side,
  •  there was only one copy of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act Code C which gives prisoners answers on detention their treatment and questioning which was out of date
  • and some forensic kits were found on the floor.

Overall, the report found staff continued to treat detainees well, management of the use of force remained good, the standard of health care was adequate and in most cases there was enough emphasis place on ensuring people were released safely.

Across Essex, inspectors also found officers thought the IT system was difficult to use, several potential ligature points required attention and too many vulnerable adults were brought into custody as a place of safety along with too many children being held overnight when more suitable accommodation should have been provided.

In a statement Mr Clarke and Mr Sharpling said: “The force impressed us with being open to and prepared to learn from scrutiny.

“A peer review of custody provision by colleagues from two external forces had been thorough and exacting, producing relevant recommendations. The force had started to act on this comprehensivereport.

“While our own findings showed some progress in most areas, the internal work already being carried out reassured us Essex police had a strong commitment to improving further the treatment and conditions for detainees held in its custody.”

Deputy chief constable BJ Harrington said:“This is a positive report which demonstrates our strong commitment to the treatment and conditions experienced by people in our custody, particularly vulnerable people.

“Anyone brought into our custody is in our care and we hold that duty in the highest of priorities.

"In Essex we have a mix of new custody facilities designed to the highest specifications and an ageing estate which needs significant and regular maintenance.

"Action to remedy the issues found in the report had already been identified and begun prior to the unannounced inspection.

“Every day Essex Police deals with around 100 incidents involving people experiencing mental health issues, over 5,000 cases a year.

"Many of those incidents involve no crime being committed but, as an emergency service, our job is to keep people safe and prevent harm.

"Police officers can detain someone who is extremely vulnerable and at risk of coming to or causing harm and take them to a place of safety.

"Usually that place should be a mental health treatment unit but, if no places are available, detention in police stations can be used in exceptional circumstances and as a last resort.

"We work closely with partner agencies to ensure we can identify the best response for those experiencing mental health crises.”