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Custody report welcomed but extra funding needed

Extra funding is needed if the additional training needs identified in a review of death in custody are to be addressed, according to the Federation's national custody lead.

Andy Ward was speaking after a report into custody deaths put forward 110 recommendations, with 39 relating to policing and the remainder aimed at the NHS and justice and regulatory systems.

"The Federation has been highlighting concerns about the lack of good quality, consistent training in the custody arena for years but it has fallen on deaf ears and the service appears to have made little headway," says Andy.

"There are custody personnel who have had no refresher training for more than five years, custody suites are being shut because of a lack of resources and there is a rising toll on the mental health and sickness levels of those officers who work in that environment.

"While we are glad that custody training needs appear to have been recognised, we are not confident that the necessary additional resources will be made available to pay for it or to ensure that we have the appropriate levels of custody personnel to ensure detainees' safety."

And, while cautiously welcoming the report, he added: "It makes many valid recommendations but stops short of detailing how they are to be achieved against a background of continued austerity and police officer numbers dropping by more than 21,000 since 2010."

The Federation has pledged to work with all parties to try to ensure that the recommendations can be implemented to ensure the safety of detainees, police officers and communities but has expressed its concerns.

Andy explains: "While there are elements of the report that could be implemented quickly, many others are going to take an awful lot longer to achieve and others still might not be achievable at all.

"Some of the recommendations, such as the nationwide roll out of body-worn video, something the Federation has been calling for through its Protect The Protectors campaign, and CCTV in police vans, carry significant cost implications so they will depend on the appetite of Government to effect change, both legislatively and financially."

The Independent Review of Deaths and Serious Incidents in Police Custody, chaired by Dame Elish Angiolini, makes recommendations across a wide range of other issues including restraint techniques, healthcare provision, detainees with mental health issues, IPCC investigations and post-incident police procedures.

The report highlights the number of custody deaths involving vulnerabilities such as mental health, drunkenness and drug use. Of the 14 people who died in or following police custody in 2016/17, eight were identified as having mental health concerns and 11 were known to have a link to alcohol and/or drugs.

Andy says: "The Federation has long held the view that police cells are not the right place for individuals suffering a mental health crisis, yet officers are increasingly required to deal with the most vulnerable members of our society because of reducing resources across the public sector."