THERE have been improvements in police custody arrangements in Northern Ireland over the past four years, inspectors have found.
In a report published today, inspectors said they had seen “examples of custody staff who were skilled and experienced in dealing with distressed, intoxicated and challenging people and circumstances”.
The inspection by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) examined how detainees were treated while in police custody and the conditions in which they were held.
Jacqui Durkin, chief inspector of CJI, said: “This inspection found that progress had been made since our last inspection in 2016 to improve the governance arrangements and the strategic management of police custody”.
Inspectors also recommended a roll-out of nurse-led health care provision across the north, which focuses on the “health and wellbeing of the detained person”.
The service was piloted at Musgrave custody suite in Belfast in partnership with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and Public Health Agency.
Ms Durkin said: “It focuses on the health and wellbeing of the detained person, providing signposting to mental health and addiction interventions and pathways as well as the essential service required within the custody environment.
“The Musgrave health care pilot provides positive evidence of what can be achieved when the PSNI and Health and Social Care Trusts work together.
“We have recommended that the implementation of a nurse-led custody model of health care provision is progressed in police custody suites across Northern Ireland.
“This would help ensure consistency around health care practice, access to medical records and address inconsistencies in the storage and management of medicines and medical equipment.”
However, inspectors found issues relating to dealing with children and young people from a ‘looked after’ or care experienced background had not been addressed.
Ms Durkin said the “long-standing issues of why these children are more likely to be in police custody, are held longer than their peers and their rights to bail, need to be urgently addressed”.
“We have recommended the Department of Justice prioritise the legislative reform that is needed,” she said.
“We have also recommended that discussions between the PSNI and health and social care partners to address the issue of ‘looked after’ children being held in police custody cells which had previously stalled, should recommence within the next three months.”