Inspectors find improvements required at Fife's police custody centres

A report has been published identifying improvements required at Fife's police custody centres. (Pic: TSPL)A report has been published identifying improvements required at Fife's police custody centres. (Pic: TSPL)
A report has been published identifying improvements required at Fife's police custody centres. (Pic: TSPL)
Record keeping, risk assessments and care planning for those being held within police custody centres in Fife need to be improved, inspectors have said.

In a report published on Thursday, HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) highlighted concerns about the centres in Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline where people who are arrested are detained.

The report said inspectors had expressed concerns about omissions in relation to the matching of risk assessments to care plans, documenting of searches of detainees, cell visits, provision of food and drink, washing, contact with named persons and medicines.

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Craig Naylor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Scotland, said: “It was unclear if these gaps reflected poor and inconsistent practices or poor recording. However, we could not be confident these activities were taking place consistently.”

Inspectors visited the police custody facilities for an unannounced inspection in October. As part of the joint inspection at Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy, a sample of records from the Police Scotland National Custody System (NCS) were examined.

The report said staff had been provided with electronic tablets to carry out recording of observations, but were not using them at the time of the inspection.

There was also no evidence that supervisors were promoting the use of the devices to ensure the accurate and timely recording of cell visits.

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The report also identified issues with the physical layout of the two centres and a general lack of facilities.

Some of the sleeping plinths in Dunfermline were deemed hazardous, while the areas set aside for CCTV observation of detainees were not fit for purpose due to being in busy offices where the operator could become distracted.

Inspectors noted there was adequate staffing levels at both centres and detainees were complimentary about the custody staff and their surroundings which were clean.

However there were no showers in either location and the only sinks were in central corridors.

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The inspection report contains 15 recommendations for Police Scotland and NHS Fife.

Mr Naylor said: “We identified issues in the records regarding the discrepancy between some risk assessments undertaken and the corresponding care plans in place. There were instances where the care plan appeared to be set at a lower level than the risk assessment would suggest as appropriate. In 47 per cent of cases within our sample where the risk assessment was recorded as high, the care plan was set to level one or standard observations. Rationales to support those decisions were consistently absent from custody records.

“Given that those in custody described being respected by the staff and provided with everything they needed, the findings from our review of records may reflect poor recording rather than poor practice. But it was difficult to draw conclusions in the absence of comprehensive records.”

Three months following the inspection of the premises, a death was recorded at the custody centre in Kirkcaldy. The incident is being investigated by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner and a fatal accident inquiry will be held in due course.

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HMICS said it would not be appropriate to comment on the circumstances while investigations are being carried out.

Chief Superintendent Nicola Russell, from Police Scotland’s criminal justice services division, said: “The safety of all of those in our custody is treated with the utmost seriousness and it is encouraging that these individuals felt respected by our staff and that our booking-in process and overall hygiene of our facilities was positively recognised during this inspection.

“We are grateful to HMICS for this report and since October 2023, significant work has been undertaken to enhance our recording of risk assessment and care plans across our custody suites.

“In addition, we continue to review our existing estate to establish where improvements can be made in order to maximise the efficiency of these premises and ensure they are safe places for those who work within, or who are held in our custody.”