28/07/2003

Police custody suites broadly ‘satisfactory’

Independent inspectors have found that the conditions inside PSNI custody suites are, in general, entirely satisfactory, the Northern Ireland Policing Board have announced.

The independent inspectors made over 900 unannounced visits to police service custody suites across Northern Ireland in the year ending 31 March 2003, and found that in 766 of the 912 visits made (84% of visits) Custody Visitors found conditions to be “entirely satisfactory” with detainees or Custody Visitors raising no issues of concern.

Where Visitors did find detention conditions to be unsatisfactory these were mainly due to the cleanliness of cells or repairs being required.

The Chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board Professor Desmond Rea said that Independent Custody Visitors were all volunteers and came from all parts of the community.

“As they are unconnected with the PSNI or Criminal Justice system itself they are totally independent and can inspect and report back to the Board on how people being held in custody are dealt with by the police and the conditions in which they are held,” he said.

“The Visitors’ independent oversight has an important role to play and their contribution to the Criminal Justice System should not be underestimated. By giving up their time to do this valuable work, they are also assisting the Board to fulfil its role in ensuring that we all have a police service that is effective, efficient and accountable to the community it serves.”

Of the 654 detainees held in custody at the time of the visits, from 1 April 2002 to 31 March 2003, the inspectors spoke to 314 detainees, though 137 declined to speak to the Custody Visitors and 203 were not seen as they were either asleep or being questioned.

Custody Visitors reported that 12 individuals had made complaints regarding their arrest and these were passed on to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.

For the first time, the report also covers visits made to detained terrorist suspects. Of the 39 detainees held in custody, 22 agreed to see an Independent Custody Visitor resulting in two complaints which were also referred to the Police Ombudsman.

(SP)

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