Inside police custody - take a look behind locked doors
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T/Inspector Mark Brind shows you behind the scenes at the Chelmsford custody suite
Unless you’ve been arrested recently, your knowledge of police custody is probably limited to what you’ve seen on television.
But what does a modern custody suite really look like? What happens when someone is detained? And what is it like being locked in a cell?
Watch Temporary Inspector Mark Brind, Custody Manager at Chelmsford Police Station, as he gives a guided tour of the recently refurbished custody suite and shows us the areas you don’t see on television.
The force has seven custody suites across the county in Basildon, Chelmsford, Clacton, Colchester, Grays, Harlow and Southend, with 118 cells available.
Custody officers deal with around 2,000 detainees a month, 80% of whom are men.
Demand tends to increase during the summer months, particularly over weekends.
T/Insp Brind explained what happens when you’re first taken into custody.
“When you enter custody, you may have a short wait in a holding cell, but you’ll then be brought to the charge desk. Generally, there’ll be a detention officer behind the desk who will take details from the officers who’ve brought you in.
“The custody sergeant will overhear that and then authorise your detention if they’re satisfied it is necessary for you to be in custody.
“You’ll then be booked in. During the booking in process, you’ll answer some basic questions, be given your rights and entitlements and we will do risk assessments.
“Following being booked in you’ll have you fingerprints, photographs and DNA taken and that’s when you get taken to your cell.”
Detainees have the right to have someone informed they’re in custody, and to speak to a solicitor to get legal advice. This is done in private in one of the suite’s two consultations rooms either in person, by telephone, or can be done in writing.
They are also told the reason they are in custody and can read the Codes of Practice.
Whilst in their cells, detainees are allowed reading and writing materials, and have the choice of hot or cold food and drinks. Current food options at Chelmsford include Thai curry, an all-day breakfast, cereal bars and flapjacks.
There are 15 cells at Chelmsford with each detainee is held on their own. The cells have a toilet, mattress, and pillow. Blankets and changes of clothing can be provided.
If the detainee wants some fresh air, they can stretch their legs in the exercise yard.
Detainees can be questioned by officers in one of the four interview rooms, all of which have digital recording equipment. The detainee will then head back to their cell whilst evidence is reviewed.
T/Insp Brind said two of the biggest challenges of the job is people calming people who are being aggressive, and looking after people who are struggling with their mental health.
The suite has a full-time medic who works with fellow medical professionals at EPUT – the local NHS trust that provides mental health support services – to make sure potentially vulnerable people receive the appropriate care.
Initially you can be held for up to 24 hours before you are charged with a crime or released, but in more serious cases that time can be extended up to 36 and then 96 hours first, by a superintendent and then by a magistrates’ court.
With the clock ticking, T/Insp Brind explains what happens next.
“The evidence is reviewed - whether that’s by the local police sergeant or by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) - and if the charge gets authorised, we’ll administer the charge process. That’s where someone will go through to court.
“There are two options from charge – charge and bail or charge and remand, which is if the criteria has been met for you to remain in custody until the next available court date.
“You can either be bailed be for further enquiries or bailed for CPS advice. That’s if we’re in a position whilst you’re in custody but we can’t get a charging decision now because we’ve got further enquiries to do. You’ll be given bail either with or without conditions to come back to the police station at a later date.
“If bail is not deemed necessary or proportionate, you’ll be released under investigation and we’ll get in touch with you to let you know what the outcome of the investigation, whether that’s a court date, no further action, or we invite you in for a further interview.
“Or it could be that an out of court disposal is administered, such as a conditional caution or a community resolution.
“Finally, if a case is reviewed and there’s insufficient evidence, you will be released with no further action.”
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