NYP Custody Scandal: ‘Business as Usual’
by TIM HICKS
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has recently published its report on its joint inspection, with HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), of North Yorkshire Police’s (NYP) Custody Services. The inspection identified fifteen areas for improvement with sixty individual points of improvement across the full range of Custody activities.
Some of the failings identified by the 2022 and 2015 HMICFRS Custody Inspection are potentially life-threatening or relate to the sexual abuse of female detainees by a ring of male Custody Officers, who have been watching while female detainees are strip-searched.
Some recommendations from the 2008 and 2015 Inspections have been repeated in the 2022 Inspection, but there is still no sign of them being implemented.
In response, NYP issued a statement on its website from Assistant Chief Constable Elliot Foskett which only acknowledged that:
“Someome processes, such as the recording of information, are not of the highest possible standard.”
. . . maintaining that:
“We are pleased the HMICFRS has recognised we have good measures in place to oversee the safe and respectful provision of custody.”
In short, ACC Foskett misrepresented the findings of the Report. This is analysed in this NYE article Custody 1
ACC Foskett is thought to be the NYP Chief Officer responsible for Custody arrangements.
ACC Foskett supported by the Home Office and Justice Ministry
Chief Police Officers, the Independent Custody Volunteers, Police Fire & Crime Commissioner Metcalfe, the North Yorkshire Police Fire & Crime Panel, HMICFRS, HMIP and the CQC are all supposed to ensure NYP has Custody Suites manned by properly-trained and supported staff, that are safe and where female prisoners are treated with dignity.
They are also responsible for ensuring that the public are accurately informed about the outcome of HMICFRS Custody Inspections.
I have written to all of these bodies and the Home Office (which is responsible for NYP and HMICFRS) and the Justice Ministry (responsible for HMIP). I pointed out that the public have been deliberately mislead by ACC Foskett’s statement and asked them to issue a media statement correcting the misleading impression he has given – thereby ensuring there was full and open disclosure to the public about the Inspection.
Incredibly, this state of affairs seems to cause none of these bodies any concern at all. It was impossible to obtain any meaningful comment from any of them. In short, they have backed ACC Foskett up by refusing to comment or criticise him, and allowing his comments to go unchallenged – thereby allowing the people of North Yorkshire to be misled.
One law for the Police and another law for the rest of us
The presence of a male Officer in a cell with a woman in a state of undress, when there is absolutely no justification for this, is unacceptable. The only explanation for it is either to deliberately humiliate the detainee, or to obtain sexual arousal from seeing a nude or semi-nude restrained woman in a state of distress.
If a man was found watching while women were getting changed at a sports club or a store changing-room, he would be arrested and charged with voyeurism and imprisoned on conviction. As an example, a Scarborough guest house owner who was found guilty of voyeurism was jailed for eighteen weeks.
In my view, the Officers present (male and female) and the Custody Sergeant who allowed two male Officers enter a cell and gawp at an undressed female detainee should have had misconduct charges brought against them. There may also be grounds for criminal charges.
Yet so far as I can tell, no action has been taken.
Dyfed Powis Police compared to NYP
Custody Sergeant Karl Longhurst of Dyfed Powis Police was recently sacked and put on the College of Policing barred list. A misconduct hearing found he had made inappropriate comments to a woman when she was in custody, used Police computers to obtain information about her and entered into a sexual relationship with her which he did not declare.
This shows that only the highest standards of conduct are acceptable in Custody Officers and staff, at least in Dyfed Powis Police, because they are dealing with women who are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
In this case, Dyfed Powis performed a most commendable and impartial investigation. Deputy Chief Constable Claire Parmenter said:
“This result shows that Dyfed Powys Police will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour. Dyfed-Powys Police expects the highest standards from all of its officers and staff and will ensure that members of the public can have complete trust and confidence in the force and its officers and staff.
Where the conduct of officers and staff falls below our expected high standards, the public can be reassured that positive action will always be taken by the force.”
Compare this to North Yorkshire Police, where ACC Foskett has failed to openly declare the issues uncovered by the HMICFRS inspection, or face up to the necessary corrective action. No action has been taken to identify and punish the Officers referred to in the HMICFRS Report.
Why can’t the people of North Yorkshire have the same standard of integrity, openness and accountability from its Officers that Dyfed Powis Police maintain?
Preventing the investigation of sexual abuse of detainees
NYP, Commissioner Metcalfe, the NYPFCP, HMICFRS, HMIP, the CQC the Home Office and the Justice Ministry do not deny that there has been sexual abuse of vulnerable women by Officers of North Yorkshire Police in NYP Custody Suites.
They all simply refuse to acknowledge it, respond to media enquiries, or do anything about it.
In the meantime, the concern must be that these Officers are still working in Custody Services and the practice of allowing male Officers to watch while female detainees are being undressed is still accepted and being permitted.
So it seems it is a clear case of Game, Set and Match to ACC Foskett. The same situation will continue indefinitely, no NYP Police Officer will be held accountable for it and female detainees will continue to be strip-searched while male Officers are allowed to watch them.
ACC Foskett, The Home Office, Justice Ministry, CQC, HMICFRS and HMIP were all provided with a draft of this article and given the opportunity to comment.
Other NYE articles on this topic
This NYE article Custody 2 identified major failings in the oversight of NYP Custody Suites by the Independent Custody Visitors, The Police fire and Crime Panel for North Yorkshire and the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire.
This NYE article Custody 3 covers failures in the Custody Inspection regime by HMICFRS, HMIP and the CQC.
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