Tuesday 23rd July 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

NYP Custody Scandal: HMICFRS Inspections Ineffective

NYP Custody Scandal: HMICFRS Inspections Ineffective

by TIM HICKS

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Introduction

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has recently published its report on its joint inspection of North Yorkshire Police’s Custody Services  with HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The inspection identified fifteen areas for improvement with sixty individual points of improvement across the full range of custody activities.

In response, North Yorkshire Police issued a statement on its website from Assistant Chief Constable Elliot Foskett which only acknowledged “that some processes, such as the recording of information, are not of the highest possible standard.” And maintained 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.

In an earlier article Custody 2 the NYE 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 article covers failures in the Custody Inspections by HMICFRS, HMIP and the CQC.

The 2010, 2015 and 2022 HMICFRS Custody Inspections

NYP’s custody suites were inspected in 2010 (not 2008 as previously reported), 2015 and 2022. I have seen the reports for 2015 and 2022, they are both well written, comprehensive and well structured. However, there are areas that the inspections failed in.

  1. Vulnerability of detainees to sexual abuse by paedophile and voyeuristic custody staff

Both the 2015 and 2022 inspections concluded there was inadequate privacy when detainees were showering.

4.37 Showers were available at all suites ….but were not private enough.”

 Because of the common availability of recording devices, some of them disguised as wristwatches or eye glasses, convictions for sexual offences of voyeurism and upskirting have become more common, including Police Officers and staff. This may be because according to an HMICFRS investigation, the police vetting procedure is ineffective and officers with convictions for serious crimes including sexual assault and domestic abuse are slipping through the net and being recruited. BBC exposure here. Some recent examples of officers convicted of voyeurism and other sexual offences are:

  • Inspector Neil Corbel filmed naked women at a fake photo shoot with cameras concealed in tissue boxes, phone chargers and glasses.
  • PC Swaleh Chaudhry filmed a woman changing in a clothes shop he was later found to be in possession of indecent images of a child.
  • Former Inspector Gerard Fairclough filmed a teenager in a shower.
  • Jean Janga a member of police staff filmed his colleagues going to the toilet with a mobile phone.
  • Detective Constable Paul Allgood tried to upskirt a schoolgirl on a bus and women on the tube, and possessed hundreds of indecent images of children.
  • Detective Sergeant Benjamin McNish used his iPhone to film a woman in the shower.

Inadequate privacy in showers leaves detainees at the mercy of voyeuristic Officers like these. Particularly if they are operating in a ring (PCs in Wayne Couzens WhatsApp group jailed). Yet insufficient weight is given to this failing in the 2022 report, which does not explicitly disclose that exactly the same issue of showers open to public view was raised in 2015 and still nothing has been done.

  1. Repeated failure to confront sexual abuse of detainees

The 2015 HMICFRS Custody Inspection (here) identified that (extract):

“2.15 We had some concerns about the treatment of women, specifically when they were forced to wear anti-rip suits (to prevent the use of clothing as ligatures).…….male officers were in a woman’s cell while she was being put into anti-rip clothing when their presence was not appropriate. 

4.2 Individual needs of detainees were not always identified or adequately met…… women detainees were not routinely asked if they would like to speak to a female member of staff;  

…..when men and women were detained in the same corridor, we were not assured that the need to protect women from potential abuse or harm was considered. For example, in York, we found a man accused of rape located opposite a woman, with no consideration of appropriate safeguards to protect her.  

In a separate case, we observed CCTV footage where a woman had her clothing forcibly removed and was partially naked in the presence of male officers with little, if any, consideration of maintaining her dignity. On discussing this matter with police managers, there was no rational explanation for the presence of these male officers in the cell. 

4.24 ………….In most incidents we reviewed on CCTV, force was proportionate to the risks posed and was de-escalated reasonably quickly. However, in one incident there were insufficient efforts to de-escalate, and in another a woman detainee was forcibly required to wear anti-rip clothing with insufficient attention to maintaining her dignity and with male staff present when she was partially naked, which was inappropriate and unnecessary. We referred both incidents to the criminal justice chief inspector.”

The 2022 inspection found:

some practices are disrespectful, particularly when detainee clothing is removed”.

[My emphasis in bold]

This is a vague comment, but would indicate that male officers are still present when detainees are undressed or naked, when there is “no rational explanation for the presence of these male officers”. The only rational explanation I can assign to these men choosing to be present in a cell when a woman was being strip searched is either:

  1. To deliberately humiliate the detainee;

or

  1. To obtain sexual arousal from seeing a semi-nude woman.

Both cases are indicative of sexual abuse by a ring of predatory Police Officers operating within the Custody Team.

This is a form of sexual abuse and an abuse of authority.

In my view, the Officers present (male and female) and the custody sergeant that 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 the 2015 inspection team did not inform the Station Duty Inspector or the NYP Professional Standards Department. So it appears no action was taken against the officers concerned or their supervisors.

The presence of a male Officer in a cell with a woman in a state of undress when there is absolutely no justification or need for it smacks to me of voyeurism. The Police can take people as young as ten into custody. If male Officers have been present while underage girls are undressed, it smacks of paedophilism.

Although voyeurism is at the lower end of the scale of sexual offences, the wider concern must be that it may be the beginning of an escalating pattern of offending by the officers concerned. Who have unfettered access to vulnerable female detainees.

The effects of this on female detainees can be devastating. Recently the Metropolitan Police had to issue an apology to Dr Koshka Duff over a strip search by female officers. Quoted in the BBC article here. Dr Duff described the strip search as a very violating and humiliating experience which left her with multiple injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“They caused significant injury, and subjected me to degrading treatment. When they had me completely naked they touched my breasts and between my legs.”

Dr Duff heard male Officers talking through the open door and feared they might be watching. CCTV footage revealed officers laughing about her hair, saying her clothes stink and talking about her underwear.There is very little doubt that if the male officers had been in the cell with her when she was stripped, they would have been convicted of misconduct. But that of course is the Met, which maintains high standards of police discipline and accountability. This is very different to North Yorkshire, where officers are protected and journalists are proscribed by the Chief Constable and the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner to avoid having to comment on allegations of police misconduct.

Taking the 2015 and 2022 reports together, it appears that Male NYP officers were openly viewing distressed semi-nude females in the cells, with the consent of the female officers present and of the custody sergeant. This involved more than one officer operating jointly in a ring and may still be continuing in NYP custody suites to the present day. This disgusting and abusive practice leaves detainees at the mercy of voyeur and abusive officers.

  1. Failure of the Criminal Justice Chief Inspector

The 2015 inspection team reported its concerns about “Officers of the opposite sex being  present when detainees were undressed” to the Criminal Justice Chief Inspector. But nothing more seems to have been done and there is no follow up on what happened in the 2022 report.

Summary

Some 2008 and 2015 recommendations have been repeated in 2022, but there is still no sign of them being implemented. Some of these failings are potentially life threatening. Some of them relate to the sexual abuse of female detainees. Yet successive Chief Constables have ignored them and there has been a barrage of misinformation from NYP to conceal these failings, and continue evading responsibility for addressing them. HMICFRS has not drawn attention to NYP’s ongoing failure to implement its recommendations.

A complete failure of Chief Officer leadership and of HMICFRS oversight and follow up.

Presumably, when a detainee dies in custody, the custody staff will all be prosecuted for manslaughter and Chief Constable Winward, HMICFRS; HMIP and the CQC will then take some effective action over the shocking state of NYP’s custody suites.

A lot of people and public bodies – Chief Officers, the Independent Custody Visitors, Commissioner Metcalfe, HMICFRS, HMIP and the CQC – are supposed to ensure NYP has custody suites manned by properly trained and supported staff that are safe and where detainees are treated with dignity.

They have all totally failed to execute their functions.

Only the NYE is revealing the full truth to the public and holding the police to account over this issue.

This is why it is so important that we have a free press that is able to comment freely on policing failures. And no doubt why Chief Constable Winward and Commissioner Metcalfe have protected themselves from legitimate media criticism by proscribing the NYE.

Appeal for information

If you have had a bad experience in NYP custody, please let the NYE know using the letters@nyenquirer.uk email address.

Right of Reply

If you are mentioned in this article and do not agree with the views expressed in it, or if you wish to correct any factual inaccuracy, please let me know using the letters@nyenquirer.uk email address and your views and a correction will be published if appropriate.

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