AN INTERIM report published this week by the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) has confirmed that a pilot scheme run by Dyfed-Powys Police has resulted in considerable improvements in the recording and justification of the use of anti-harm suits in custody, which has led to a significant decrease in the number of suits being issued.
Anti-rip clothing or anti harm suits are clothing that are used in many custody suites across the UK. The material of the clothing is made to prevent detainees being able to rip the material and make ligatures.
The issue of anti-rip clothing was originally raised by ICVA following a systematic review of Inspectorate reports of police custody nationally. The reports highlighted a number of consistent and worrying issues – in particular the use of anti-rip clothing in the absence of risk information; dignity issues when using the clothing, and poor justification and review when anti-rip clothing was used.
In March 2022, Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn confirmed that his Independent Custody Visiting Scheme was to lead on an Anti-Harm Suit pilot scheme in partnership with Dyfed-Powys Police and ICVA that would look to;
Closely monitor the use of anti-rip suits in Dyfed Powys custody suites on a force wide basis;
Remove the use of anti-rip clothing by force, in the absence of risk information;
Increase the quality of justification and consideration of proportionality where the clothing is used.
As part of the pilot, on a monthly basis, Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) independently reviewed custody records of individuals within Dyfed-Powys custody suites who were issued with an anti-harm suit. In particular, ICVs needed to review whether the suits were being issued appropriately or not, being removed as soon as possible, and that sufficient rationale for their use had been recorded within individual Custody logs.
ICVA have today published an interim evaluation of the pilot which has acknowledged a significant improvement in the monitoring of the use of anti-rip clothing in Dyfed Powys. It also confirms that the quality of the recording and justification of the use of the clothing has considerably improved, which has resulted in a significant decrease in the number of suits being issued.
Sherry Ralph, Chief Operating Officer from ICVA said: ‘The removal of a person’s clothing is an extreme measure to ensure their safety whilst in custody, which can have a serious impact for detainees and staff.
“I am delighted that Dyfed Powys Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) have been working with ICVA to ensure that where this measure is used, it is done so proportionately, with full justifications and only in circumstances where all other options have been exhausted.
“The maintenance of detainee dignity during their time in custody is a key driver for all of those involved in the pilot, and I am grateful to Dyfed Powys Police, the OPCC and of course the independent custody visitors for their admirable engagement and consistently hard work’.
Chief Inspector Steve Thomas of Dyfed-Powys Police, who is Dyfed-Powys Custody Services’ Lead, and who also Chairs the National Police Chiefs Council risk subgroup said: “The anti -rip pilot has assisted Dyfed-Powys Police though partnership working to develop policy, practice and a new culture that recognises and supports the detainees dignity.
“This has been a journey of reflection and development all round and is now embedded as common practice. The work will continue beyond the evaluation as we continue to improve standards and performance to ensure custody is a safe and ethical environment.”
Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn said: “I am very pleased to see that this pilot has helped drive improvements for vulnerable individuals who come into Police detention.
“Custody record reviewing provides a valuable opportunity for a detainees entire journey through custody to be independently reviewed, ensuring that all detainees are treated with dignity and respect.”
Bernard Whitney, who is an ICV with the OPCC said “As a result from reviewing the reports by the ICV’s, there has been a drop in the number of anti-rip suits being issued, and I believe the ICV’s have played a significant role in reducing their unnecessarily use.
“The Custody Record Reviewing sessions is a powerful tool in which also allows the ICV to gain a good insight as well as a better understanding from an officer’s perspective, given their role to provide a duty of care during a DP’s detention.”