Vera Baird DBE KC

Writer, Lecturer, Parliamentary Consultant and Co-Director of Astraea: Gender Justice


Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has welcomed an HMIC report which finds that children need care, not custody.
In January 2014, the Home Secretary commissioned HMIC to conduct a thematic inspection on the welfare of vulnerable people in police custody. The inspection looked at a number of areas which included those with mental health problems, those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and children.
The inspection considered the end to end process. Inspections were undertaken in six force areas, Northumbria was not one, but Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC, has committed to learning from the report to ensure Northumbria Police delivers the best care possible when dealing with vulnerable children and adults.
There are a number of recommendations in the report which Northumbria Police will review carefully to ensure local practice follows national guidelines.  The Force’s current custody action plan and equality delivery plan already cover some of the areas highlighted in the report.  Commissioner Baird will now ensure that the report is updated to include the information highlighted in the HMIC report.
Vera Baird said: “Custody suites and the use of handcuffs or limb restraints are for those suspected of committing a crime – not for people who are suffering mental health.  In Northumbria, we have dedicated nurses who provide support to people suffering from mental health. 
\”Moving forward, Northumbria Police will continue to work with partners to ensure the best service available is given. I expect to see a reduction in the use of police custody for those suffering from mental health issues or vulnerable children in custody”.
Northumbria Police is about to extend their successful street triage project where police officers and mental healthcare workers work together at peak times to avoid detaining people under the Mental Health Act and ensuring they get the support they need.
Conclusions of the report found that custody should also be avoided for children. Where appropriate, Northumbria Police will seek alternatives to arrest. This could include a voluntary interview at a station, a person’s home or solicitors’ office.
Mrs Baird added: “We can learn from this HMIC report, moving forward we will continue to work with partners to ensure effective support for young people is achieved, rather than bringing them in to custody. 
\”The street triage is having a positive effect and improvements to our electronic records system will help ensure we are recording all the information expected by HMIC. 
\”Northumbria is doing well, our drive and determination will ensure we are delivering an outstanding service for vulnerable people and children in custody.\”