Page last updated at 04:29 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 05:29 UK

Police cell condition 'squalid'

Immigration officer
The report noted inmates were treated 'with courtesy'

A south London police custody suite where immigration detainees are held is "unhygienic and unsafe" and should be closed, a report has said.

The report by the Inspectorate of Prisons, which examined the condition of custody units in Southwark suite, said the problem was "acute".

The inspectors recommended that the facility should be closed until the fundamental concerns were remedied.

The survey also looked at conditions in Peckham and Walworth Road centres.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers and Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Ronnie Flanagan studied the conditions and treatment of detainees at the three centres in the London borough of Southwark in April.

Peckham and Walworth Road suites hold adults, juveniles and immigration detainees while the Southwark centre exclusively caters to immigration detainees.

The report praised the support detainees received to prevent substance misuse and self-harm and noted inmates were "treated professionally and with courtesy".

Conditions in the cells were squalid and lacked decency
The Inspectorate report

But it highlighted that "disbanding of specialist custody teams" had affected custodial practice and said the forensic examination facilities were "unfit for purpose".

"All the suites had dirty cells and inadequately cleaned showers; there was limited access to showers and toilet paper; and all staff did not carry ligature knives and none routinely carried keys.

"This problem was acute at Southwark, a suite run entirely on overtime and which, in spite of an earlier extremely critical internal report, was still unfit for use, being both unhygienic and unsafe."

The report said the Southwark suite, which has 13 cells, had no permanent staff and had failed to improve following a highly critical report in January.

At Walworth Road and Peckham suites the walls were dirty and had graffiti and toilet paper was not regularly refilled in all toilets.

'Fundamental deficiencies'

The report said although enough variety of food was provided for detainees at Southwark, the cells were "squalid".

"Conditions in the cells were squalid and lacked decency. There was hair and pubic hair on mattress plinths and congealed blood and human waste on some walls.

"The Forensic Medical Examination room at Southwark contained layers of dust, tablet packets were strewn around and two packs of DNA, which should have been frozen, were kept in a fridge mixed with foodstuff."

The report said "Southwark custody suite should be closed until the fundamental deficiencies identified in this report are remedied" and subjected to "continuing and recorded supervision".

It recommended that the Metropolitan Police should train all its staff and identify weaknesses in its custodial practices and asked UK's Border Agency to ensure detainees are held for the shortest period in police cells.

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