Police and Crime Commissioners from across England and Wales have united to urge the Government to update legislation around the treatment of female detainees held within police custody.
At present, there is no statutory requirement to provide female detainees with access to a female Police Officer. In addition, there is no requirement for Police Officers to check if female detainees need any menstrual products whilst in Police custody or to make them aware that these will be provided free of charge.
In response to a Home Office consultation, members of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) have come together to demonstrate their backing for changes that would ensure the dignity of menstruating detainees is considered by all Police forces.
APCC Custody Lead and ICVA Chair, PCC Martyn Underhill welcomed this support from colleagues across the country, saying: “This issue has united Police and Crime Commissioners and will hopefully bring about what we consider to be long-overdue changes to legislation that fails to recognise the needs of female detainees. The number of signatures attached to our response is clear evidence of support for these reforms and we hope the changes are accepted and brought about at speed.”
APCC Victims Lead, Dame Vera Baird QC said: “Action was needed to protect the dignity of women and girls having their period in police custody and now together with our partners, we are starting to see a much-needed change. We need to see an immediate review of policy across the country. Women in this situation should be treated with the respect, sensitivity and the dignity they deserve.
“I’m pleased that in Northumbria we have taken great strides forward with regards to the support of women in custody and have ensured that ‘hygiene packs’ are routinely offered to women on arrival in custody and in addition available on request.”
Katie Kempen, Chief Executive, Independent Custody Visiting Association said:“Female detainees have had to suffer through humiliating experiences, poor products and face barriers to basic needs like being able to keep clean. These detainees often have complex needs and cannot ask for menstrual products in what’s very often a male-dominated environment. This treatment is wholly unacceptable and has no place in 21st century policing. The reforms to the PACE Codes embed dignity and require police forces to overcome the taboo of menstruation to deliver what should have already been in place.
“I am delighted that Police and Crime Commissioners, alongside other partners, have come out in such numbers to demonstrate strength of feeling and support for the reforms. This acknowledges the vital work of independent custody visitors and the essential role they perform to safeguard dignity and human rights in police custody. The support is overwhelming and underlines the need for change. We will continue to work with PCCs to monitor the reforms and ensure that they are successfully implemented.”
Police and Crime Commissioners and other elected local Policing bodies have a statutory duty to make arrangements for detainees to be visited by Independent Custody Visitors from local communities. It is through such arrangements that Commissioners, strongly supported by the Independent Custody Visiting Association, have been able to monitor detainee well-being and come together to help drive moves to improve conditions for individuals in police custody, including female detainees.