POLICE kept DNA samples in a fridge alongside a half-eaten take-away meal, a damning report into Cambridgeshire police custody arrangements has revealed this week. The report has also highlighted widespread failures to manage other forensic samples includ
POLICE kept DNA samples in a fridge alongside a half-eaten take-away meal, a damning report into Cambridgeshire police custody arrangements has revealed this week.
The report has also highlighted widespread failures to manage other forensic samples including old blood and urine, and frozen raw meat was found alongside frozen congealed blood.
A joint inspection by the police and prison inspectors criticised failures to ensure the safety of suspects in cells; and said the overall standards of custody arrangements in the county were "very weak."
The inspection covered eight of the force's custody suites, and the report said: "Fridges in most suites were full of forensic samples that had not been dealt with and there was widespread evidence of systematic failings in the handling, storing and destruction of forensic and DNA samples.
"The situation was highly unsatisfactory, with potential failings to bring offenders to justice, and cases being unnecessarily discontinued by the Crown Prosecution Service as a result of police failings."
Inspectors saw a group of officers laughing while watching a drunken prisoner smashed his head on the wall of a cell; and one member of police staff said they were "overdue a death in custody".
The report claimed some staff appeared uncaring and unprofessional, and were poorly trained; some detainees were not fed for more than 12 hours; cells were found in a state of disrepair; and some cells contained ligature points which inmates could have used to hang themselves.
According to the report, a swastika carved into the wall of a cell was left for months, and only covered with paint when inspectors complained.
Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dame Anne Owers, said: "This independent inspection of the police custody suites of Cambridgeshire Constabulary exposed considerable shortfalls if many aspects of strategic management and service delivery. Urgent improvement was required to bring these suites up to a satisfactory standard."
Responding to the report, deputy chief constable John Feavyour said: "The inspection system has undoubtedly helped us further to improve our cell facilities, procedures and custody management.
"The constabulary can, with confidence, give total reassurance to the public that its custody protocols in relation to people and the handling of evidence has never undermined criminal justice processes or integrity.
"Forensic samples in fridges, to which inspectors referred, were in the vast majority of cases from people who had been eliminated from criminal inquiries and were of no further value.
"Most of the recommendations in the document we have accepted, and many we have already implemented in full.
"The people of Cambridgeshire can be reassured that this report gives a view of how some things were nine months ago, and not as they are today. At the time of the inspection, this force was already committed, and was actively delivering, a rigorous programme of improvement."
He also stressed that identified ligature points had been removed, the cleanliness of cells had improved, and apologised for failing to remove the swastika.
Trained members of custody teams are mandatory in suites, he said, and criticisms of disrespect and uncaring attitudes had "caused great distress" to the force.
"Cambridgeshire Constabulary is confident that any alleged behaviour is unrepresentative and untypical of its 1400 police officers," he added.