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Police and Criminal Evidence Act Codes of Practice

Volume 663: debated on Tuesday 23 July 2019

I am today laying before the House an order under section 67(7A) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (‘PACE’) to amend PACE Codes C and H, which govern the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects by the police. Copies of the revised Codes C and H will also be laid.

These revisions, which will come into operation on 21 August 2019, are being introduced to ensure that the menstrual needs of female and transgender detainees, and the health, hygiene and welfare needs of all individuals in police custody are protected. The new codes include the following revisions:

Each female detainee must be asked if they require or are likely to require any menstrual products while they are in custody. They must be told that they will be provided free of charge and that replacement products are available.

Custody officers must ask all detainees if they wish to speak in private with a member of custody staff about any matter concerning their personal needs relating to health, hygiene and welfare: if the detainee wishes, this member of staff may be of the same sex. These changes provide an opportunity for female detainees to raise issues about their menstrual needs and also for all detainees to raise issues relating to other health and hygiene needs such as products that may be required for incontinence. If detainees wish to take this opportunity to raise health and hygiene needs, necessary arrangements should be provided/made as soon as practicable.

The changes highlight that the clothing and personal effects that detainees may retain include menstrual and other health, hygiene and welfare products. A decision to withhold any such products must be subject to a further specific risk assessment.

Access to toilet and washing facilities must now also take account of the detainee’s dignity. For example, in cells subject to CCTV monitoring, privacy in the toilet area should be ensured by any appropriate means and detainees should be made aware of this when they are placed in the cell.

The changes make it explicit that strip searches and intimate searches of detainees must take due regard of their dignity. This includes the detainee’s health, hygiene and welfare needs including menstruation.

The above provisions around health, hygiene and welfare products take into account the possible needs of transgender individuals.

These revisions were prompted by concerns raised by the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) that in some cases women were being left without basic menstrual products in police cells.

They received overwhelming support following a public consultation last year, and we have subsequently sought and secured the agreement of the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), in her role as Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, that these straightforward revisions to the codes can be brought into force as soon as possible, as per the commitments made by the then Government during the introduction of section 67(7A) of PACE in 2003, without the approval of a resolution by each House.

I am grateful for the work and support of partners across the policing system, ICVA, and dedicated custody staff across the country. We all share a commitment to ensuring the dignity of detainees, and these changes will to help ensure the needs of individuals are met across the board.