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Friday, 25 July 2014

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Cumbria police ‘weak’ in caring for seized property

Cumbria's police force has been rated “weak” over its handling of seized property following concerns about items going missing.

An inspection, which has led to a call for action on the findings, was also prompted by worries over the number of payments being made to people whose goods were lost or damaged.

Problems such as storage space being “stretched”, and no process to make sure that officers “proactively reviewed” goods linked to their cases, were discovered. Items such as clothes and mobile phones can often be seized by officers and used to gather evidence in investigations.

A document to be discussed by Cumbria’s crime commissioner Richard Rhodes reveals the findings and the action planned by the county’s most senior officer to tackle the problem.

It states: “The ‘weak’ assessment is a reflection of a lack of documented policies and procedures to ensure the effective and efficient handling of property.”

Auditors carried out a review in October at the request of top officials within the force and the crime commissioner’s office.

This followed “concerns over the number and value of payments being made to people whose property has been lost or damaged while in police custody”.

Material must often be kept until a decision is taken whether to bring proceedings against someone for a crime. There are also legal requirements concerning major and serious crime, with some goods having to be kept following a conviction.

Key findings included:

  • The force does not have a property handling policy;
  • Main store capacities were stretched and there was a possibility too much property was being retained;
  • There was “scope for improvement” in property descriptions.

Chief Constable Bernard Lawson has put in place an action plan.

The findings are due to be discussed at a meeting today of the commissioner’s executive board at the county’s police headquarters at Carleton Hall, near Penrith.

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