Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Lock Up

Anyone interested in knowing something about a significant group of clients that form much of the bread and butter work of the probation service in modern Britain would do well to tune into BBC 3 on Friday evenings over the next seven weeks. Apparently the production team spent 12 months filming for 'The Lock Up' in the custody suite of Humberside Police at Priory Street in Hull and have put together eight episodes of what I assume they would regard as 'the best bits'. 

Yet again one has to be nothing but impressed by how professionally the custody staff deal with extremely challenging behaviour by some of the most damaged, intoxicated or drug-affected people you could imagine. These sort of programmes always leave me wondering about what was left out though either because it was so boring, although that seems unlikely from my limited experience of custody areas, or because people refused permission to show the footage. I mean surely some people must refuse to give permission when they are clear-headed and confronted with the tv images showing what a complete arse they've been? Do they really want their family and friends to see them acting like knobs? Or is it a rather clever piece of attempted behaviour-modification? A feed-back loop designed to shame people into change? It might work I suppose. 

I must admit that I found myself mentally running through the PSR I might be attempting to write for court in a couple of cases and speculating on likely elements in certain people's life histories. It's a sad fact that so many damaged people we see have similar features in their early developmental histories and I suspect many characters that are going to appear over the coming weeks will be no different.

So what are we to do with these people so that they stop causing society and themselves endless trouble and heartache? Well not give them Community Service I think. To put it bluntly, handing down such a disposal when someone is struggling with either a significant drug or alcohol problem makes no sense to me. Compliance is most unlikely and I wondered what on earth the FDR at court or full PSR had suggested? Surely they weren't sentenced without? 



  1. This programme just showstodays Police as bullys and thugs hiding behind their Warrent Cards especially when dealing with Adults It also explains why the Police have little or no respect in society in General
    Your narration was so pro this bullying it was almost fawning

  2. Elisha Patterson27 March 2011 at 04:40

    I have just watched episode 7/8 of 'The Lock Up' and found myself screaming at the telly in absolute horror at the sounds of a Woman, for her sake was not named, being forced to submit to a degrading and perverted procedure under the threat of violence called squatting to enable the police to be able to see if she was carrying any drugs inside of herself.Is this even legal I thought this was a free country where we not subjected to sexual humiliation to the whim of those in authority, it was sickening listening to her pleads for her decency while the Male officer stood just outside the door waitng to 'Shoot her with 50,000 volts' if she would not comply, the unfortunate Woman did as requested at the last moment and of course NO drugs were found which was to be expected as the arrest was an un-drug related charge of shoplifting. I am intrested if this is usual police procedure?

  3. Elisha,

    I've just caught up with this episode on i-player and agree that it was a disturbing incident to hear. It's always difficult to comment when we haven't seen the behaviour that led to the custody staff deciding that she had to have an intimate examination. My guess is that she either refused to answer questions about having drugs on her person, or gave answers that gave grounds to suspect she might, or had a history of concealing. In these cases, for the safety of the person in custody an intimate examination must take place by force if necessary. People have died as a result of condoms rupturing and failure to have carried out the intimate search would render the responsible officers liable to disciplinary action or worse.

    In essence I think what it boils down to is whether or not we can trust the judgement of the custody sergeant in ordering the search for sound professional reasons or whether we suspect it was just to wind the woman up. I have to say having watched all the episodes I come down in the former camp and am happy to take the risk of being accused of a fawning attitude towards the police. Anyone that knows me will be aware that I speak my mind as I find and have been highly critical of police action when I feel it was deserved.

    This woman who is a regular shop-lifter clearly has a drug problem and by the sound of her was under the influence at time of arrest. She appeared to be making an issue of 'never having squatted for nobody' despite 'having been in every prison in Britain' including Holloway. Well she will have undergone intimate examinations before then. For whatever reason on this occasion she decided to refuse and kick off. In response to such defiance there is only one result - a forced examination.

    What this series of programmes has shown to the wider public is just what a testing and often unpleasant job that has to be undertaken on our behalf. People in custody under the influence of drugs or alcohol are often extremely unpleasant and dangerous either to themselves or others.

    They also form much of the 'bread and butter work' of the probation service.

    Thanks for commenting.


  4. My Dads Sgt Goode

  5. Michael Robinson10 May 2011 at 23:52

    One would have hoped BBC narrator would have been briefed on sentencing powers in Youth Court. They just said on BBC1 repeat that 12 year old girl could get 6 months for common assault.
    She couldn't get detention because of her age.

  6. Jim Brown - the police did not need to humiliate, violate and traumatise that woman on our behalf. Surely a medical practitioner could have carried out the examination using persuasion and explanation rather than intimidation and the threat of violence.

  7. It's a good point, but I'm not sure whether the police surgeon or medical examiner would agree that it was in their remit - or indeed an act compatable with their code of medical ethics.

    Although this series made for very uncomfortable viewing in many respects, it serves to remind us that it falls to the police to do some very difficult and unpleasant tasks on behalf of society. It strikes me that they do not have the luxury of being able to hide behind a set of ethics and say 'not our job.'

    Thanks for commenting,


  8. That was disgusting seeing the way that girl was treated. The presence of 3 men watching her all the while equated to nothing more than sick sexual abuse, the very thing police are supposed to protect women from. No doubt this kind of perverted treatment isn't unusual either.

    Absolutely disgusting.