Police must offer women detainees period products under new rules

Katie Kempen, ICVA chief executiveImage copyright Chris McAndrew/ICVA
Image caption Katie Kempen is chief executive of the monitoring body which pushed for the new rules

Police in England and Wales must offer female detainees free sanitary products in case they are on their period while in custody, under new legislation.

The amended codes of practice come after a watchdog suggested last year that police were “routinely ignoring” the needs of menstruating suspects.

Other changes include improved privacy in the toilet area of cells monitored by CCTV.

Campaigners said the changes would help to protect human rights.

The two amended codes of practice will come into force on 21 August.

In one of the last acts of Theresa May’s premiership, Policing minister Nick Hurd laid a statutory instrument in the Commons on Tuesday. The tactic allows legislation to be fast-tracked through both houses of Parliament – to revise the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE).

“Police have made great progress in this area and today’s changes will make sure high standards are met across the country,” Mr Hurd said.

The Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) – the monitoring body that published the evidence in 2018 – welcomed the changes.

Katie Kempen, the ICVA’s chief executive, said: “No detainee should be left to bleed for want of a difficult conversation or a cheap tampon. These changes should ensure that never happens.”

Revisions to the codes include:

  • 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 health, hygiene and welfare needs
  • The detainee can request to speak to a member of staff of the same sex
  • Detainees can keep menstrual and other health, hygiene and welfare products on their person. A decision to withhold such products must be subject to a risk assessment
  • A general mandate to “take account of the detainee’s dignity”

The College of Policing’s manager for criminal justice said her team had worked with the ICVA and the National Police Chief’s Council to help make sure forces across England and Wales “are working to a consistent set of standards” in regard to the issue.

Image caption The ICVA said one woman detainee had her underwear taken away and was refused sanitary protection (stock image)

Libby Potten added: “We are committed to supporting police officers and staff to ensure that detainees brought into custody are always treated with dignity and respect.”

Gabby Edlin, from the charity Bloody Good Period, said the changes would help to preserve the human rights of women, non-binary and trans detainees.

“It’s brilliant news,” she said, adding: “Our needs are not extra, they’re not additional – it is just different from men. And that means it has to be considered essential for most of the human race.”

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