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Vikram Dodd, Tuesday 17th July 2012 22:50
The private security firm G4S is facing a new investigation after a prisoner was found collapsed in a police custody suite it was managing.
A crucial record had been falsified, claiming the vulnerable prisoner had been visited every 30 minutes, as ordered by a doctor who was concerned about his medical condition.
But a CCTV recording, checked by a police sergeant, showed no evidence of one such visit.
A civilian worker employed by G4S has now resigned.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission is to investigate the incident amid concerns about the alleged falsification of the custody record. The IPCC said the investigation would examine whether the incident was a one-off or revealed wider issues. The inquiry will look at the training and supervision given to G4S employees.
The incident happened on 10 July at a police cell in Swansea. The IPCC described the incident as a "near miss" and the 30-year-old man has made a full recovery.
He had been arrested and brought to the police station at 3am. He was put in a cell after a doctor examined him and said he was fit to be detained but must be checked every 30 minutes. Around 4am he was found collapsed in his cell and he was rushed to hospital.
The custody record, which it is alleged a G4S civilian detention officer had filled in, claimed he had been checked. But when the police sergeant examined CCTV footage, it showed no evidence of any such visit.
The IPCC commissioner for Wales, Tom Davies, said: "Fortunately, this man was found in time and has now recovered. Medical staff had advised that this particular man was to be visited at 30-minute intervals because of concerns about his health.
"There has been a lot of work and policies aimed at making detention safer, and our investigation will examine what happened in this case and what specific training custody staff are given."
South Wales police (SWP) declined to reveal the value of their contract with the private security firm. But G4S's website says of its contract with South Wales police: "By outsourcing custody suite management to G4S, SWP has a net saving of circa £1.2m per annum on staffing costs alone."
The company also has contracts in Lancashire and Staffordshire.
In a statement South Wales police said: "This alleged failing by a G4S detention officer was swiftly identified by the duty custody sergeant, who instructed that immediate checks took place on the detainee. These checks led to him receiving appropriate medical attention.
"G4S was notified of the incident and they have subsequently suspended their staff member from duty."
Since 2004 G4S has been contracted by South Wales police to supply civilian detention officers, numbering 118 people across seven custody suites.
South Wales police added: "Their duties involve the reception, searching, risk assessment, care plan, safety, welfare, visiting, feeding and subsequent release of all arrested persons.
"SWP custody sergeants remain in overall control of our custody suites and are responsible for all legislative issues. This includes direct supervision of CDOs [civilian detention officers]."
The man was later released and not charged, after advice from the Crown Prosecution Service.
G4S is one of a number of private firms hoping to benefit from increased outsourcing, described by critics as privatisation of policing services.