DARLINGTON'S MP is backing calls for urgent action after a watchdog found that women were being denied sanitary products while in police custody.

Police in England and Wales are failing to ensure women and girls on their periods have access to safe and adequate sanitary protection, according to findings from the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA).

The ICVA found that women in custody were being frequently left without the assistance of female officers, without access to hygienic sanitary products or facilities for washing and changing.

Some menstruating women, according to the police custody watchdog, were being left in paper suits without underwear, tampons or towels.

Highlighting a potential breach to human rights standards, the ICVA last week called upon Home Secretary Amber Rudd to conduct a review and urge Parliament to make “necessary and urgent” changes to legal guidance to ensure women’s rights are protected.

Darlington’s MP Jenny Chapman spoke out on the issue as she lent her support to a series of recommendations designed to ensure women and girls can maintain their dignity while at police stations.

The ICVA would like to see all women in custody offered a hygiene pack every six hours and given “readily-available” access to hand-washing facilities.

The watchdog also suggests pixelating CCTV monitoring to allow detainees to change in private.

Ms Chapman said she was encouraged to hear that facilities in Durham and Darlington had support mechanisms in place, but added: “This situation simply cannot be allowed to continue.

“I call upon the Home Secretary to make urgent changes to guidance given to police forces across England and Wales to ensure adequate sanitary provision is available in all custody suites.

“ICVA have shone a light on this problem and now it is time for action to be taken.

“I support all the recommendations put forward by ICVA to ensure dignity for menstruating women and girls in custody.

“Simple measures such as having a designated female officer point of contact could easily be rectified.”

Ms Chapman said she would write to Amber Rudd to urge further action, while the Police, Crime and Victims Commissioner for County Durham and Darlington said the availability of adequate sanitary provision in custody suites in the area would be continually monitored by ICVA volunteers.

Ron Hogg added: “I am in support of the recommendations in the ICVA report and it is time that things change, all people have a right to dignity and respect.”

A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said women were offered a variety of sanitary products and clean underwear while in custody, while a spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Police said all female detainees were offered sanitary items and told they could be obtained on request at any time.