SWEET-SMELLING fragrances could be used in Dorset's custody suites to help calm people who have been arrested.

The county's police and crime commissioner has teamed up with academics from Bournemouth University to investigate the impact of smell and colour on people being booked into cells.

Martyn Underhill said: "We're working together to try and improve the decor and fittings inside custody suites.

"There's quite a lot of academic research which shows a crisis can be de-escalated in people who are stressed and agitated in different settings [in this way].

"This could potentially reduce violence against police officers."

He said scents such as vanilla are well-known for their soothing properties.

Dr Andrew Mayers, Bournemouth University's principle academic of psychology, said: "Speaking for my colleagues as well as myself, the university has been looking at the way in which odour and colour has an influence on the mind and behaviour.

"This is something that could be used for people being booked into custody suites."

Dr Mayers said colour also has a part to play.

"We know, for example, that people respond positively to greens," he said.

"People use colour for different reasons. For example, colours used by brands like McDonald's make people want to move out of there quite quickly.

"Waitrose uses a shade of green, and this has a different effect on consumers altogether. They might take more time over their shop, for example.

"Why can't that use of colour work in a custody suite?

"The people who have been arrested may be particularly vulnerable or anxious. It could help provide a better, less stressful experience for both that person and officers."

Dr Mayers said he also hopes information given to people being booked into the suites could be presented differently in the future.

"Everyone arrested and taken into custody is given a leaflet about their rights and what is likely to happen next, but I think there are other ways of doing it that may be more beneficial," he said.

"For example, you could have a screen on a wall that constantly scrolls through everything you need to know. That might also help to calm some situations."