The PSNI has made a number of decisions regarding the future provision of its custody facilities throughout Northern Ireland.
The organisation has continued reviewing its custody suites as some are under-utilised and a number require modernisation and investment to ensure they continue to meet health and safety requirements.
A custody strategy has now been developed for the next three years which includes the temporary or permanent closure of four smaller suites by the end of 2019.
The changes will start to be implemented from December 1st with the closure of Bangor Custody Suite. It will be available for short, specific periods of time, if required, to facilitate the ongoing refurbishment programme under way in other suites.
Enniskillen custody suite will close temporarily in March 2017 for refurbishment, while the suite in Armagh will permanently shut in early 2017 following the re-opening of Lurgan, which is currently temporarily closed for refurbishment.
Work on a new, purpose-built £11m facility with 21 cells on the existing Waterside site in Londonderry/Derry is planned to begin in 2017. It will replace the custody provision in Strand Road, which will close on completion of this new custody suite in 2019.
Antrim custody suite will re-open on December 1st 2016 following major refurbishment. In addition, Antrim will be designated as a *Serious Crime Suite and will be available from December to support a planned rolling maintenance programme to be carried out in Musgrave custody.
ACC Stephen Martin said: “Keeping People Safe while they are detained is a priority and these changes will enable the police service to provide a smaller number of more enhanced custody suites. Over 27,000 people are detained in our cells annually therefore it is essential the facilities remain fit for purpose.
“Many of our detainees’ needs are increasingly complex reflecting higher levels of addictions, mental health concerns, incidences of self-harm and suicidal ideation.
“In partnership with the Public Health Agency, a Health Needs Assessment has recently been undertaken and is currently being finalised. This will inform PSNI’s approach to enhancing the current custody healthcare service. As recommended in the ‘Improving Healthcare in Criminal Justice Strategy’ we will actively work in collaboration with key partners, particularly in Justice and Health, to ensure we all meet the healthcare needs of people detained by the police.
“Our ambition is to create a more effective and efficient custody service consisting of a fewer number of better-equipped suites, each of which will see the introduction of embedded healthcare and support services to help Keep People Safe.”
There are no immediate staff reductions as a result of the changes and affected custody personnel will be re-deployed to alternative locations in consultation with the contract provider Noonan.
ACC Martin added: “By 2019, the four custody closures announced today will save approximately £1 million in estate maintenance works that would otherwise have been required.”
The PSNI’s Custody Reform Programme commenced in 2014 when there were 19 suites. There will be between 9 and 10 suites open at any point in time.