Old cells criticised

POLICE chiefs have revealed it could cost up to £100 million to replace the county's ageing custody suites, which were criticised in a recent inspection.

An independent inspection of the force's police cells, used to lock up arrested suspects, found although detention was well-managed, staff were well trained and there were some areas of excellence, the condition of the custody suites overall was poor.

Some were particularly old and poorly maintained, with some cells dirty and covered in graffiti, with ligature points.

The inspection found there were limited facilities for detainees with disabilities.

Police chiefs responsible for the cells' condition and for overseeing the improvements suggested by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Constabulary have prepared a report on the progress so far, to be discussed by the county Police Authority this Friday.

In it Chief Constable Med Hughes reveals it would cost the force between 50m-100m to build a new set of state-of-the-art suites.

But his force is facing budget cuts of around 40m over the next four years following the Government's decision to slash public sector spending to reduce national debt.

"At some time in the future consideration will need to be given to the cost of a new estate against the cost of rectifying the old one. However, with the cost of a full replacement likely to be in the region of 50m-100m, our options in the immediate future appear limited."

He added: "Whilst the finance to fund any new builds might be aspirational and some way in the future, it is important for the force to focus on the development of a long term strategy for the custody estate."

He said "good progress" was being made with a list of 38 recommendations for improvements made after the inspection, and pointed out 23 were already being addressed before inspectors arrived.

His report accepts that because of the age and layout of the custody suites it is not physically possible for them all to be adapted for disabled detainees. He said it would also be "cost prohibitive."

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