PSNI announces changes to its Bangor custody arrangements
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 and permanent closure of four smaller suites by the end of 2019. Bangor Station’s facility will close on December 1st 2016. It will be available for short, specific periods of time, if required, to facilitate the ongoing refurbishment programme under way in other suites.
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 support services to help Keep People Safe.”
Ards & North Down District Commander Superintendent Brian Kee said: “The overarching objective of the reform strategy is to ensure police provide the safest possible custody facilities for detainees, officers and staff. As District Commander for Ards & North Down it is incumbent on me to ensure that any people detained locally receive the care most appropriate to their needs.
“Additionally, economies of scale also need to be considered in this current landscape of reducing budgets. Custody provision is a PSNI-wide resource and in order to meet the evolving complex healthcare needs of detained people, the organisation is investing in enhancing healthcare service in a number of its custody suites. The majority of local detainees will now be taken to the upgraded facilities in Belfast’s Musgrave Station.
“I would like to reassure the public that Bangor Police Station continues to operate as normal and changes to local custody arrangements will not affect our core purpose of Keeping People Safe. Policing remains a 24 hours, seven days a week operation. All routine policing will carry on.
“In Ards & North Down we will patrol in vehicles and on foot, carry out searches, arrest criminals and local people will continue to see police on a daily basis. We will continue to be there in people’s times of need and in emergency situations. We can be contacted at any time of the day or night on either 101 or on 999 for emergencies.”
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 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.