PCC approves plans for centralised custody and investigations suite

August 27, 2021

Joy Allen, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for County Durham and Darlington has today (27 August) approved plans for a centralised custody and investigations suite in Spennymoor.

Over her past few months in post, Joy has visited all existing custody suites across the region and met with MPs, Councillors, local partners, and the Force.

Joy hosted her first public accountability meeting yesterday morning (26 August), providing members of the public with an opportunity to submit questions to the Force. Following this final meeting she was able to make an informed decision for the most appropriate option for the Force.

Last year, Government inspectors highlighted “the poor physical conditions” in some custody suites operated by the Force and recommended improvements to bring them up to 21st Century standards.

The new custody and investigations suite will provide a safe and modern building needed to replace the four ageing custody suites currently in use at Bishop Auckland, Darlington, Peterlee and Durham City.

Because several detainees can be booked in at once, the new centre will reduce the average time that arresting officers spend waiting in custody while prisoners are processed and therefore allow the officers to get back out on the streets more quickly.

Alongside modern cells, the new custody and investigations centre will include interview rooms, CSI facilities, evidence stores and a virtual court to allow officer and prisoners to save time at court by appearing by video link, as well as other facilities such medical provisions and forensic examination rooms.

The centralised suite will also incorporate several key safety features to protect police officers and detainees along with the health workers and legal professionals who will work there.

The new centre is due to be completed by Spring 2023.

Joy Allen, Police and Crime Commissioner said: “Having listened to residents and putting their questions to the Chief Constable and her Senior team at the public accountability meeting yesterday, and after visiting all existing custody suites across the region and seeing first-hand the operational challenges our custody staff face daily working in our existing facilities, I feel I have been able to make an informed decision about the most appropriate custody option for the Force.

“Today I have approved the plans for the new custody and investigations suite after extensively scrutinising the business case as well as reviewing the recent inspection reports that identified necessary improvements required to meet Home Office compliance standards. I am satisfied the cost to renovate existing custody suites would be much more costly and would still not achieve the standard required.

“The new centralised custody suite will also provide a safer environment for our staff, officers and detainees by enabling full CCTV monitoring systems to be installed.

“I understand residents’ concerns around travel times for officers however travel distance and time is only one part of the equation. As illustrated in the presentation yesterday, officers are currently queuing a tour existing stations in the station yard. These queues relate to the inefficiencies of the existing facilities, bottlenecks, limited space, and limited consultation.

“Having witnessed these inefficiencies and delays myself, I am satisfied the new suite will be a much more efficient and effective facility, as multiple holding areas will enable custody staff to process multiple detainees simultaneously, which will have a beneficial impact by allowing officers to get back onto the street more quickly. 

“The new suite will also include medical facilities and forensic examination rooms which will comply with Home Office standards and provide a better level of service for detainees and save officers time transporting the vulnerable detainees to and from hospital.

“Only the custody facilities will be affected, interview rooms, biometric and administrative facilities will remain functional within the custody suites as officers will still require facilities where they can under take voluntary interviews to aid their investigations. This has not been an easy decision but having considered all the facts I am satisfied it’s the right one for staff and detainees and the new premises will ensure we have a Home Office compliant custody estate that is fit for the future.”

Chief Constable Jo Farrell said: “I warmly welcome the decision by the Police and Crime Commissioner and appreciate her support on an issue which is of fundamental importance to the future of policing in County Durham and Darlington.

“Investment in the new custody and investigations suite will support our operational priorities and, more importantly, deliver justice for victims”.


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