Cambridgeshire Police chief defends prisoner rights

PRISONER health and welfare rights cannot be ignored, Cambridgeshire’s most senior police officer has said.

Chief Constable Julie Spence believes jailbirds at police cells in March have a right to medical services when they are sick.

In a stark message to critics of the money spent on suspects’ health, the county’s top cop said: “We have a duty of care to everyone.”

Raging against those who attack the use of the police budget on medical treatment, Ms Spence added: “Imagine the furore, quite rightly, if we neglected or ignored altogether the health and welfare needs of those in our cells.”

The outgoing chief, who retires from the force in the autumn, said: “We have no choice but to use medical services for prisoners.”

She added that the criticism was “strange” and that she “never thought I’d have to spell it out” but reassured people: “With a view to the public purse, we seek the most effective and cost-efficient medical services possible.”

Ms Spence, who will be replaced by Hertfordshire deputy chief constable Simon Parr, also defended handing out drugs kits to addicts.

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She said issuing needles and advice to people on how to seek treatment was designed to “safeguard the health and welfare of addicts and the wider public”.

She added: “Many seem to forget the cost to the taxpayer of the NHS of treating diseases caused by dirty needles such as HIV and hepatitis.”

The force would continue to take a “tough approach” to “those who flout drugs laws and prey on the vulnerable”, Ms Spence said.

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