'Good business' for police cells

PUBLISHED: 15:50 04 August 2006 | UPDATED: 22:02 28 May 2010

POLICE cells in Fenland and across the rest of Cambridgeshire are doing record business, says a report to the force s professional standards committee. In Wisbech, for example, the total number of detainees held there last year rose 45.5 per cent on the p

POLICE cells in Fenland and across the rest of Cambridgeshire are doing record business, says a report to the force's professional standards committee.

In Wisbech, for example, the total number of detainees held there last year rose 45.5 per cent on the previous year to a total of 2,540 prisoners.

Bob Toland, the committee's policy and research manager, says across the county as a whole the number of detainees rose by 22 per cent.

One of the main reasons, he says, has been the force's success in tackling crime and disorder.

"The increased number of detainees is indicative of the force's determination to rigorously investigate offences," he says.

Caroline Buckle, chairman of the independent custody visitors panel, says during the past year the panel made 210 visits and saw 557 detainees, out of a total of 1,562 in custody at the time of visiting.

She said independent visitors reported no breaches last year of PACE, the Police and

Criminal Evidence Act, and panels commented positively on the professional and cooperative approach of custody staff.

"A recurring issue for visitors is the general condition of the force's custody estate," she says.

"The difficulties associated with maintaining these heavily used and in many cases ageing facilities, is recognised by the authority and the force. Plans are well advanced for the acquisition of new purpose built custody facilities."

Andrew Wilcox, chairman of the Fenland Independent Custody Visitors Panel, said his members paid 24 visits to Wisbech cells during the year.

All prisoners, he said, had been treated in accordance with their statutory rights and entitlements and looked after "in a humane and responsible manner."

He said the custody suite at March Police Station had not been used this year and a single visit was made to check on its conditions. It was found to be in good order "although no mattresses were available in the cells".

The annual report shows that the average number of prisoners in cells at Wisbech was three or four when they visited, but on one occasion there were 20 prisoners being held there.

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