Durham Constabulary hopes to build a single 48-cell custody facility at DurhamGate, near Spennymoor.
The new centre will provide a safe and modern custody suite which is urgently needed to replace the four ageing custody suites currently in use at Durham, Bishop Auckland, Darlington and Peterlee, one of which dates back to the 18th Century.
The review follows an inspection carried out last year by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) which highlighted “the poor physical conditions” in some custody suites and demanded action to bring them up to modern-day standards.
Durham Constabulary has taken seriously the recommendations of the report and has carried out extensive research over a number of months to examine the case to replace existing facilities with a single 21 century custody suite. That research concluded:
Operational impact and local policing: Officers will actually spend more time policing their local communities – because a number of detainees can be booked in at the same time, it will reduce waiting times for our officers, speed up the time it takes to process prisoners and therefore get back out on the streets more quickly, even after extra travel time is taken into account.
The proposal will have no impact on the number of police stations across the force area: every town which currently has a blue light station will still have one once work is complete and there will be no impact on the overall number of officers serving our communities.
In fact, it is likely that the process will release some custody sergeants back onto the streets of the communities they serve.
Economic impact: The proposals offer the best value to taxpayers and the most efficient use of officer time. The £21m custody centre will save around £400,000 in running costs each year, but with no loss of officers.
More importantly, the alternative would involve a lengthy, disruptive and costly upgrade of existing facilities. Figures for such an upgrade are unavailable, but would clearly be far in excess of the cost of building a new centre due to the age of the existing buildings and scale of the work involved in bringing them up to acceptable modern standards.
It would additionally mean a £21m investment into the economy of County Durham and generate much-needed jobs in construction and the supply chain.
Safety: A new centre would improve the safety and security of police officers and staff working in what can sadly be a dangerous environment, with clear lines of sight and sufficient interview rooms.
The facility will be specifically designed to improve safety, privacy and dignity for detainees, many of whom are vulnerable, and will significantly improve their welfare while in our care, including new medical facilities.
It will also provide an improved working environment for the health care workers, legal professionals and other non-operational staff needed to keep a modern custody centre working.
The new facility will include:
- 48 cells to include supporting accommodation to meet HMIC modern Custody standards
- Office accommodation
- Locker room
- Meeting rooms
- Virtual Court for Officers
- Central Evidence Related Property (ERP) store and Property office
- CSI office, stores and examination room
- IT back-up server room
- 2 reception areas
A planning application will be submitted and, if approved, the new facility would open in 2023.
Please see the list of FAQ’s related to the proposal below.