Concerns over custody closure

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Fears that the temporary closure of police custody suites in Upper Bann may effect frontline policing have been expressed by local solicitors.

The custody suite at Banbridge is currently closed for refurbishment work and scheduled to re-open early 2016 after which, work is planned to start in Lurgan custody suite.

Local solicitors have voiced concerns that closures ‘could have an impact on the PSNI’s ability to carry out their job’ however the PSNI has dismissed the claims.

Local MLA Sydney Anderson, a former member of the Stormont Justice Committee, said: “I feel the community should also be concerned about recent developments.

“There is a genuine fear that the PSNI could be hindered greatly in their efforts to carry out arrests of suspected criminals because there now exists real pressures on custody suite availability in our local police stations.

“Worryingly, dangerous people could end up being left to roam the streets due to the fact police do not simply have the capabilities to go fully through arrest procedures.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Commander, Supt Davy Moore confirmed that refurbishment work at a number of custody facilities across the Province is well under way, and added: “While the refurbishment is taking place in Banbridge followed by Lurgan, the custody facilities in Armagh, Dungannon, Omagh and Enniskillen will be available for arrests in the South Area”.

Mr Anderson warned this solution is far from perfect.

“Not only will police costs rise due to the extra travel required, but legal fees will also increase and there will be an impact upon the legal aid budget as solicitors have to travel further to represent suspects arrested in the Banbridge and Craigavon areas.”

Supt Moore responded: “The overarching objective of the review is to ensure police provide the safest possible custody facilities for both detained persons, police officers and staff. We have not closed any suites locally. Rather, we are upgrading them.”