When will the custody suite at Hastings Police station re-open? Some reckon the more pertinent question is ‘will the custody suite at Hastings police station ever re-open?’.
While the fate of a police custody suite – the area of a police station where prisoners are held while awaiting interview or court appearance – might seem relatively unimportant what is happening in Hastings, and has been happening for six months now, is that police officers are unable to patrol the streets of the town because they are ferrying prisoners to and from the custody area in Eastbourne – putting the safety of the public at risk.
This week Hastings In Focus has been looking for answers about the future of the custody facility in the town, supposedly shut because it no longer met health and safety requirements. When Sussex Police media team did eventually reply their response was a short one, it said: “Sussex Police is continuing to make improvements to the fire safety measures within the Hastings custody building. Works have included the installation and upgrade of a new fire alarm system; refurbishment of interview rooms; and changes to the building fabric, doors and materials.
“We will also be installing additional fire doors on site, to increase the fire safety time in the custody cell area.
“New operating procedures will enable the full opening of the facility with reduced detainee numbers for a limited period.”
That is somewhat shorter than a statement issued to the Hastings Observer and published on its website earlier this week which read: “No dates have yet been set for partial or full re-opening.
“The custody centre, which had eight male, four female and one juvenile cell, has been closed since Monday, October 2, 2017. It was closed as (it was) not compliant with current health and safety standards. New laws have been introduced over the years and non-compliance with new standards is the reason for the closure.
“Fire safety improvements are continuing and work is ongoing to meet the necessary requirements for a partial reopening. The capacity will be for a maximum of four detainees at any one time.
“The estimate for a full reopening would require further extensive structural changes to take place.
“The site was last refurbished in 1999. Some of the crucial pieces of work include a new front to the centre, a new bridge area where all detainees are booked in, a complete overhaul of the CCTV, and a new fire escape route which would lead into the police car park
“Once we are 100 per cent sure all outstanding work is completed as detailed within the Fire Safety Report, only then will we approach East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service to arbitrate. Only when ESFRS sanctions that the Hastings custody centre is safe, will we partially reopen.
“We have put in place measures to reduce the impact on operational policing and ensure it is business as usual. A van has been deployed to transport prisoners from Hastings and Rother district to the custody centre at Hammonds Drive at Eastbourne. Officers continue to arrest as usual.
“These measures ensure the service delivered to the community in Hastings and Rother is not affected as a result of the custody centre being closed.
“We must ensure the custody centre at Hastings abides by the regulations to ensure the safety of our staff, officers and detainees.
“The safety of our staff, officers and detainees is paramount which is why we will only partially reopen to ensure all who are within Hastings custody centre are in a safe environment which complies with current fire regulation standards.”
Members of the Hastings legal community have taken to Twitter this week to express their concerns about what is happening at Hastings and community leaders are known to be expressing concerns about the ability of the local police to do their job in the town – especially at the various major events coming up throughout the summer – when frontline officers are regularly involved in transportation duties between Hastings and Eastbourne.
Hastings In Focus has asked local MP Amber Rudd for a comment on the present situation but as yet has received no reply.