“No significant concerns” have been raised with Sussex Police over the ongoing closure of the custody unit at Hastings Police station.
A spokesman for the force told Hastings In Focus yesterday: “Partner agencies including solicitors have been kept updated with the progress and have raised no significant concerns.”
It’s now almost eight months since the custody unit suddenly closed with no warning and there is still no word when – or even if – it will reopen. Since October frontline police officers have been transporting prisoners to and from Eastbourne rather than policing the streets. It’s a matter that has been highlighted in a letter to the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, former Detective Chief Superintendent, Kevin Moore says: “How much is this costing in terms of Hastings’ officers’ time having to travel to Eastbourne to deal with detainees including overtime and travel costs?”
Mr Moore is also concerned by what he says is the “woeful” shortage of front line officers.
The Sussex Police spokesman refused to confirm how much money has already been spent on the custody unit and refuted suggestions that front line policing levels were suffering because officers now spend significant time on transport duties: “Our response officers work across the division as one, rather than as separate areas and we continuously monitor demand and cover the areas where there is the most need,” the spokesman told us.
We asked why the custody unit shut so suddenly? Pointing out that as a public building, it would surely have been subject to regular inspection and any shortcomings, especially in relation to changing legislation or building standards, would have been flagged up well in advance? We said it seemed implausible that almost overnight ‘safety’ issues were discovered. We were told: “Hastings custody closed for urgent safety works in October 2017. Work has been carried out to make improvements to the fire safety measures within the Hastings Custody building which has taken longer than expected.” The spokesman said the required improvements were, “picked up at an internal inspection.”
There have been suggestions that £300,000 has been spent so far but Sussex Police refused to confirm how much has been spent other than to say: “We are not confirming the total spend as the work is not completed. It is significantly less than £300,000.”
Chief Superintendent Nick May, East Sussex Divisional Commander said: “We had serious concerns for the safety of the site which is why it closed in October and work still needs to be completed to fully open the custody suite. There is an on-going discussion at senior level about what custody facilities the force needs.”
Hastings In Focus understands that work completed so far has not been to the standard required by Tascor, the facilities management company that operates custody units on behalf of Sussex Police.
Find out more about Tascor here