Sussex Police confirmed this afternoon that it wants Hastings Police Station’s custody centre to reopen but the go-ahead to carry out necessary safety work lies with Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.
The news comes as Sussex Police announce the custody service across the county is being modernised to ensure it is, “efficient and fit for the future.”
Since Hastings custody centre was closed in October Hastings police officers have had to act as prisoner transport between Hastings and Eastbourne where prisoners have been held. It has led to speculation that at times policing levels in the Hastings and Rother area have been running at minimum levels while officers are on transport duties.
Custody services in Sussex are run by a private firm, Tascor, and this afternoon’s statement from Sussex Police says its plans will lead to ‘dedicated resources by partner agencies at custody centres’.
Under the new plans there will be six custody centres across Sussex, these will be at Worthing, Crawley, Chichester, Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings. Sussex Police last reviewed its custody facilities in 2002 and says there have been recent discussions to help it keep pace with what it says are ‘significant changing demands on the service’.
A spokesman told Hastings In Focus: “Since its peak the number of detainees in Sussex has reduced by more than half in the last ten years.
“The significant drop is due to changes in legislation and alternative disposal options being available, such as cautions and community resolutions, meaning fewer people going through the traditional custody route.”
Chief Constable Giles York said: “It is vital that that we continue to improve the efficiency of our custody centres and make Sussex fit for the future. The decisions we have made are driven by a need to make the best use of our resources and will lead to dedicated resources at custody centres and a better service to officers, staff, detainees and visitors.
“Introducing new approaches, optimising working practices and strengthening how we work with partners means we continue to modernise so that we keep pace with and meet the significant changing demands of our service.”
Sussex Police says there has been detailed analysis of what is needed and discussions with Ms Bourne, divisional officers, staff and senior officers. That has allowed the force to map out the modernisation programme with plans to significantly develop one centre and close another.
The spokesman says Sussex Police has put a proposal to the Ms Bourne to reopen Hastings custody centre permanently once essential work is completed and says it requires significant development to meet fire safety regulations and provide a safe environment. No date has been set for the re-opening.
But while it is good news for Hastings, Chichester will lose its custody centre as a result of having the lowest usage of the six custody centres in the county.
“Tt has been decided it would be of operational benefit to maximise the use of Worthing custody centre and close the one in Chichester in November,” the spokesman said.
He added: “The decision to close Chichester custody centre has not been taken lightly. It is being driven by a need to make the best use of resources, with savings being reinvested to provide extra resources within local policing, with additional investigations and response officers.”
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “The custody centres of Sussex Police are part of the wider police estate for which I have a statutory responsibility. I need to ensure there are sufficient and appropriate facilities for detainees and police officers.
“Any decision to maintain, close or move any of the custody suites is primarily an operational decision informed by a thorough evidence-based assessment.
“Working with chief officers, we must also consider whether facilities are safe for vulnerable and distressed individuals.
“I will be considering the proposal to invest in and modernise Hastings custody centre, which I know will be warmly welcomed by many officers and local residents and legal professionals.”