By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
The new purpose-built, 50-cell custody suite opened by Nottinghamshire Police almost exactly a year ago is proving its worth to the force, a new report says.
The £17m facility, in Radford Road, opened its gates on September 29 last year to replace the force’s ‘old and decaying’ custody suite at the Bridewell, in Canal Street.
It was created to offer a better environment for staff and detainees and also to provide efficiencies in how police process people through the judiciary system.
The building includes interview rooms, consultation booths and office facilities for staff, with anybody arrested in the city or south Nottinghamshire transported to the new facility.
It also has rooms for people with autism, young people, people will disabilities and those experiencing episodes of mental ill-health.
Now, almost exactly one year after opening the facility, the force has published a report saying the building has proved beneficial in managing people arrested in Nottinghamshire.
This includes financial efficiencies, although the paper does not reveal how much money has been saved by the force.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked for financial figures but these were not available.
However, the force expects to be able to publish detailed financial savings in the coming weeks.
Dan Howitt, head of strategy and performance for Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner Caroline Henry, wrote the report.
He said: “The cost of running the custody suite has significantly reduced in comparison to Bridewell, with energy efficiency being improved through the use of solar power roof installations and the modern fabric of the building.”
He added: “Changes to the operating model we have also helped to
reduce the number of Detention Officers employed at the facility, whilst maintaining overall performance.”
Mr Howitt’s papers add that the building offers increased reliability and availability of on-site electronic equipment, including CCTV, intercoms and ventilation systems.
He says this has led to improvements in capacity, capability and safety within the custody suites compared with Bridewell.
An improved room layout across the 50-cell facility, he adds, has provided a “new, clean and modern environment” which is “impacting positively on the wellbeing of staff and detainees”.
The papers say there is also greater privacy with discreet areas provided for arrivals, booking-in and interviews that are “sensitive to the needs” of vulnerable people.
And Mr Howitt says it has helped to improve the safety of custody officers and staff, to monitor the wellbeing and safe detention of prisoners, and increase efficiency in handling prisoners.
His report adds that the suite has been visited by outside police forces, including Durham Constabulary, to “inform future design plans and custody builds nationally”.
However, it has not been yet been visited by the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA), an independent body of volunteers who make unannounced visits to custody suites to ensure they are up to standard.
Mrs Henry will present the report to members of the police and crime panel on Wednesday, September 21.
She will also confirm that her office is to publish a wider review of the custody suite, comparing its first 12 months with the previous 12 months at Bridewell.
This will reveal the number of detainees held at the new custody suite, how many times it has been close to capacity, the wider efficiency of the service and elements of staff sickness and wellbeing.
It will also outline results from user satisfaction and staff surveys, detainee safety and any challenges facing the project as it moves forwards.
Speaking as the suite was opened last year, Mrs Henry said: “The design of the building means defendants can be processed quicker, saving both time and money for the force.”