Police Custody

Justice written question – answered on 21st April 2008.

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Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice on how many occasions prisoners have been housed at police stations in each of the last six months; and at what additional cost.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The following figures give the number of occasions on which prisoners were held in police cells under Operation Safeguard in England and Wales in each of the last six months and the average number of prisoners per night. One occasion is defined as one prisoner night spent in a police cell.

Month Number of occasions Average number in Safeguard per night( 1)
October 2007 9,565 309
November 2007 7,693 256
December 2007 1,960 63
January 2008 1,766 57
February 2008 9,720 335
March 2008 2,004 65
(1) Based on number of nights that Safeguard was available in each month

Police forces invoice NOMS in arrears and it is not possible to attach a specific cost to each of these figures. However, the current estimated average cost of a Safeguard place is about £385 per night.

In addition there were some 144 ad-hoc lockouts in the last six months. This is an emergency measure to hold prisoners overnight. It is used, for example, when the designated prison's reception will be closed before their arrival time, usually due to the distance of the journey or time of departure from court. Ad-hoc lockouts cost an average £120 per night.

Police cells have been used to hold prisoners before. They were used to hold prisoners regularly from 1982 until 1993, and from 1994-95. They were also used from July to November 2002. Their use peaked in 1988, and peaked again in 1990-92, when more than 1,000 prisoners a night were being regularly held in police cells.

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