Call to back down in cell closure plan

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Police chiefs have been urged to rethink a controversial decision to close the cells at Leyland police station.

The 14 custody cells are to close as part of a £42m savings drive at Lancashire Constabulary, meaning prisoners will have to be transported to Skelmersdale or Blackburn in future.

But figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show the under-threat custody suite is used almost 50% more than the cells in Skelmersdale, prompting critics to call for a rethink.

County Coun Mark Perks, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, expressed concern about the plans and said the rationale for closure “simply does not stack up.”

In the letter to Chief Supt Stuart Williams, who is heading up a consultation over the plans, he says: “I write to express my concern over the decision to close the police cells at Leyland police station and the impact it will have on both the police and defendants.”

Figures obtained by the councillor from Lancashire Constabulary show between 2006 and 2010 around 46% more defendants were charged at Leyland than Skelmersdale - 6,945 in Leyland compared to 4,760.

The number of police cautions was also 44% higher over the same period - 2,814 at Leyland compared to 1,950 at Skelmersdale.

Coun Perks said: “The figures provided by the police clearly demonstrate a greater need for cells at Leyland.”

He says the closure will waste taxpayers money and have an impact on police response times because officers would be forced to spend time transporting suspects to and from cells elsewhere instead of tackling crime on the streets.

Police have said the move to close the cells is linked to a force-wide decision to make fewer arrests and consider alternatives to arrest and custody in a bid to reduce bureaucracy.

The cells are due to close before April 2012, although no official date has been announced. The suite will be closed for a two-week trial from September 13.