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Wiltshire Police Federation

Officers avoid three-hour round trip to custody

30 November 2017

Salisbury Journal (Web), 30/11/2017, Katie Feehan

POLICE officers on the beat in Salisbury are becoming increasingly reluctant to arrest suspected criminals due to a lack of a nearby custody unit, according to the Police Federation.

The Salisbury custody unit, alongside the city’s police station, shut in 2014 and officers now have to travel to Melksham – nearly 30 miles away – to book in offenders.

The force’s police federation - which represents rank and file officers - has now warned that some criminals are being let off with warnings rather than being arrested as officers are reluctant to leave the city low on staff while they transport them to cells.

Federation chairman Inspector David Ibbott said officers will not “turn a blind eye” but have changed the way the deal with things because of the three-hour round trip.

He said: “Officers have to drive an hour to get to the custody unit in Melksham and then spend another hour booking the suspect into the unit before driving back to the city. They are very unlikely to make that arrest when they could just send them on their way.”

Insp Ibbott said that with public order offences such as being drunk and disorderly in public, warnings are often issued. But he added that sometimes police have to take these offenders to the custody unit as an incident can escalate.

“With public order offences those involved don’t often listen to much reason because they are drunk and return when they have been asked to leave, so officers have to take them to custody to get them sober.”

He added that on some occasions people are being “invited” to the police station for an interview after an incident.

The city was promised a new custody unit, but the project was scrapped due to government cuts.

Instead city officers have had to depend on a civilian prisoner transport van, which Insp Ibbott claimed was unreliable as the van could be gone for most of the day after an arrest.

Police and crime commissioner Angus Macpherson admitted that south Wiltshire needed a custody unit but said it would cost more than £10million to build.

“I would rather spend money on police people rather than a [custody] suite,” he said,

“Admittedly Melksham is about 10 minutes down the road too far [for officers in Salisbury].”

Mr Macpherson added that if Melksham needed to be replaced in years to come then it was possible that a case for a custody unit in south Wiltshire might be looked into.