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Custody suites branded 'prehistoric' by police boss

Chief superintendent Garry McEwan spoke to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing.

Jail: Chief superintendent Garry McEwan spoke to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing.
Jail: Chief superintendent Garry McEwan spoke to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing. Pixabay

Some of Police Scotland's custody provision has been branded "prehistoric" by a senior officer.

At a meeting of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, chief superintendent Garry McEwan said the force had requested £100m of funding at the beginning of this year, with some earmarked for a revamp of custody suites.

The officer, who works in the Criminal Justice Services Division, said the Scottish Government had paid out "less than half" of the requested amount.

Responding to a question from Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur, CS McEwan said: "We had last year a commitment of just shy of £9m in capital investment to address some of the issues around custody, mainly around the delays in getting custodies booked in."

He said the force was looking to install new charge bars - areas where people who have been arrested are booked in - as well as revamped holding centres, which can house multiple custodies.

But Mr McEwan said the money was reassigned after the funding from government was less than half the £100m requested.

He said: "The capital investment did not come to fruition, it was withdrawn around this time last year.

"We're now back in a bidding process with our finance people to try and secure more funding for this year coming forward."

Mr McEwan agreed with Mr McArthur that the funding was "essential to bring the custody suites up to standard".

The officer added: "Some of them are so prehistoric that they do need significant investment.

"It was just shy of £100m capital that Police Scotland asked for at the beginning of this year.

"Police Scotland had to prioritise their capital investment, and I understand why.

"It was for mobiles and for the fleet, but the capital monies that we had were withdrawn from me and redeployed elsewhere."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "While the allocation of resources is for the chief constable and the SPA (Scottish Police Authority) to determine, we are providing £1.2bn funding for policing this year. This includes a 52% increase in the capital budget.

"Despite the constraints on Scotland's public services as a result of a decade of UK austerity, total funding for the Scottish Police Authority in 2019-20 is increasing by £42.3m, meaning the annual policing budget is now over £1.2bn.

"The SPA approved a new Police Scotland Estate Strategy which aims to address historic under-funding under the old legacy forces and to develop a sustainable, modern property estate that delivers excellence of service to communities across Scotland.

"All persons held in custody are to be treated with care and respect, ensuring that their fundamental human rights are maintained at all times."

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