Custody cells should be reinstated to help tackle anti-social behaviour, councillors say

Richmond Police Station. Photo: Google.

Custody cells should be reinstated as part of a series of measures to help authorities manage a wave of antisocial behaviour engulfing public areas as lockdown restrictions are eased, councillors have claimed.

The call comes amid concerns over the length of time it takes officers across the north of North Yorkshire to travel with those arrested to custody suites in Harrogate and Scarborough, due to the closure of cells in Richmond and Northallerton.

Councillors have claimed as a result each arrest can take four hours, creating a deterrent to law enforcement.

They said despite police, military police and council resources being poured into managing crowds gathering at Richmond, and particularly at the waterfalls, last weekend, those trying to manage social distancing guidelines were overwhelmed.

A multi-agency meeting involving police and Richmondshire District Council on Wednesday concluded increased camera coverage was needed to marshal the falls area and to look at the most appropriate way to ban alcohol, barbecues and legal drugs such as laughing gas or nitrous oxide in the falls area.

While authorities want local residents to enjoy the beauty spot, closing the area completely has not been ruled out.

Councillors praised how police handled hundreds of people who had travelled from cities in the North-East to the falls last weekend, but said motorists had been seen driving around the Market Place while taking drugs as officers were elsewhere.

Calling for custody cells to be reopened in Richmond as an emergency measure, Councillor Clive World said: “We need urgent action. It is absolutely dreadful that the nearest custody cells are an hour away in Harrogate, and if Harrogate is full then our police have to go to Scarborough, which is a day out.

“We haven’t got so many police officers that we can afford to have them travelling up and down the A1 rather than being on the beat.”

Fellow Richmond councillors Phillip Wicks and Stuart Parsons said the thought of travelling to Harrogate “undoubtedly puts a question in officers’ minds when it comes to arresting somebody”.

Cllr Wicks said: “It is a question quite clearly the further you are away from Harrogate, do you remain on the site of where crime are being committed as was happening in Richmond over the weekend or do you send officers down to Harrogate? It is a problem for the whole of the north of the county.”

Referring to the lack of local cells, Cllr Parsons added: “It is a deterrent to officers enforcing the law. If the police and crime commissioner actually listened to what her staff were saying then she would be doing something to help her staff.”

Councillors have also suggested as North Yorkshire and Durham police shared many resources the possibility of North Yorkshire using cells in Darlington, just 12 miles from Richmond, should be investigated.

The multi-agency meeting heard of a collective determination to respond to the issue as rapidly as possible and not to displace problems onto other communities, such as those facing crowds in Upper Swaledale, but councillors said the amount of resources used last weekend to manage the area was unsustainable.

Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, said she understood that there is real concern about recent crowds and antisocial behaviour in the area.

She said: “I have raised this directly with the Chief Constable and in addition to new Covid-19 legislation, the police will be using their full range of powers to deal with the issues in question. It is also incumbent upon local councils to do the same, so I would encourage local councillors to ensure that this is the case. It was good to see for example, the deployment of additional council staffing at problem sites.

“It is also positive that there is a strong police presence in Richmondshire at present due to the Covid situation, and there are very low levels of sickness and abstraction, increasing numbers further. And whilst it’s the Chief Constable’s job to determine where and what her officers do, custody suites also have to be staffed, meaning officers would in reality be diverted away from the frontline permanently, instead of being out and about.”

Mrs Mulligan said the custody suite at Richmond did not meet modern safety standards and in particular, would not be a safe environment for officers and detainees during this pandemic.

She said: “The facilities in Harrogate have been adapted to ensure the police can operate safely, protecting themselves, essential visitors and detainees. It would therefore not be at all appropriate to increase risk by opening or using unsuitable premises.”

1 Comment

  1. It was always a bonkers idea to close police cells in Richmond & Northallerton meaning miscreants would have to be driven to Harrogate or Scarborough.If the cells were no longer up to scratch we should have a commissioner who makes them up to scratch. The idea of having to ask nicely for ours to be locked up in Darlington is simply down to the local empires and fiefdoms that our Police forces maintain which are surely of no interest to anyone but themselves. You’d think the River Tees was an iron curtain.

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