Police station cells take on extra suspects
Wigan police station's is set to come under increased pressure after a neighbouring town's custody suite was shut down.
The station’s cells will now have to process suspects from nearby Bolton after its facility was closed following a review.
It will also mean suspected being carted 16 miles from Bolton to Wigan.
The decision to close Scholey Street station’s custody suite has sparked concern among solicitors, who point to the “incredible” number of arrests in the town.
However, Greater Manchester Police claims modern policing methods have reduced the requirement for holding cells.
There have also been claimed travelling to Wigan will be “problematic” because of poor transportation links between the two neighbouring towns.
Nick Ross, of Russell and Russell Solicitors, claimed many police hours will be lost while transferring suspects.
“It is obvious it is down to economics for the so-called largest town in Britain not to have a custody office,” he said.
“The number of arrests that take place in a town this size is quite incredible.
“The impact will also be on officers. A lot of man hours will be lost. I understand the economics of it.”
The town of Bolton has a population of 139,403 but the wider metropolitan borough houses 262,400 people - making it the UK’s largest town ahead of Reading.
Scholey Street station opened a decade ago to replace the previous Howell Croft North base and boasted an increased capacity of 19 cells.
But from August 1 onwards the station will now only be for custody cases in “exceptional circumstances”.
Offenders under arrest will be taken to neighbouring stations in Wigan, Bury and Swinton.
Mr Ross said the move will also inconvenience many members of the public.
“It is bad news - it will be immensely inconvenient to us but especially inconvenient to members of the public who are going to be required to attend stations that are quite removed from Bolton.
“For example Wigan is quite inaccessible - there are not great transport routes or connections. It is particularly problematic.”
Since the end of February the public inquiry counter at Scholey Street has also had its hours cut to 8am to 8pm on weekdays and 10am to 6pm on weekends.
The station has the only manned reception in the borough since the desk in Horwich closed.
Speaking in June when the closure was announced, Superintendent Chris Hankinson of Greater Manchester Police, said the decision to close the suite followed a review.
“We are dealing with more people through forms of restorative justice and alternatives to custody,” he said.
“With the changes to local policing, which have focused on having one officer to take charge of the case, we will see shorter times in custody.
“There isn’t a need for the number of cells that we have and following on from a review into the use of our custody suite at our station on Scholey Street in Bolton a decision has now been made for this to close.
“The station will, however, be on standby in order to manage one-off events or to support short term closures of other sites.
“I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the people of Greater Manchester that the service that we provide will not be affected.
“We will continue to prioritise working with partner agencies to intervene at the earliest opportunity to try and divert people from ending up in the criminal justice system and to reduce the likelihood of re-offending.”
From August 1 suspects will be dealt with as follows:
People arrested in Horwich and Blackrod, Horwich North East, Westhoughton North and Westhoughton South will be sent to Wigan to be dealt with.