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Closure of Skipton's police cells could threaten town's court
9:39am Sunday 13th July 2014 in News
SKIPTON Magistrates' Court could close if the police station loses its cells, a Craven councillor has warned.
Police and crime commissioner Julia Mulligan sought to reassure Craven district councillors that there would be no impact on the court if proposals to close the Skipton custody suite - and take people to Harrogate instead - went ahead.
She also told the council's crime and disorder committee that she had recently been surprised to receive unexpected "reassuring noises" about the future of the court.
But Cllr Simon Myers (Cons), a former criminal barrister, said he believed the Ministry of Justice would decide there was no point in sending people to Skipton Magistrates' Court if they were already in custody in Harrogate.
"Whatever the Ministry of Justice is telling you now, if someone is in custody in Harrogate, the MOJ will say why are we shipping them over to Skipton," he said.
Cllr Myers said he was determined to keep the cells - which councillors were told were not as modern as those at Harrogate - and the court open.
"Providing the cells are safe, the public will be happy that they've not had a lick of paint for a while," he said.
"People want police officers on the streets, they don't want them going back and forth to Harrogate," he said.
Cllr Myers said the problems faced by the proposed closure were insurmountable.
He warned of people being arrested, taken to Harrogate and then turfed out in the middle of the night and of officers potentially having to return vulnerable people all the way home to remote parts of the Dales.
"There are all sorts of issues that I would say are insurmountable," he said.
Cllr Andy Solloway (Ind) warned against moving justice away from the town and pointed to the removal earlier this year of traffic offences away from Skipton.
He said two officers would be taken out of Craven every time someone was arrested and driven to Harrogate, impacting on police cover.
He also had concerns about proposed changes to the number of sergeants.
"I have serious concerns about this will impact. The way I see it, it will be a reduction in officers," he said.
Acting superintendent Simon Lovell said councillors were right to be concerned and that he shared them.
He said the Skipton custody suite was up to Home Office standards and that people should not have concerns about that, but it would not be built in the same way today.
There were many issues to be worked out, but he warned budget cuts meant savings had to be found.
And he agreed the problems looked insurmountable, but financial pressures on the police were a "game changer".
Mrs Mulligan said it had been carefully worked out that the proposals would save money.
"It will save money, it is about the operational consequences of it we have to look at," she said.
Councillors are due to further consider the proposals put forward in the Operational Policing Model, which is currently under consideration. More details can been seen on the police website northyorkshire.police.uk/OPM