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Police Custody

Volume 461: debated on Monday 18 June 2007

To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (1) what the cost has been of Operation Safeguard in 2007; how many police force invoices have been (a) received and (b) paid; and how many more police force invoices she expects to receive; (142746)

(2) how much has been paid so far under Operation Safeguard to keep court cell accommodation available for prisoners; for what period these payments have been made; and how many prisoners were accommodated in court cells during that period;

(3) for how many nights court cell accommodation has been available under Operation Safeguard for prisoners; how many cells were available on those nights; and how many prisoner-nights have been spent in court cells in 2007;

(4) for how many nights court cell accommodation made available under Operation Safeguard her Department has not already paid;

(5) when she expects Operation Safeguard to end; and what estimate she has made of the likely final cost of (a) police and (b) court cell accommodation under Operation Safeguard.

Use of court cells does not form part of Operation Safeguard, which is an agreement with the police to hold prisoners overnight in police cells.

81 invoices for the use of police cells under Operation Safeguard since October 2006 have been received. To date, 54 of these have been paid to the value of £6,681,300. As different police forces may submit monthly, bi-monthly or consolidate invoices, the number expected is not known.

Since the beginning of 2007 current data shows that court cells have been used on 373 occasions (as at 13 June 2007) over 16 nights. This does not correspond precisely to the number of prisoners: one occasion means one prisoner night in a court cell.

To date, one invoice to the value of £120,000 (excluding VAT) has been paid to cover the contingency of having places available in court cells between 17 January and 6 February. 12 prisoner nights were spent in court cells during this period.

Use of police cells to hold prisoners and of court cells to hold prisoners as a last resort will continue until operational capacity in prisons has increased to a level where all prisoners can be accommodated safely. NOMS is increasing prison capacity and has announced 8,000 new places by 2012.

We estimate that it costs around £385 per place per night to hold a prisoner in a police cell, and around £300 for every place in a court cell (this cost is incurred whether the cell is used or not).