Large rise in prisoners kept in police cells

Prisoners spent 60,953 nights in police cells last year
Prisoners spent 60,953 nights in police cells last year

There has been a 13-fold increase in the number of prisoners being held in police cells, it emerged last night.

Figures show a significant rise in the number of nights in which prisoners were housed in police custody suites rather than prison cells.

The Conservatives have condemned the practice, arguing it is an inappropriate use of police facilities and impacts on forces' budgets.

Figures show there were 60,953 nights in 2007 when prisoners were kept in police cells, up from 4,617 in 2006.

This occurred throughout the country, with no force claiming a complete absence of prisoners, compared to 18 the year before.

Some forces were worse affected, with West Yorkshire witnessing a 76-fold rise from 45 nights in 2006 to 3,432 last year.

The Met police also saw a significant increase, with prisoners being held in their police cells on 9,799 occasions last year.

Shadow police reform minister David Ruffley said: "A record number of prisoners who should be in prison are now being housing in police cells.

"This means police stations are being clogged up and police time wasted.

"Government incompetence means police are spending more time as prison gaolers and less time as crime fighters."

The figures were published as it emerged a government IT project designed to consolidate nearly 200 database records on offenders into a single file were being scaled back.

The C-Nomis system has been dramatically curtailed after costs spiralled above the original estimate of £234 million to £512 million.

Justice minister David Hanson last night told MPs that probation staff would now be given read-only access to the files, while plans for "one offender, one record" have been shelved.

Mr Hanson insisted the modified system will still improve information sharing as offenders progress from arrest through sentencing and probation.

C-Nomis was originally designed to be running by 2009, giving 80,000 criminal justice staff access to a complete, up-to-date record on each offender.


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