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014/2014: Skipton Custody Proposals – 08 October 2014

Executive Summary and recommendation:

In light of new ways of working and the effective use of police resources across North Yorkshire as a whole, the Commissioner is asked to approve the closure of the custody facility at Skipton Police Station. 

Over recent months, North Yorkshire Police has been implementing the Operational Policing Model – a strategy to streamline and improve the way that operational police services are delivered, at the same time as creating financial savings as a result of increased efficiency.

A major facet of the Operational Policing Model is the introduction of Investigation Hubs.  At present, an investigation may cut across a number of different police functions.  Time can be lost in the “handover” between one function and another and the victim may find they are dealing with a number of police departments at different points in the investigation.  This does not sit comfortably with the victim-centred approach that North Yorkshire Police is seeking to reinforce across all areas of its operations.

An Investigation Hub streamlines this process by combining police officers, staff and specialist support (eg CID investigators, drug-testing, examination of mobile devices) into a cohesive “start-to-finish” investigation team.  This more efficient way of working will help to speed up investigative policing, which ultimately will bring about swifter justice for victims of crime.

A feature of the Investigation Hub is that the processing of suspects into custody is centred on the Hub, where there are dedicated resources available to do this work effectively.  Having custody processing focused around the Hubs relieves the need for retaining custody facilities and uniformed sergeants to run them at multiple locations.  As well as duplicating facilities/roles unnecessarily, which is expensive, this also ties up police resources within the custody facility that could be reassigned to front-line community policing.

In Spring 2015 the Investigation Hub at Harrogate will be implemented.  At this point, it makes operational sense for an arresting officer to take suspects from the Craven area to the Harrogate Hub, where they can be processed into custody and dealt with by the dedicated multi-discipline investigation team.  The arresting officer would then be free to return to front-line community policing duties in Craven.

As part of the research done by the Operational Policing Model team in support of the Investigation Hubs, a detailed analysis of custody provision was undertaken, with the following results:

  • The demand for custody was modelled, with support from the College of Policing.  This identified that the custody facility at Skipton was under-utilized, and that there is capacity elsewhere to absorb the facility’s current and future demand, especially given that the trend for custody use has been downward, and shows no sign of increasing.  This analysis would support the transfer of custody to the Investigation Hub in Harrogate.
  • The 2010 HMIC inspection reported that Skipton custody was not suitable for detainees who are likely to be detained for fewer than six hours or for those with vulnerability due to mental illness, alcohol or drug-use.  This has limited the number and types of prisoners that can be detained at Skipton, which again supports the proposal to focus custody on Harrogate where the modern facilities and Home Office approved custody facilities are more flexible.
  • It is proposed to change the Voluntary Attendee (VA) procedure, so that VAs can be interviewed at certain non-custody stations, including Skipton.
  • Community consultation has highlighted concerns that whilst the travel time to take a suspect from Skipton to the Harrogate Hub is comparable with that of other rural Forces, the journey would be longer from the far west of the district.  However, plans are under development (and due to be completed before Christmas) to allow vulnerable and/or multiple detainees from the Settle/Ingleton areas to be taken to Kendal or Lancaster custody (around 30 minutes) in exceptional circumstances, and on the risk-assessment of each case.
  • In terms of resource efficiency, Skipton custody currently requires five full-time sergeants on a 24:7 basis to fulfil the mandated staffing levels, even though there is only a requirement to deal with an average of three or fewer detainees over a 24-hour period.  Given the current financial challenges in policing, this ratio is unsupportable.  The resources could be more effectively redeployed to front-line policing.
  • If Skipton custody is closed, the annual cost of transporting detainees from Skipton to Harrogate has been calculated as circa £55k per annum, taking into account officer time, fuel and vehicle wear and tear.  However all of this cost would be off-set by the savings on running costs for the suite (£26k per annum) and the savings generated by the redeployment of local custody sergeants into front-line community policing roles (£46k).  Significant capital outlay (in excess of £237k) to improve the custody suite in line with Home Office guidance would also be avoided.

In light of the public interest in this operational decision, the Commissioner is asked to consider and approve the proposal to close the custody provision at Skipton Police Station, as a necessary step in improving investigative efficiency and making best use of North Yorkshire Police’s financial and human resources.

Police and Crime Commissioner decision:  Approved

Signature:  signature

Date:  08 October 2014

Title:  Police and Crime Commissioner

 


Part 1 – Unrestricted facts and advice to the PCC

  1. Introduction and background

The proposal to close custody has been taken against a backdrop of wider organisation considerations, including the projected demand for custody, the introduction of new ways of working through the Operational Policing Model, and the financial pressures on all police forces.

  1. Matters for consideration

Impact of the Investigation Hubs on victims

  • In order to streamline and improve operational police service delivery, North Yorkshire Police will be introducing Investigation Hubs, including one at Harrogate which will serve the Craven area.  A Hub combines police officers, staff and specialist support (CID investigators, drug-testing, examination of mobile devices for evidence etc) into a “start to finish” investigation team.
  • Custody processing is also focused at the Hub, so that there is a seamless transition from custody processing through into investigation. When an Investigation Hub is in operation, an arresting sergeant brings the detainee to the Hub and hands them over for processing into custody.  The processing will usually take several hours.  When the detainee is handed over, the arresting sergeant is free to return to duty in the community.
  • The Hub solves two current issues that North Yorkshire Police, encouraged by the Commissioner, is seeking to address.  One is that, at present, an investigation may cut across a number of different police functions.  Time can be lost in the “handover” between one function and another, resulting in slower progress on the investigation.  Secondly, the victim may find they are dealing with a number of police departments at different points in the investigation.  This can be confusing and frustrating for the victim.  The Investigation Hub model – already utilized by some other Forces – therefore has the potential to speed up investigations so that victims receive justice more quickly, whilst also improving the service experience for victims.

Custody demand in Skipton and the implications for North Yorkshire

  • In 2013, 648 arrested people were dealt with at Skipton custody.  On average between two and three people went through the facility each day, which is a low number in comparison with other custody facilities across the Force.
  • The number of arrested persons taken to Skipton has declined year on year, halving from 1,329 in 2009 to the 2013 figure given above.
  • As part of the Operational Policing Model, detailed research into custody demand was undertaken, in consultation with the College of Policing.  This identified that the Skipton facility was under-utilized and that North Yorkshire Police has capacity elsewhere to absorb the facility’s current demand.
  • 180 voluntary attendees (VAs) were also dealt with at the Skipton facility.  A voluntary attendee is a suspect in an investigation where, based on the type of offence and/or the offender, an arrest would not be a proportional response.  It would not be proportionate or economical  to transport these to an Investigation Hub at Harrogate.  It would also represent an inconvenience for the VA. However, through the Operational Policing Model, and line with best practice models from other Forces, North Yorkshire Police plans to change the procedures for interviewing voluntary attendees.  This would mean VAs would be interviewed at non-custody stations.  Work is currently underway with North Yorkshire Police’s training team to ensure that officers are fully able to implement this change in an appropriate way.  The Criminal Justice Department is supportive of the change and themselves are working on the practicalities. 

Travel considerations

  • Craven’s geography is a challenge, so the implications of transporting detainees from all parts of the district have had to be taken into account in designing the operational way forward.
  • Transporting a detainee from Skipton to Harrogate takes about 45 minutes.  Research with other rural forces shows that this is not outside the norm.  A journey from the western edge of Craven is significantly longer (approximately 1 hour and fifteen minutes), although demand history indicates that this would only affect approximately 40 detainees per year, and the Chief Constable is clear that policing by exception (ie managing the bulk of the service around exceptional circumstances) is not a viable strategy for North Yorkshire Police.
  • Nonetheless, there may be occasions (for example, when transporting a vulnerable person, or multiple detainees) when the distance from the far reaches of the county would represent a significant challenge.  There are plans to address this.  Firstly, North Yorkshire Police will ensure that the vehicles in Craven are suitable for transporting detainees over an increased distance.  Secondly, plans are now in progress, in collaboration with Cumbria Police, for vulnerable or multiple detainees to be taken to custody in Kendal or Lancaster at a distance of approximately 30 minutes.

Staffing considerations

  • Skipton custody has one custody sergeant on duty 24:7 – round-the-clock staffing being a requirement for any custody suite.
  • As part of the Operational Policing Model it is proposed that five custody sergeant posts could be converted to front-line constables to improve neighbourhood policing in North Yorkshire in line with demand profiling.  Three sergeants would be deployed to the Craven area to strengthen community policing in Craven.
  • The Operational Policing Model is working on arrangements to ensure that an appropriate level of back-up and resource is available at the busiest times for operational policing, using a variety of solutions such as flexible working, deployment of Specials and volunteers.  These solutions will be implemented in Craven as elsewhere, with particular reference to the district’s demand profile and the travel factor.

Financial matters

North Yorkshire Police is charged with making considerable operational savings through improved efficiency, so although money is not the single driver of the proposed custody closure it is none-the-less a major factor.

The financial implications of custody closure are that: 

Costs

  • Travel and transport costs (including officer time) will incur a cost of £55k.  However this should be off-set against projected savings

Savings

  • NYP will save £26k on the annual running costs of the facility
  • The deployment of five sergeants into constable roles in the community will save £46k per annum.  It should be noted that whilst the in-year saving may seem modest, this represents an ongoing significant saving
  • If retained, Craven custody would need to be refurbished in line with recent changes/ongoing changes to Home Office guidance, in order to maintain a safe environment for detainees.  A conservative budget estimate for necessary capital investment is in excess of £237k

Other options considered, if any

N/A

  1. Contribution to Police and Crime Plan outcomes

This decision will help to release resources to concentrate on front community policing, which supports the Police and Crime Plan objectives of cutting crime and anti-social behaviour, and focusing on prevention and early intervention.  The Investigation Hubs will develop a more effective working process that will support swifter justice and improved communication with the victims of crime.  This is in line with the Police and Crime Plan objective of improving victim care.

  1. Consultations carried out

The OPM report containing this recommendation was published in June 2014 at a press conference held by the PCC and the Chief Constable. At the same time it was published to the NYP website and has been available there since. Comments on the content of the report were encouraged as part of the consultation process.

Concerns have been raised in the Craven Herald about the closure of custody and the effect on local policing. The issue has often been linked to the possible closure of Skipton Magistrates’ Court. A letter of reply was sent outlining that there is no reason why custody location should determine court hearing location, as this is usually determined by the location of the crime.  Julian Smith MP, has also expressed his fears about the impact of the custody closure on Skipton Magistrates’ Court and the reduction in staff and facilities available at Skipton police station.

Letters have been received from the Craven District Council Select Crime and Disorder Committee, Bentham Town Council and Lawkland Parish meeting. Each has had a comprehensive reply explaining the rationale behind the proposal and giving reassurance about our commitment to local policing.

The Police and Crime Commissioner has met with Mr Julian Smith MP, and the Leader and Chief Executive of Craven District Council.

The Chief Constable has also met with Mr Smith MP and the leader of the District Council. ACC Kennedy and D/Superintendent Oliver attended a full and open meeting of the Craven District Council Select Crime and Disorder Committee.

Engagement events have taken place internally with staff in the areas to be affected by thechanges. Local staff have been consulted and briefed by the local command team led by Chief Inspector Lovell, supported by the OPM team. 

  1. Legal Implications

Having read this report and having considered such information as has been provided at the time of being asked to express this view, the Acting Force Solicitor and Head of Legal Services is satisfied that this report does not ask the PCC for North Yorkshire to make a decision which would (or would be likely to) give rise to a contravention of the law.

  1. Equality Implications

There is no impact from the equalities point of view.

  1. Human Resources Implications

It is noted that consultations have been undertaken with those affected by these proposals as well as staff associations. HR colleagues including those in training will continue to work alongside the team to support the implementation of the revised structure and ways of working and assist in the resolution of any people related issues as they arise.

9.     Public Access to information

The Police and Crime Commissioner wishes to be as open and transparent as possible about the decisions she takes or are taken in her name. All decisions taken by the Commissioner will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

As a general principle, the Commissioner expects to be able to publish all decisions taken and all matters taken into account and all advice received when reaching the decision. Part 1 of this Notice will detail all information which the Commissioner will disclose into the public domain. The decision and information in Part 1 will be made available on the NYPCC web site within 2 working days of approval.

Only where material is properly classified as restricted under the GPMS or if that material falls within the description at 2(2) of The Elected Local Policing Bodies (Specified Information) Order 2011 will the Commissioner not disclose decisions and/or information provided to enable that decision to be made. In these instances, Part 2 of the Form will be used to detail those matters considered to be restricted.  Information in Part 2 will not be published.


Part 2

Is there a Part 2 to this Notice –   No

If Yes, what is the reason for restriction


  Name      (Collar Number) Date of completion (√)
Head of Department
Has reviewed the request and is satisfied that it is correct and consistent with the NYPCC’s plans and priorities.
Supt Amanda Oliver  859 08.10.2014
Legal Advice
Legal advice has been sought on this proposal and is considered not to expose the PCC to risk of legal challenge or such risk is outlined in Part 1 or Part 2 of this Notice.
Jane Wintermeyer3840 08.10.2014
Financial AdviceThe CC CFO has been consulted on this proposal, for which budgetary provision already exists or is to be made in accordance with Part 1 or Part 2 of this Notice. JanePalmer004364 8 October 2014
Equalities Advice
Either there is considered to be minimal impact or the impact is outlined in Part1 or Part2 of this Notice.
Ed NobleInsp 1901 08.10.2014
HR Advice
HR advice has been sought in relation to any people related matters
Leanne Consett4217 08.10.2014
I confirm that all the above advice has been sought and received and I am satisfied that this is an appropriate request to be submitted for a decisionSignature   ACC Paul Kennedy                                                                                        Date 

 

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