Government announces new crime centre for Kings Lynn that will house Fenland prisoners
By John Elworthy PRISONERS from Wisbech and parts of the Fens will be held in cells at Kings Lynn following an announcement today by a Government minister. Policing and Crime Minister David Hanson revealed that funding was now in place for a new Police I
By John Elworthy
PRISONERS from Wisbech and parts of the Fens will be held in cells at Kings Lynn following an announcement today by a Government minister.
Policing and Crime Minister David Hanson revealed that funding was now in place for a new Police Investigation Centre at Kings Lynn which will take prisoners in from Cambridgeshire.
The Lynn centre will be one of six across Norfolk and Suffolk and follows agreement between both police forces. Funding will come from central government under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) package.
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Police cells at Wisbech have been condemned by Cambs Police Authority as not being fit for purpose and today's news of the transfer of prisoners to Lynn was expected.
Steve Barclay, prospective Parliamentary Conservative candidate, has led a campaign to ensure magistrates' courts and a police station remain in Wisbech and last year organised a 500 signature petition in support of his campaign.
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He is also concerned about the "potential health and safety risks" of taking prisoners from the Fens to Kings Lynn.
"Transporting prisoners to the King's Lynn police station has potential health and safety risks given the time such journeys will take along the Fenland roads," he said.
"Should an accident arise in the future, those who closed the Wisbech cells on health and safety grounds without building new cells in the same location will need to explain."
Mr Barclay also said: "The closure of the Wisbech cells raises serious concerns as to whether it will put at risk the viability of the Wisbech Magistrates Court.
"Will the Court Service want to pay to transport prisoners to Wisbech? If they are going to transport prisoners, will they opt instead to take them to Peterborough and close the Wisbech Court?
"The closure also raises questions over the future of detectives currently based in Wisbech - will they instead be based at the same new King's Lynn station where prisoners will be located?
Mr Hanson, however, was not discussing what happens in Cambridgeshire today, preferring to comment on the Home Office recognition of "the valuable work being done by the police. We are supporting this important project for the next 30 years, providing modern, state of the art
"We want to see police forces cutting bureaucracy, giving their officers more time on the frontline and improving efficiency.
"Our White Paper laid down a challenge to chief constables to deliver on these aims and I applaud Norfolk and Suffolk police for rising to it. Innovative ways of working together are vital for policing in the modern age and this project will help deliver it for the people of both counties."
This is the first PFI procurement in the police service to have been undertaken jointly by two police authorities and two forces together.
A police spokesman said: "The Kings Lynn PIC will take detainees from Cambridgeshire as well as Norfolk, although all custody staff will be from Norfolk."
There will be a joint management structure for all six PICs, and they will operate the same systems, policies, practices and procedures, which are scheduled to be introduced in May 2010 ahead of the physical opening of the PICs.
The PICs will be built and maintained by a consortium consisting of Reliance Secure Task Management Limited, Kier Project Investment Limited, and HBOS / Uberior Infrastructure Investment Limited.
Peter Belson, Project Director for the procurement of the PICs, said: "There are many benefits to collaborative working such as making us more resilient and efficient, and also more cost effective, which of course particularly benefits the public, who are our priority."
Carl Puiy, Head of Custody for Suffolk, and Project Director for the joint management of the PICs, said: "The PICs will look and work the same, so no matter which one you go into you will know where to go and what the procedures and practices will be.
"This is a golden opportunity to review and improve our business processes to ensure we are able to meet 21st century demands by providing smarter, more efficient and time-effective ways of processing detainees.