Planned improvement works will start on Wiltshire Police’s custody suites in Melksham next week as investment is needed to ensure the force is fit for the 21st century.
Last year, Wiltshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Wilkinson approved the £3.7m investment to fund refurbishment works including: mechanical and electrical system upgrades, an improved air lock system, a more secure alarm network and a refresh of the custody desk, offices and cells.
Melksham custody will close on Monday 20 February 2023 and is expected to remain shut for up to eight months until the work is completed. During this time, Wiltshire Police plan to process all detainees at Gablecross Custody in Swindon.
Mr Wilkinson said: “Ensuring the Wiltshire Police have the proper tools and facilities to deliver a high standard of policing is one of my main priorities set out in my Police and Crime Plan.
“I strongly believe that this investment is necessary to ensure Wiltshire Police and its estates are fit for the 21st century and to meet Home Office compliance advice, as well as HMICFRS inspection criteria. This in turn will help to improve future Wiltshire Police PEEL reports and overall custody standards.
“The works will ensure Wiltshire Police supplies modern custodial facilities for improved prisoner safety and better evidence collection opportunities to inform investigation and charge outcomes. I’m confident that all areas of policing will reap the benefits of this refurbishment project.”
Detective Superintendent and Head of Crime Standards and Justice, Guy Elkins has been leading the project from an operational perspective. He said: “Melksham Custody is now 20-years-old and in need of significant investment to ensure it is fit-for-purpose. The closure will of course add to our operational demands, however my team have worked tirelessly to ensure any disruption has been kept to a minimum.
“For those in the community who have concerns, rest assured we will be closely monitoring the performance in the south of the county to ensure our communities are kept safe and those who commit crime continue to be dealt with robustly.
“During the closure we will offer guidance and support to those leaving Swindon Custody so that no matter where you live in the county, upon release from custody you can get home safely.”
To find out more about the closure and the need to invest in the Wiltshire Police estate, please see the below FAQs section.
Published Wednesday 15 Febraury 2023
Refurbishment is vital to ensure Wiltshire Police estate is fit-for-purpose, supplies modern custodial facilities for improved prisoner safety and improved evidence collection opportunities to inform investigation and charge outcomes. The last refurbishment was more than 10 years ago (2009) and the suite is understandably now requires updating, although some interim improvements were carried out in summer 2022.
In 2015, a HMICFRS inspection highlighted areas of the building which were not compliant or that required attention. Most mechanical and electrical systems within the suite are now 17 years old, and have been operational 24/7, therefore some components need life cycle replacement.
The need to invest in the custody unit was recognised some time ago and was expected to occur in the financial year 2019-20, but these plans were impacted by the covid pandemic.
Some improvement works have already been carried out at Melksham – critical interim mitigation works were agreed in July 2021 and carried out in 2022 to ensure areas where most risk was carried were addressed.
Custody will close on Monday 20 February 2023 and the planned refurbishment will begin the week commencing 27 February 2023. The planned work is thought to take around 6-8 months.
There will be critical updates to Melksham Custody that improve mechanical and electrical systems, a new air lock system, a new custody desk, upgrades to technology, a new alarm system and a refresh of custody offices and cells.
Investment by the Police and Crime Commissioner is necessary to ensure a police service which is fit for the 21st century and also meets Home Office compliance advice, makes the building future fit and also meets HMICFRS inspection criteria to help improve Wiltshire Police PEEL report and overall custody standards.
In March 2022, the PCC approved the plan and the setting aside of £3.724m to fund the works - £0.160m for the interim work and £3.564m to fund the larger works.
During the refurbishment we will move to a single unit custody model, with all detainees processed at Swindon Custody. Additional and dedicated staffing has been put in place to support the transportation of detainees to reduce the impact on officers and the community.
Swindon Custody can house 39 detained persons at any one time, and it is unlikely that we will reach full capacity.
However, should this happen Wiltshire Police have clearly defined processes in place to reduce pressure on Swindon Custody.
In the event we need to close Swindon Custody, Wiltshire Police have an agreement of support from neighbouring forces in Gloucestershire and Avon and Somerset.
Wiltshire Police currently have processes in place to risk assess all detainees prior to release from custody. They will offer guidance and support to those leaving Swindon Custody so that no matter where you live in the county upon release from custody you can get home safely.
A policy is in place to recognise and support those most vulnerable, to ensure that on release they are supported to get home.
We also work with partner agencies to mitigate any risks identified and put in place any support mechanisms required.
No, additional and dedicated staffing has been put in place to support the transportation of detainees to reduce the impact on officers and the community.
By installing the latest technology upgrades, we are making sure the custody suites are as environmentally friendly and energy efficient as they can be.