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News and Comment February 2020

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11 February - The poshest cells in town

It is not only Councillor Diment who can be relied upon to ask a decent question at a Scrutiny meeting, we have Councillor Mable Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) too.

OgundayoShe picked up the point made by the Chief Superintendent that “the cells are moving from Plumstead back to Bexleyheath and I just wanted to know why that is and if they are up to standard because I thought I heard something about they are a bit older in Bexleyheath, so if that is the case why are we moving them?”

Another question was what does a 27% success rate on Stop and Search really mean and finally a question on Domestic Violence which according to the very latest statistics “it has increased again and the more dangerous, more at risk, Domestic Violence has gone up quite a steep amount. Why is that not going to be on your priority list next year?”.

The reasons for the cell transfer were many.

Of the three boroughs it was “Bexley which historically always had cell provision co-located with the officers who were based at Bexley. It closed a number of years ago due to a reduction in budget and there had been a reduction in arrests.”

Provision of custody facilities “has to be to a certain standard so Bexleyheath was shut a number of years ago and officers utilised the cell space at Plumstead alongside Greenwich based officers.”

With the move to BCU it was decided there should be two stations “providing the main response function”. The most efficient arrangement was Bexleyheath and Lewisham. The main users of cells are the response officers. Co-located cells saves a lot of prisoner collection time.

The cells needed refurbishment and had Health and Safety issues which is why their reintroduction has been delayed by about 18 months. “There has been significant investment and it will open around April time.”

27% success rate is simply that “the item being looked for was found. It also includes things like if you are looking for drugs and you find a knife” and other such variations on that theme.

“Domestic abuse features in the MOPAC priorities around tackling serious violence. It is one of the four key bits alongside child sex exploitation and serious violence. We are seeing an increase in domestic abuse and I am not going to stand here and say it is all down to additional reporting but I do like to think some of it is down to additional reporting and I will quote the statistic I often use here which is, and it is true, that it is not the first time that someone experiences domestic abuse that they report it to the police, it can be the thirtieth occasion before they contact the police, so more reporting hopefully means earlier reporting.”

Domestic abuse is one of our absolute priorities and we invest a huge amount of resources in safeguarding in order to arrest individuals wherever we can.

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer said a Strategy would soon be out for consultation “to get on top of the scourge of it”. Bexley Council employs a Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Manager.

 

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