The future of Wrexham Magistrates’ Courts custody suites will be raised with Ministers at an upcoming meeting.
Wrexham MP Ian Lucas will be raising the provision of custody suites with Justice ministers after a series of Parliamentary questions revealed that the Government has still not decided on the future of custody at the courts – more than three years after being challenged to come up with a plan.
Mr Lucas first posed the question to Justice ministers in 2014, when he asked:
– What discussions (a) HM Courts Service and (b) his Department has had with North Wales police about future cell provision at Wrexham magistrates’ court
– If he will make provision for construction of secure accommodation at Wrexham magistrates’ court to replace accommodation at Wrexham police station due to be closed by North Wales police in 2016.
At the time Mr Lucas was told that: “No detailed discussions have taken place between HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) or the Department with North Wales police with regards to future cell provision at Wrexham Magistrates Court.
“HMCTS is considering its options. Further discussions will take place once preferred options have been identified. Any decision for new arrangements for dealing with custody cases at Wrexham magistrates court will be guided by the principles of access to justice and best value for the taxpayer.”
The lack of action by Ministers is in contrast with plans for Wrexham’s divisional police headquarters to move to Llay. The Llay headquarters will have a custody suite, which designers have described as a “benchmark” for such suites.
However, despite Minsters having previously suggested they were committed to Wrexham’s court, a series of Parliamentary questions put down by Mr Lucas reveal that they are still “considering” options for custody provision at the court – the same answer they gave in 2014.
A series of questions posed to Justice minsters by Mr Lucas at the start of February 2017 ask what steps have been taken to commission new custody facilities at Wrexham Magistrates’ Court and what budget has been allocated to pay for the construction of the new facilities.
Mr Lucas also asked: “What plans her Department has for the construction of custody facilities at Wrexham Magistrates’ Court; what options for that construction her Department is assessing; and what the timetable is for her Department to make decisions on the (a) options and (b) construction of such facilities.”
In a series of responses Mr Lucas was told that: “HM Courts & Tribunals Service has commissioned a design for replacement custody facilities at Wrexham Magistrates’ Court. This will be evaluated as part of the assessment of options for the future provision of custodial facilities at Wrexham Magistrates Court. The evaluation will take place in due course.”
It was also noted that HM Courts & Tribunals Service is ‘assessing options and associated costs for the future provision of custodial facilities’.
Speaking about the responses to his questions, Mr Lucas said: “The Government do not seem to want to invest in facilities in Wrexham – their unwillingness to invest in our Magistrates’ court is yet another example of how they are short changing the town.
“When I asked them about the issue in 2014, they said they were considering their options. When I asked the same question three years later, the answer was the same. There have already been critical reports about custody provision in Wrexham, and the Government has chosen to do nothing for three years.
“The most action Ministers have taken is to commission a design – which they now say they are considering. We do not need another three years of inaction and inadequate services in Wrexham because Ministers won’t act.
“It is simply not good enough, and I will tell Ministers that face-to-face when I meet them next.”