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Force re-opens site which left largest town without custody cells

Unpopular decision to save money reversed five years after it was taken

GMP has reopened its custody suite in Bolton this week reversing a controversial decision taken five years ago which left the UK’s largest town without any police custody facilities.

The decision was extremely unpopular with both officers and duty solicitors who would have to process Bolton’s very large arrest throughput as far afield as Wigan and Swinton.  

The reopening of the Custody Suite was fast-tracked by Chief Constable Stephen Watson.

The 19-cell modern suite at Bolton Police Station, in Scholey Street, Burnden, was closed in 2017 after it was decided it would only be used for custody cases in “exceptional circumstances”.

People arrested in Bolton were directed to custody suites at neighbouring stations in Wigan, Swinton and Bury depending on where the incident occurred.

A lot of police hours were lost transporting detainees to other locations after the decision to close the facility was made in order to save money.

The Scholey Street station opened a decade ago with 19 cells, replacing the force’s previous Howell Croft North base and boasting a modern custody suite with expanded cell capacity. It was then closed after a consultation exercise.

Now CC Watson has decided the site will be re-opened and used as a full-time custody suite to increase custody capacity in support of GMP's renewed focus on investigating crime, looking after victims, arresting offenders and protecting neighbourhoods.

Ahead of its permanent reopening, the suite was temporarily used during last year’s Bonfire Night weekend as part of the force’s planned capacity boost for cells.

 Assistant Chief Constable, Chris Sykes, said: "The reopening of Bolton custody reflects our commitment to Bolton and the wider community to improve GMP's service to the public, which includes catching more criminals and locking them up.

“This is a key element of the Chief Constable’s improvement plan, so the reopening of this site is a significant step towards achieving the vision that has been set out. We’re taking the fight to criminals with local initiatives and force-wide operations, such as Op AVRO, so increasing our custody capacity helps allow us to take the positive action that is needed and ensure justice for victims.

“Our new prisoner processing units will also make sure that the increased numbers of people arrested will be processed to face justice in the quickest possible time.

“We hope that getting suspected offenders off the streets and into custody, will go some way to improving our communities’ confidence in policing as it shows that their concerns are being heard and we’re taking action.”

Chief Superintendent Stuart Ellison of GMP’s Bolton District, said:  “A lot of hard work and planning has taken place to get the facility back up and running, and there is a clear strategic approach to custody provision to ensure consistency and professional standards.

“The reopening of the site provides us with a firm foundation to improve our custody process and provide broader outcomes for detainees.”

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