OFFENDERS are being allowed to walk free because of custody suites and cell cutbacks, it’s claimed.
Hard-pressed cops are routinely having to ferry offenders more than 60 miles to charge and detain them which is diverting them from police work.
An investigation by The Sunday Times found some drink-drivers are being freed because by the time they are taken to custody and tested they are below the legal alcohol limit.
It is believed the lack of cells is behind the collapse in the number of arrests across the country — halving even as crime has been increasing.
Ché Donald, national vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said: “This has become a particular problem in some areas, especially rural areas, where officers may be forced to drive for long distances to take offenders into custody.
“This can take the officers off the streets for a considerable period of time and in the case of drink-drivers, it may also mean offenders ultimately escaping conviction entirely.”
In some cases it was found an arrest requires a round trip of up to four hours.
This comes as police officers numbers fall amid swinging cuts to forces from 2010 as the Tory government tried to pay its debts after it bailed out banks following the 2008 financial crisis.
Officers may be forced to drive for long distances… in the case of drink-drivers, it may also mean offenders ultimately escaping conviction
Ché Donald, Police Federation vice-chairman
In Berwick-upon-Tweed, on the Scottish border, are being ferried to Newcastle upon Tyne or Wallsend which are more than 60 miles away.
This was because Berwick’s own custody suite was reduced to a so-called “contingency” operation after the local custody suite, at Dolgellau, closed.
Police in Tywyn, on the Welsh coast, have to drive suspects to Caernarfon or to Wrexham which is 60 miles away.
But it is not just small towns that are affected, big cities are too.
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Large urban forces have seen some of the biggest reductions.
The number of cells was cut by 42 per cent on Merseyside and 36 per cent in the West Midlands.
Bristol, with more than 500,000 people, no longer has any police cells.
One police officer told the Sunday Times: “We are taxi drivers now.
“We spend hours sitting in traffic. It’s like saying everyone arrested in London has to go to Potters Bar to be charged.”
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