Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire custody sharing discussed

The merger is being proposed for Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire

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The sharing of custody suites is being considered by three counties' police and crime commissioners (PCCs) in order to save money.

The plans would affect people held in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.

Critics say the move could affect vulnerable adults and children and may even end up being more expensive, due to increased transport costs.

Hertfordshire PCC David Lloyd said he wanted a more "efficient" service.

"In the context of custody that does not necessarily presume fewer suites more widely spread," he said.

"We will look at all options, including virtual courts, and issues such as proximity and capacity of existing suites."

'Make sense'

The three constabularies currently share a number of resources, including their forensic, armed response and major crime units.

Earlier in the month it was revealed plans were being discussed to merge the forces' control rooms, to save about £7m.

Sharing suites could see people who are arrested in one county being held in another while they await questioning, possibly miles from where they live.

Hertfordshire Police has 86 cells at four suites, Cambridgeshire Police has 44 cells at two suites and Bedfordshire Police has 49 cells at three suites.

It is not yet known how much money would be saved, but it is believed new suites could be built as part of the merger.

Police advisor Jon Harvey, a Labour town councillor in Buckingham who has worked with forces around the country, raised concerns that suspects could be released miles away from where they live with no way of getting home.

He said a saving for the police could see a rise in costs for other agencies, such as the Crown Prosecution Service.

David Craig, Unison representative at Cambridgeshire Police, believed it would "make sense" to pool resources, saying that increased efficiency could ultimately save jobs by giving the forces extra money to spend on staff.

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