Plans to downgrade Dalkeith Police Station custody centre

Dalkeith Police Station will no longer have lock-up facilities under new plans to downgrade its custody centre.

Monday, 17th May 2021, 2:13 pm
Updated Monday, 17th May 2021, 2:14 pm
Dalkeith Police Station.

Police Scotland has revealed plans to stop staffing the cells there, making it an ‘ancillary’ centre which will only be used during major events or as back-up. The move will mean people arrested who would have been taken into custody in the Midlothian station now face being transported to St Leonard’s in Edinburgh for lock-up.

A meeting of East Lothian’s Police, Fire and Community Safety Scrutiny Committee, was told that the proposals would free up two additional local police officers for the county. However, concerns were raised by councillors about the additional journey time it would take for officers to transport people in custody to the Edinburgh station.

Suzie Mertes, from Police Scotland’s Criminal Justice Services division, said that the number of people being taken into custody in Scotland had halved from 200,000 to 100,000 in recent times and changes were being made as part of an annual review.

She told the committee that providing custody services at St Leonard’s would be better for prisoners who might be vulnerable as more support services were available and would benefit local officers who were currently drafted in to “backfill” for custody officers when they were on leave. It was not made clear whether the decision to take custody officers away from Dalkeith would see opening hours of the station reduced or changed. However, Ms Mertes stressed that the custody facilities would not close completely and would be available for major events in the area or times when it was felt they were needed.

And she said that current custody staff based at Dalkeith would be given the option to transfer their services to support local policing. She added: “In terms of Dalkeith, should someone need to be brought in for an interview it will be open. This is a flexible model that will allow us to push and pull resources into Dalkeith when needed.”

Concerns were raised about the additional journey time for officers transporting prisoners to St Leonard’s; however, Ms Mertes said that the benefits outweighed the disadvantages, pointing out that officers could sometimes find themselves manning empty cells at Dalkeith.

Councillor Jim Goodfellow, committee convenor, said that the move could prove beneficial to those who found themselves spending a night in the cells as well.

And the decision was welcomed by the committee convenor to downgrade Dalkeith’s custody centre from a full-time operation to ‘ancillary’.

He said: “There are some concerns that there is movement towards the centre of Edinburgh but there may be some benefit for the poor souls taken into custody.

“If they are released from Dalkeith, getting back to North Berwick is an absolute nightmare, whereas if they are released from St Leonard’s, getting back to North Berwick is substantially easier.”