Around 400 prisoners are to be temporarily housed in police cells due to a lack of capacity in adult male prisons. The protocol, known as Operation Safeguard, has been called upon before, although not since 2008.

Operation Safeguard

If you have been accused of a criminal offence, contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. We offer free police station representation and are members of the Legal Aid scheme. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“Sudden increase in the prison population”

The Ministry of Justice recently told Parliament that adult male prisoners would have to be held in police cells, rather than prisons.

By way of explanation, the Minister blamed the “acute and sudden increase in the prison population” on the “Criminal Bar Association strike over the summer”. This is said to have “led to a significantly higher number of offenders on remand” and a “surge in offenders…coming through the criminal justice system”.

The Criminal Bar Assocation, which represents criminal barristers, denies this claim. It says the remand population was already at a decade high, even before the strike action occurred.

Operation Safeguard

Despite the difference of opinion, the fact remains that there are not enough prison places to house the adult male prison population. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there were around 10,000 people on remand. Now, the total number is about 14,000.

That is why the Ministry of Justice has called upon the National Police Chiefs’ Council to request the temporary use of 400 police cells. This is not the first time such a request has been made. There is already protocol in place, known as Operation Safeguard, which has previously been used during periods of high demand.

The Minister said this “will provide the immediate additional capacity we need in the coming weeks to ensure the smooth running of the prison estate, and to continue taking dangerous criminals off the streets”.

At this moment, the protocol does not apply to those entering women’s and youth prisons, where there is sufficient capacity.

20,000 new prison places

The Ministry of Justice has announced that 20,000 additional prison places are being created to accommodate the rising prison population.

Speaking to Parliament, the Minister said: “We have already created over 3,100 of them, including the recent change of use of His Majesty’s Prison Morton Hall and our brand-new prison, HMP Five Wells. A further 1,700 places are due to come online with occupation in tranches from next spring with the opening of HMP Fosse Way.”

“This is in addition to the thousands of further places that will become available through additional house blocks – for example at HMP Stocken, which is due to finish construction next year – and major refurbishment programmes across the existing estate. Just a few weeks ago, I attended a ground breaking ceremony at the site beside HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire, where we have started construction for the next new prison, which will hold 1,500 category C prisoners when it opens in 2025.”

Are you being held in proper and safe conditions?

As criminal defence solicitors, we take the health and safety of our clients very seriously. When you instruct us, we will make sure that you are held in safe and proper conditions. We will also advise you of your legal rights and privileges, making sure that they are protected at all times.

Contact us now

Do you need a criminal defence lawyer? Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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