Police have opened a new £15 million custody suite in Derry as part of a modernisation programme.
The 21-cell suite, within the Waterside station site in Derry, is set to provide custody provision for the whole of the North West, from Coleraine to Strabane.
The number of people expected to be detained in the facility per month will average between 400 and 500.
The facility includes an embedded healthcare model with six specially trained custody nurse practitioners to triage detainees in custody and assess, treat and, when necessary, refer them on as appropriate.
Assistant Chief Constable Ryan Henderson described the move as part of a wider modernisation of custody provision across Northern Ireland.
“The new Waterside custody suite, designed to operate with larger numbers of detained persons, is part of a wider modernisation and improvement of custody provision across Northern Ireland to keep all those within the custody environment safe, which includes detainees, staff and other users,” he said.
“At times, we deal with detainees whose needs are complex, and may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
“It’s crucial our custody provision is fit for purpose and can continue to meet health and safety requirements while, at the same time, enable an efficient criminal justice process.”
Department of Health permanent secretary Peter May said it will allow the health service an opportunity to engage or re-engage with one of the most vulnerable populations in Northern Ireland.
“Since the introduction of the 24-hour nurse-led custody healthcare service, a number of referral pathways have been developed from police custody to both statutory and non-statutory services, such as referrals for mental health treatment, addictions treatment, and testing and treatment for blood-borne viruses,” he said.
“Belfast HSC custody nurse practitioners have treated patients in Musgrave Street (Belfast) and Antrim police custody suites, which has substantially reduced the requirement for ambulances to attend the two police stations.
“I look forward to seeing this service being regionalised across all police custody suites in the future.”