Police charged £2,700 a day to use cells

By Roddy AshworthESSEX Police has charged up to £2,700 a day for holding suspected illegal immigrants in a police cell.The price, by far the highest levied by any force in the country, is the equivalent to the cost of the most expensive two-bedroom luxury rooftop suite at London's exclusive Dorchester Hotel.

By Roddy Ashworth

ESSEX Police has charged up to £2,700 a day for holding suspected illegal immigrants in a police cell.

The price, by far the highest levied by any force in the country, is the equivalent to the cost of the most expensive two-bedroom luxury rooftop suite at London's exclusive Dorchester Hotel.

The revelation came in a Government report written by civil servants and consultants grappling with the spiralling cost of immigration enforcement.


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It recommended that negotiations to bring down the cost be “pursued and concluded with urgency” with the Association of Police Chief Officers.

The report said Essex Police charged between £1,500 and £2,700 per person per 24-hour period to hold the Immigration Service detainees between December 2002 and May 2003.

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The next highest figure was Sussex Police at about £1,700, while the average across the country was £360 - the equivalent of a night in a superior room at the Ritz Hotel in London.

But the report pointed out that in the same period the Association of Police Chief Officers had an agreement with the Prison Service to charge just £110 a day for its detainees to be kept in police cells.

The Immigration Service used police cells for 31,033 nights in the financial year 2003-4. If it was charged the same amount as the Prison Service, it would be able to save £7.75million a year, the report said.

“The average cost of detentions per night in police cells paid by the Immigration Service is significantly higher than the rate paid by HM Prison Service,” it said.

“The cost to the Immigration Service of detention in police cells is both large and varied - from £55 to over £2,700 for a 24-hour period.

“Some police authorities do not charge at all, but these represent a very small proportion of the overall police cell usage.

“Not only is the variance in costs striking, but the average cost compared to that paid by HM Prison Service is also remarkable.”

The report also found the Immigration Service had been forced to rely on the police because its own facilities were full.

“We also understand that there are plans in hand to provide more temporary holding facilities for the Immigration Service to reduce their reliance on police cells. This initiative should also be pursued aggressively,” it said.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We believe the accounting is wrong and the figures are inaccurate, and our finance staff are waiting to examine the invoices concerned.”

A Home Office spokesman said negotiations were continuing with the Association of Chief Police Officers to reach an agreed cost of £55 per 12 hours.

That would bring the amount paid by the Immigration Service in line with the £110 per 24 hours currently paid by the Prison Service.

“The reason there is such a variation is that it is up to each individual police force to decide how much to charge,” he said.

“There's no formal agreement at present for charging, which is why we are proposing a new system.”

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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