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New custody facility recognised with design award

Custody suite story

One of the newest buildings in Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry’s policing estate has been recognised with a regional design award.

The state-of the-art custody suite, which opened in the autumn, recently won the Design Excellence Award at the East Midlands Property Awards.

The award recognises buildings that set high standards in both aesthetic and functional design.

Work on the new purpose-built 50-cell facility was completed by contractor Wilmot Dixon in August last year and welcomed its first detainees the following month.

The building, constructed on disused land off Radford Road, was designed from the ground up with detainees in mind – with experienced custody staff consulted at every stage of the process.

Maggie Khiari, a custody support officer with more than 30 years of experience, is responsible for the day-to-day welfare of detainees.

She said: “Working in custody is hard because the people we are dealing with can be very volatile. They may be under the impact of drink or drugs; or may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

“Ultimately our job is to keep people safe and comfortable while their cases are being investigated, and I have always found that the best way to do that is to treat people well – to put them in a clean cell and to ensure they have everything they need to be comfortable.

“Clearly the building itself plays a massive part in all of that and I am pleased to say that this new building is a vast improvement to what we had before.

“It is all on one level so we no longer have the issue of going up and down stairs; it is full of natural light; it is spacious, clean and has generally been designed from the ground up with the needs of detainees and staff in mind.

“We even have a separated vulnerable wing for detainees who are disabled, are under 18 or living with conditions like autism. Everything really has been thought of and the project team really have to take a lot of credit for that.”

Every person who is arrested in Nottinghamshire is now taken to one of two custody facilities – in Mansfield and Radford. Once their detention is authorised by a custody sergeant they are usually held for a maximum of 24 hours as officers investigate the circumstances of their arrest and work to secure criminal charges.

During their time at the new custody suite detainees (depending on their level of risk) have access to warm food and drink, reading and other distraction materials.

Custody Support Officer Khiari added: “I know some people will say that we are treating our detainees too well, but it’s important to remember that the people who come here have not necessarily committed an offence – they are just being investigated. We are not here to punish them and it’s important we remember that.”

In addition to the modern detention facility, the building also houses interview and consultation rooms as well as office space for police staff tasked with investigating offences.

It replaced the old Bridewell custody facility in Nottingham city centre which required significant and costly upgrades.

Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry said: “This new custody suite is one the best in the country, incorporating not only stylish and energy-efficient design features but the most modern standards for the welfare of detainees and staff.

“Forces around the country have visited since it opened to pick up ideas and see it in action and this design award is yet another sign that this facility really is a centre of excellence.” 

Nick Heath, a director at Willmott Dixon, said: “We are delighted to have delivered this award-winning custody suite for Nottinghamshire Police, providing vital facilities to meet the needs of modern law enforcement and detainee wellbeing.

"The cutting-edge design doesn’t just focus on visual appeal. The way in which spaces will be used has been carefully considered to promote safety, efficiency and wellbeing.”

Posted on Tuesday 25th October 2022
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