Belfast Telegraph

Lice infestation closes cells at city's largest custody suite in Belfast police station

By Sue Doherty

A number of cells at Musgrave police station in Belfast have been closed due to a lice infestation.

Fumigators were at Musgrave police station in Belfast on Tuesday morning, dealing with a pest infestation that has closed just under half the cells in the city's largest custody suite.

In response to a query from the Belfast Telegraph, the PSNI confirmed that the part of the custody suite at Musgrave "is currently undergoing a deep clean" but the facility is still open and operational.

Superintendent Simon Walls stated: “The deep clean at Musgrave custody suite continues, however, continuity of service has been maintained.

“It is anticipated that the suite will fully re-open on Wednesday morning.”

There are 50 custody cells at Musgrave station.

Supt Walls said up to 30 cells were still being used while the other cells were being treated. Police are also using facilities in Bangor, Armagh and Antrim.

"We have liaised with the Law Society to inform them of some changes to custody arrangements during the time of limited opening in Musgrave," he added. "We are working with our Health and Safety Branch to identify the cause of the issue."

Solicitor Joe Rice of John Rice and Co called on the PSNI and the Department of Justice to review their custody arrangements and re-open "perfectly reasonable" facilities elsewhere in the city that were closed in recent years.

Mr Rice told the Belfast Telegraph: "I have personal experience of the unsatisfactory conditions at Musgrave station.

"Staff and members of the public have been bitten by fleas, solicitors have lodged complaints on behalf of their clients and members of the public, and the Law Society of Northern Ireland has repeatedly highlighted the problems."

He described a litany of issues including lack of staff, lack of resources, poor air conditioning, inefficiencies and overcrowding.

"In the 21st century, it is disappointing to discover that, not only have conditions deteriorated to such an extent that we have a  lack of staff, resources, and air conditioning, but we now discover that there is a lack of pest control as well. Fumigators are there this morning as we speak."

The problems started, Mr Rice said, when Musgrave opened and other facilities were closed down.

"The closure of perfectly reasonably facilities such as those at Strand Road and Grosvenor Road means that anyone arrested in the greater Belfast area, Lisburn and North Co Down is brought to Musgrave.

"On the best of days, this new custody suite creaks under the sheer number of suspects. There can be up to 30-40 people there at a time.

"Interviewing and processing someone, something that should take no more than an hour, can take up to four hours."

He called for a complete review of the situation and the reopening of old custody suites.

"The facility and its work should now at least be re-examined and reviewed  by the PSNI and the Dept. of Justice. Consideration should be given to reopening perfectly adequate custody suites in the Belfast area while any review is taking place," Mr Rice concluded.

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