A new £23million justice centre in Inverness could be physically joined onto a city police station to save money transporting defendants, help protect witnesses and cut the number of wasted officer hours.
Chief Superintendent Julian Innes yesterday highlighted the “opportunities” for the force that will arise from plans to move the court service out of Inverness Castle.
It was announced earlier this month that the new justice centre would be located on land between the city’s Burnett Road police station and the railway line leading north out of the Highland capital.
The facility – which it was claimed would “set the standard” for the rest of Scotland – will incorporate new courts, as well as providing space for a number of agencies involved in the justice system, including the Crown Office, social work department, Women’s Aid and Citizens Advice among others.
Mr Innes, who revealed this week that he was retiring, said that he was “quite excited” about the potential for the police service to join up with the work at the new centre.
“Part of the consequence of moving out of the city centre for the justice centre would be an opportunity to work a lot closer than we are doing,” he said.
“I understand they’ve been having a look at sites around the Burnett Road police station, so that gives us a tremendous opportunity for co-location.
“In an ideal world there would be some sort of linkage between the two buildings, so if we were to transport a custody to court, if there was an ability to walk them in a secure environment to the court, that would obviously save a lot of time and effort, and make the whole justice system more efficient and safer for everybody.”
The area commander added: “Clearly if we can reduce the amount of officer time sitting and waiting to give evidence then that has to be a good thing, because they can be doing something else. We would put that time to good use.
“Say there was a justice centre right next to Burnett Road police station, I would probably then create a dedicated secure room in the police station where the witnesses could sit, and the police officers could do police work.
“There’s a lot of plusses for us, and we’re already engaging with people on this. There are a lot of opportunities.”