How can it cost £383 for night in the cells?

Douglas police headquarters

Douglas police headquarters

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For the cost of a night’s accommodation with the Isle of Man Constabulary, a guest could stay at a top London hotel and still have change for a few drinks, according to latest prices quoted.

Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson recently put a figure of £383 on the average cost of an overnight stay in the police cells, in response to a question in Tynwald from Middle MHK Howard Quayle.

Mr Quayle said he had no idea how the figure was arrived at and had no breakdown of costs, but added: ‘If you are in a cell you have to be inspected every 15 minutes so I assume it’s the cost of an officer’s time and the cell being there so it ties up people who would otherwise be working the streets. A small number of people are costing the taxpayer a fortune and it’s not fair.’

However, a spokesman for Home Affairs pointed out costs varied depending on the detainee’s needs and the average sum quoted did include fixed costs related to buildings and staffing, adding: ‘The £383 includes the costs associated with providing the building, maintenance, running costs, food, staff salaries, medical costs, equipment.

‘The DHA constantly looks at ways of reducing costs in all areas. The use of cells is primarily for holding those who are arrested suspected of committing an offence, for the public’s protection and for an individual’s safety – particularly if they are intoxicated. The police have been very successful in reducing the number of cell nights as a result of intoxication – from 943 to 643 in five years.’

Anyone with a sceptical point of view might be forgiven for believing the figure given in Tynwald was inflated. After all, fixed costs such as salaries and maintenance would be the same whether the cell was occupied or empty.

A quick survey of hotel prices in London finds costs of a night’s accommodation there vary from around £30 a night for something basic, only topping the police cell league with the Dorchester, in the exclusive Mayfair district, offering rooms at a special rate of £415 or the Ritz in Piccadilly (‘Rooms individually decorated with Louis XVI furnishings’) which comes in around the £350 mark.

For the more discerning guest wanting a suite at the Dorchester, costs range from the open plan 60 square metre offering at £895 per night to the top of the range suites which boast a partition between bedroom and lounge and have around 108 square metres of space, some with views over Hyde Park.

Closer to home, the famous four-star Sefton Hotel on Douglas seafront next to the Gaiety Theatre offers visitors a basic room for the bargain price of £70 or a suite at £250.

Click here for a reminder of our first story about this.

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