Cells criticised as 'Victorianesque'

Lawyer says cells not suitable

SARAH JARVIS
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2014
Authorised officer Adrian Balman outside one of the Timaru police cells

LOCKED UP: Authorised officer Adrian Balman outside one of the Timaru police cells which have been described as ‘‘spartan’’ and not suitable for prisoners involved in lengthy trials.

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Timaru police cells are up to scratch in spite of lawyers criticising their condition, the area police commander says.

Inspector Dave Gaskin has defended the condition of the cells after a defence lawyer, Christopher Stevenson, requested bail for his client, saying the cells were "Victorianesque".

"I am not the first defence lawyer who has objected to the state of the cells," he told Justice Dunningham in the High Court in Timaru. "It's a harsh environment to spend time in".

Stevenson said the condition of the cells was not suitable for defendants facing lengthy trials.

His concerns included "an absolutely filthy pillow", "no natural lighting" and "a light being left on all night".

He said this combined to provide an environment that was "not appropriate for a correct frame of mind".

Gaskin said it was just another ploy from defence lawyers to try to get their clients bail.

"It's something that's come up recently in attempts by defence counsellors to get bail."

Gaskin said the Timaru police cells were "perfectly adequate".

"They are certainly not a four star-hotel but the prisoners get three meals a day and are looked after," he said.

Last year, Christchurch-based lawyer Paul McMenamin raised the issue of staying long-term in the Timaru police cells.

"They are not desirable or equipped for a long stay. They are only suitable for what they are designed for and that's a stay of one or two nights."

He said the cells were cold, especially in winter, and spartan.

"There's also only a very thin mattress on a little base."

McMenamin said his comments in court were made in the context of his defendant having to be present for a six-week trial.

He said the one redeeming feature was that most defendants only stayed four nights at a time before being transported back to Christchurch for the weekend.

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- The Timaru Herald

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