The lives of police officers, security staff and members of the public were put at risk by the unnecessary and hugely expensive operation to transfer Dale Cregan and his cohorts to court every day during his trial, Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner has said.
Tony Lloyd was speaking out as the full cost of the security operation was revealed to be more than £5m.
The operation, which saw a massive armed convoy and the police helicopter deployed every single day of the trial, involved more than 150 police officers who were diverted away from their normal duties.
The huge police response was necessary to ensure that no attempt was made to free Cregan or his co-accused during the transfer – and to ensure the safety of the public. In recent years several prisoners have been freed from convoys in Manchester during transfer between prison and court.
Tony has questioned why the 70-mile round trip was necessary – when there is a prison just HALF A MILE away from the court in Preston.
Both Tony and Greater Manchester Police’s Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy wrote to the government to suggest that Preston prison be recategorised for the duration of the trial, but this sensible suggestion was rebuffed – ironically because of cost. They even offered armed GMP officers to guard Cregan in Preston 24 hours a day, a pragmatic offer which was also rejected.
“I’d like to thank both Lancashire and Greater Manchester Police for the excellent work they did in transferring this gang to court every day. They had an incredibly difficult job to do to keep the public safe and did so, despite the clear risk,” Tony said.
“But I am very angry that the good men and women of Greater Manchester and Lancashire Police, security staff and – most importantly of all – members of the public were put at risk by this operation, which was simply unnecessary.
“Let’s not forget that Cregan’s crimes included the murders of two police officers. Every minute this convoy was on the road there was a danger that another police officer could have been seriously injured or killed.
“Even setting aside that concern, this operation diverted police resources away from where they were needed, it inconvenienced commuters and residents along the route - and it was ridiculously expensive.
“Both myself and the Chief Constable made representations at the highest level of government. They simply washed their hands of it, referring us to the National Offender Management Service, who said it was too expensive to convert Preston Prison. They came up with a crazy figure of £10m, which is simply pie in the sky. Their chief concern seemed to be that they didn’t want to make the investment.
“So it appears that common sense can be scattered to the wind if you don’t have to pick up the tab. In the end, of course, we’ve all had to pay for this operation because, although the Home Office have agreed to cover some of the costs, the taxpayer is still significantly out of pocket at a time when finances across the public sector are stretched so much.
“I will be raising this, once again, with the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary as it is simply unacceptable to expose the public and those served to protect us to this kind of risk. We need to find a sensible way to avoid this in the future.”