Northern Ireland

Lice infestation at police custody suite

Head louse. Coloured Scanning Electron Micrograph (SEM) of a human head louse Pediculus humanus capitis, with an egg. The louse is clinging to a human hair. Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Sources said a deep clean of the facility was to begin early on Tuesday morning

Part of Northern Ireland's largest police custody suite has been closed because of an infestation of lice.

It is understood that 20 of the 50 holding cells in Musgrave PSNI station in Belfast city centre are not currently in use.

Sources said a deep clean of the facility was to begin early on Tuesday morning.

Solicitors have been told clients may have to be taken to other police stations later.

The Law Society for Northern Ireland, which regulates and represents solicitors, said it expected Musgrave station to be fully operational by 07:00 BST on Wednesday.

The society said contingency plans hadbeen put in place to take people to holding cells in Antrim, Armagh and Bangor if needed.

'Unsatisfactory and unhygienic'

Solicitor Joe Rice, of John Rice and Co, said the Musgrave PSNI station had also been infested with fleas.

Police and other members of staff had been bitten, with some being forced to go home, said the prominent criminal lawyer.

"There has to be a re-examination of the facilities there," Mr Rice told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster Programme.

"Many of us within the legal profession have lodged complaints on behalf of our clients.

"There's very little air conditioning... conditions are terribly unsatisfactory, and now it's been discovered they're unhygienic."

The issue was a symptom of a wider malaise in the custody system, said Mr Rice.

He recommend that custody suites closed as a result of cost-cutting measures should be reopened.