Police move costs kept under wraps

POLICE Minister David O'Byrne has said he won't comment on the cost of taking police off prisoner guard duty in the Launceston Magistrates Court until the final deal is announced.

  Mr O'Byrne would not confirm speculation   that at least $100,000 will have to be found in a  tight police budget to get the Justice Department to take over the transport and guarding of prisoners   due to appear in  Launceston's lower court.

``We have been working extremely hard to get police out of the courts in Launceston,'' he said yesterday.

``We are in the final stages of negotiations around those arrangements, and once we finalise those we can make an announcement.''

Northern   Commander Richard Cowling said on Saturday that Launceston police   would be pulled off  duty in  the Magistrates Court from December 1.

Police will still  transport and guard prisoners required in the Launceston Supreme Court, but Commander Cowling said he was hopeful that that arrangement could also be changed in time.

Court duty is one of the most hated tasks of the day shift of Launceston's uniformed division.

On a busy court day, up   to eight police  could be pulled off patrol to transport prisoners or sit in the dock with them during a trial.

Removing police   from courts in the North and North-West  was a universal election policy, but opposition police spokeswoman Elise Archer said the weekend's announcement only went  one-fifth of the way to fulfilling the promise.

Ms Archer said the rumoured $100,000 price tag was equivalent to the salary for one sergeant, and she urged Mr O'Byrne not to make Northern police lose an officer in exchange for an arrangement that Southern Tasmania has had for years.

``This is a Band-Aid solution,'' she said.

``I am not overjoyed by the fact that it could come at the expense of another officer.''

Fifty police officers and 20 other department staff accepted a voluntary redundancy in September.

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