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Could you be the person responsible for checking on a detainee's welfare?


PCC Sue Mountstevens in custody at Express Park, Bridgwater

Wouldn’t you want someone checking on your welfare if you were detained in custody?  If so, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens wants you to consider becoming an independent custody visiting volunteer.

Independent custody visiting is a vital part of the work of the Avon and Somerset Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and we are looking for people from North Bristol, Bridgwater and the surrounding areas to join the team.

Custody visiting is the well-established system whereby volunteers visit police stations to check on people in police custody; the conditions in which they are held and that their rights and entitlements are being observed.

PCC Sue Mountstevens said: "This is a great opportunity for someone looking for an exciting and rewarding volunteering role. In volunteering as an Independent Custody Visitor you are enabling me to hold the police to account on behalf of local people.

"By gaining independent insight into police custody and reporting your findings to me we can ensure policing is transparent and that local people have confidence in their police service. Do something different, become a custody visiting volunteer now."

Visits to police stations by volunteer custody visitors are unannounced and can be made at any time. The independent volunteers check that cells and other facilities within custody such as the toilets and food preparation areas are clean. 

Over 270 independent custody visits were made between April 2015 – March 2016 and of the 2404 detainees in custody during these visits, over 1400 were spoken to by independent custody visitors.

Few serious issues were reported during this period and included a lack of reading material, problems with the cutlery provided and comments regarding facilities e.g. dripping taps and showers not being offered.

Custody Visiting and Voluntary Sector Officer Anna Hill said: “Full training will be provided to all independent custody visiting volunteers and there will be the opportunity to shadow a more experienced visitor while settling in. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to meet with coordinators, Inspectors and other visitors at quarterly meetings.”

The custody record, which records everything that happens to someone while they are in police custody, may also be examined. 

If the custody visitors find any issues, these are raised with the office in charge of the custody cells or police station.  The custody visitor completes a report of each visit and copies of these reports are sent to the PCC.

If you are over aged 18, live or work in Avon and Somerset Constabulary area, have not had any direct involvement in the criminal justice system and could carry out the role of a custody visitor independently then we want to hear from you.

If you are interested in applying to become an Independent Custody Visiting Volunteer or finding out more about custody visiting in Avon and Somerset, please click here.

Posted on Tuesday 16th August 2016
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