On Friday (16 October), Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) John Smith spent the day virtually meeting local organisations at the heart of the criminal justice system.
The impact of mental health issues, county lines gangs and reduced resources due to the pandemic were highlighted to the Deputy PCC during his community day, which started with a virtual meeting with Appropriate Adult volunteers from Bridgwater.
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) co-commissions the Appropriate Adult service to help support the most vulnerable in our communities. The service supports and safeguards the welfare and rights of vulnerable adults that are detained or being interviewed by the police in Somerset.
During the virtual meetings, Appropriate Adult volunteers raised concerns about the impact of the pandemic on their capacity to carry out the service effectively, the impact of the court backlog on young people in custody and the difficulties surrounding virtual meetings with solicitors and other representatives for vulnerable adults.
The Deputy PCC then virtually met with Independent Custody Visitor (ICV) volunteers based in Bridgwater. The team are working hard to ensure those in custody have their needs adhered to and their rights observed.
Anita, an ICV Coordinator based in Bridgwater, shed light on the difficulties that the pandemic has had on custody such as the complications surrounding virtual visits to custody and the need to raise awareness of the role of ICVs in the community.
Since becoming Deputy PCC back in April, PCC Sue Mountstevens has asked me to lead on a number of priorities over the next few months. One of these is leading our local work to reduce reoffending by working with probation, prison services, local authorities and other partners.
The meetings today have given me a real insight into the work taking place behind closed doors. It’s really important for myself and Sue to understand the work taking place “on the ground” so we can ensure we introduce real, impactful change from a strategic level.Deputy PCC John Smith
Following this meeting, the Deputy PCC spoke virtually to the Advice and Support at Custody and Courts (ASCC) team. The service works with offenders who have mental health problems, learning disabilities or substance misuse issues from the point of arrest, custody, to court and in the community.
The team raised concerns regarding the lack of provision for homeless members of the community and issues surrounding the large geographical landscape of Somerset that provides continued issues for the provision of the service. The Deputy PCC will raise these concerns with the policing team and local authorities in attempt to come to a more effective solution for those needing support from the service.
The Deputy PCC then met with representatives from Lighthouse, a practical and emotional support service for victims including guidance through the criminal justice system offered by specially trained staff.
Finally, the Deputy PCC joined the Bridgwater Neighbourhood Policing team for a walkabout with PCSOs on duty to meet local people and find out more about issues facing the community.