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Volunteer Schemes

Independent Custody Visitors Justin Whitehorn and Janet Hodgson talk to Philip in the cell

The Commissioner runs two volunteers schemes currently

  • Independent Custody Visitors
  • Appropriate Adults

You can read about them here. If you would like to volunteer, please get in touch with us and keep an eye on our Jobs and Opportunities page for when we are recruiting or register your interest using the email address below.

Independent Custody Visitors

“Independent Custody Visiting is the well-established system whereby volunteers attend police stations to check on the treatment of detainees and the conditions in which they are held and that their rights and entitlements are being observed. It offers protections to both detainees and the police and reassurance to the community at large.”
— Home Office Code of Practice, 2003

Independent Custody Visitors are members of the community who have been selected through an interview and training process. They come from a variety of backgrounds and sections of the community. They must be over 18 and have no direct involvement in the criminal justice system, for example, magistrates, serving police officers or special constables are excluded. Their main duty is to visit police stations unannounced to check on the welfare of people in police custody. Visits are always undertaken in pairs.

Role of the Custody Visitor

A police custody suite

A police custody suite

Custody Suites are visited weekly, with the actual timing being at their own discretion. On arrival at the custody suite, Custody Visitors are escorted to the custody area. The detainees are identified by their custody number allowing the strictest application of confidentiality. Interviews with detainees are normally carried out within sight, but out of hearing of the escorting officer to ensure the highest level of personal safety.

A report is completed after each visit. It provides an insight into the running of the custody area at the time of the visit. Copies of the report are provided for the Police, Police and Crime Commissioner and the Independent Custody Visitor themselves. Information provided is vital evidence on the environmental and welfare conditions in which the detainees are held. The information is analysed and the areas for action are highlighted.

Please see the report below which summarises the work of the scheme during the past year:

Custody Visitor Panels

There are two panels of ICVs in Warwickshire, one for the north of the county (8 members) and one for the south (13 members). The Northern Panel visit the custody suite in the Nuneaton Justice Centre and the Southern Panel visit detainees held at the Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington Spa.

Each Panel nominates a volunteer to carry out the role. Panel co-ordinators have additional responsibility in relation to the scheme which includes:

  • producing the annual visiting roster
  • arranging and chairing panel meetings
  • raising issues arising from visits with the relevant police Inspector
  • identifying training needs
  • meeting on a regular basis with the designated officer in the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner

 

Appropriate Adults

The Appropriate Adult Scheme is designed to support vulnerable adults in Warwickshire who have contact with the police, to safeguard their interests, rights, entitlements and welfare.

‘Appropriate adults’ are members of the public who volunteer to ensure people with mental ill-health, learning difficulties and autism are treated fairly when they are interviewed by the police.

The scheme ensures that vulnerable people can understand the criminal justice process, reducing the risk of miscarriages of justice as a result of evidence being obtained from suspects which lead to unjust convictions.

In Warwickshire, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has established an Appropriate Adult Scheme for vulnerable people aged 18 or over. This operates across the Warwickshire Police custody centres at Leamington Spa and Nuneaton.

Separate arrangements are already in place to provide appropriate adults to children and young people under the age of 18.

What does an appropriate adult do?

An appropriate adult can be requested to support a vulnerable person throughout some of the important stages they will go through during their stay in custody. This can include when they first receive their rights and entitlements, when they are interviewed or if they are searched, tested for drugs or DNA samples obtained. It will also include if the person is charged with an offence.

Appropriate adults can also be requested to accompany a vulnerable person at any voluntary interviews they attend.

The appropriate adult does not give legal advice. Instead, he or she is there to ensure the detained person is treated fairly.

Volunteers need to be flexible and available to attend police custody facilities at short notice.

You can find out more about the role on the National Appropriate Adult Network website.

We’re an award winning scheme!

Appropriate Adult volunteers Gary Brinkworth (left) and Martin O'Reilly (right) with Warwickshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Emma Daniell (centre)

Pictured are Appropriate Adult volunteers Gary Brinkworth (left) and Martin O’Reilly (right) with Warwickshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Emma Daniell at the Lord Ferrers Awards in London.

In 2022 our scheme won a Lord Ferrers Award in recognition of the outstanding help and support it has provided to vulnerable people since being established earlier in the year.

In their first six months, the Appropriate Adults completed an amazing 200 hours of voluntary service through more than 70 call-outs, helping to support at least 65 vulnerable adults during that time.

Their efforts were commended by the Lord Ferrers Awards judges, who selected the Warwickshire scheme as the winner of the OPCC Volunteer Award.

Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe said: “To have won a prestigious Lord Ferrers Award within the first year of operation is an extremely impressive achievement and shows the phenomenal efforts our volunteers have made to ensuring the success of the scheme.

“The quality of support they have offered to some of the most vulnerable and often frightened detainees has been extremely valuable, not only to the individuals concerned but also in terms of the feedback they are able to give my office and the force about the standards and processes within the custody environment.”