Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe has spent a night in the cells at Leamington Police Station to help highlight the many different ways the safety of detainees in police custody is maintained.
Mr Seccombe bedded down for the night on Wednesday evening (February 19), spending a total of 14 hours in his cell to experience for himself the conditions a detainee would receive.
After being booked in by the Custody Sergeant, he was searched and valuables were taken away to be kept secure for the night, before being taken to his cell, where he was given drinks, a blanket and some books to read during his overnight stay.
While in the cells he was visited by the Independent Custody Visitors, who are volunteers who conduct unannounced visits to the police custody units at both Leamington and Nuneaton, to provide an independent assurance service, talking to detainees, police officers and custody staff to ensure the welfare of all.
Speaking after his ‘release’ on Thursday morning, Mr Seccombe said: “It was definitely an interesting and challenging experience and I am glad to have done it, though it’s something I probably wouldn’t want to do again. The time extends in your mind and you feel quite vulnerable when you are locked inside the cell.
“The point of doing this is really so I can understand some of the vulnerabilities that detainees have while they are in custody and I’ve now got a bit of the flavour of what they might feel, being locked up, feeling vulnerable, not knowing what the future might hold for them.
“I must confess I haven’t felt so lonely for some time. You feel rather helpless, but you think: ‘well I’m here, I’m not getting out for some time, so let’s think about it, make yourself comfortable’ and it’s actually quite a good chance to reflect on all sorts of things.
“Throughout the night I could hear other detainees coming in, some noisier than others but I heard good things from the custody sergeants and the detention officers; human comments like: ‘We’re actually here to help you, we’re not here to make life worse for you.’ Of course, all of those who come in here are innocent until they are proven guilty and that’s really the point behind the custody visitors, who are there to make sure that detainees are properly looked after in the same way that you would expect any relative of yours to be looked after.
“After this experience, I want to make sure we build on all of the efforts already in place which ensure that those who come into custody are properly treated, mental health problems are identified and properly addressed and that our armed forces veterans who find themselves coming into custody have the right level of support. In the longer term, we can then hopefully reduce the overall numbers that come into custody in the first place.”
As well as raising awareness of the police custody environment and role of Independent Custody Visitors, Mr Seccombe also used the opportunity to highlight the Care of Police Survivors and Army Benevolent Fund charities, to whom he is making a donation and is encouraging others to do the same. So far more than £2,000 has been pledged between the two charities.
To join Mr Seccombe in making a donation, use the following links:
Anyone interested in finding out more about becoming a custody visitor should visit: www.warwickshire-pcc.gov.uk/working-together/independent-custody-visitor-scheme