If you find yourself in a police cell accused of a crime, who makes sure you are treated fairly?
That is the role of the six independent volunteer custody visitors who monitor what goes on at the police investigation centre at Saddlebow.
To coincide with this week’s Volunteers Week, one of the Lynn custody visitors, who was honoured by the borough earlier this year, has spoken of how she got involved and how important she believes the scheme is.
Trudie Needham, from Little Snoring, near Fakenham, has been a custody visitor for the past nine years, having got involved in the programme almost by chance.
She said: “My husband saw an advert and he said ‘That sounds interesting. Why not give it a go’ and that’s what I did.”
Mrs Needham often gives at least two hours of her time each week and visits the Lynn PIC with one of her colleagues at least once a month.
During a visit, Mrs Needham will check how many people are being held in the centre’s 24 cells, whether any of them are juveniles and if there are any physical or mental health issues to be considered.
Other areas that form part of the visitors’ remit include making sure detainees are given food and drink, as well as access to legal representation.
Although visitors are able to access custody records, Mrs Needham said of individual inmates: “We don’t know their name and we don’t know why they’re there. We’re just here to check things are being done in the correct fashion.”
Her contribution saw her honoured with a Mayor’s award for voluntary service earlier this year for working on a scheme that she believes is essential.
She said: “What I do safeguards detainees and the police too. Generally, people are very quick to highlight when things go wrong, but we don’t always hear about the things that are done well.
“By visiting detainees and reporting on what I see, I am offering reassurance to the public that the police are doing what they should be and treating people fairly and with respect.”
If the visitors see something they are not happy with, they can raise it with either the custody sergeant or duty inspector, though Mrs Needham said: “I have never had that situation.”
That evidence is backed up by figures released by the office of the county’s police and crime commissioner, Stephen Bett, which said that no threats or cases of serious harm had been reported by almost 650 inmates who were seen by the visitors across the county last year.
Mr Bett said: “It is particularly pleasing when those detained specifically comment that they are satisfied with their treatment whilst in police custody - 179 such comments were logged on visit reports.
“The commitment and enthusiasm on the part of ICVs is substantial, and my continued thanks go to all those who give freely of their time in support of Independent Custody Visiting in Norfolk.”