Paul is a volunteer Independent Custody Visitor at Aylesbury Police Station. He feels that this is an important role and says that he gets far more out of volunteering than he feels he puts in.

What is your role?
I’m part of a team of independent custody volunteers who make unannounced visits to people held in police custody to check on their rights, entitlements, wellbeing and dignity. The independent custody visiting scheme is run by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, and all my custody visits are to Aylesbury Police Station.

What attracted you to this role?
I have been volunteering for years in various roles, including those that the Volunteer Matching Service matched me to. They have always tended to be practical roles, very worthwhile and rewarding but the Independent Custody Visiting role offered more of an intellectual challenge than some other roles. I worked for the Police Service many years ago and that also played a part in piquing my interest.

What difference do you think your role makes?
It is an opportunity to be an independent voice commenting on the running of the custody process. It is important to both the person being detained and to the Police who have placed that person in custody, providing an independent perspective to both sides.

Was there a long induction process before you could get started?
It did take a while – I was matched to the role in July but did not do my first custody visit until December. For a while, visits were difficult to do because of Covid-19. Both the interview stage and the induction process were positive experiences and so didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the role.

What has the experience been like so far?
It is living up to my expectations and the induction process prepared me very well, so there have been no real surprises. The most interesting bit is meeting people in very unusual circumstances and working out how to have a conversation with them that reassures them of my independence and can establish whether they are being properly treated without prying into how they came to be detained. Some detainees definitely welcome the human element that the custody visits provide.

Would you recommend this role to others?
Yes, I am enjoying it and would be happy to talk to anyone about the role. Anyone who has an independent perspective, and an open mind could volunteer as a custody visitor. It would actually be good to have more diversity across the team reflecting other the wider range of equality characteristics.

Would you recommend volunteering generally?
Yes. It seems to me that in every role I have, I get more from the experience than I feel I have given. I have met such a variety of people that I would not otherwise have done. Most importantly, I feel I am part of something that is delivering for the common good.

Additional information:

You can find out more about Independent Custody Visitors on the website for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

If you are looking for a volunteering role, you can:

Check out the latest volunteering roles in Buckinghamshire which are published on national databases Do-it and Reach Volunteering.

Updated on September 18, 2023

Image courtesy of St Francis's Children Society