A series of unannounced checks were made of police custody cells across the North West and North Wales yesterday as part of a coordinated visit by the region’s independent volunteers to mark National Volunteers Week.
Simultaneous visits were made at the custody suites in St Helens, St Anne Street, Copy Lane and on the Wirral, as well as stations across the entire region at precisely 7.30pm by the Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) to mark the national celebration event which this year runs from June 1st to June 12th.
ICVs are volunteers who undertake random checks on police facilities to make sure those who are being kept in the cells are being cared for appropriately and in the correct conditions.
The visits were co-ordinated and overseen by the offices of the respective Police and Crime Commissioner, which operate the Independent Custody Visiting scheme in their areas.
The voluntary ICV scheme was established following the recommendations of Lord Scarman in 1981 after his investigation into the Brixton riots and first began to operate in Merseyside in April 1984, with 20 members of the public being trained as visitors. There are now 33 dedicated volunteers in Merseyside and over the last year they have carried out a total of 245 spot checks at custody suites across the region, offering to check on those who are being held.
On Friday evening, Merseyside’s Deputy Police Commissioner Cllr Sue Murphy joined the Chair of the ICV scheme, Reverend Peter Beaman, to carry out visits to the cells at Copy Lane and St Anne Street police stations.
Today she has thanked the volunteers for their dedication today and throughout the year.
Sue said: “Our fantastic volunteers dedicate their free time to travel around the region making sure those who are being held in police cells are being treated fairly and correctly.
“This safeguard is in place to ensure that the way we detain men and women, young and old is appropriate and fair.
“Detainees are potentially vulnerable and these visits by our volunteers are an important protection for them and provide real reassurance to me, to Chief Officers and to the public that all is well in our justice system.
“I saw for myself on Friday just how important this scheme is to the people who have been detained and, as we celebrate Volunteers Week, I would like to thank our 33 volunteers who give their time so generously for their hard work, dedication and commitment.”
Volunteers’ Week is an annual event which takes place at the start of June. It celebrates the contribution made by millions of volunteers across the UK. It’s run by NCVO in partnership with Volunteer Development Scotland, Volunteer Now (Northern Ireland) and Wales Council for Voluntary Action.
Over 21 million people volunteer in the UK at least once a year and this contributes an estimated £23.9bn to the UK economy.
This year the event has been extended to last an extra five days to enable even more people to participate. The end of Volunteers’ Week will also coincide with the Patron’s Lunch on 12 June, a celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s lifetime of service to more than 600 charities and organisations to which The Queen acts as a Patron, on the occasion of her 90th birthday.
Find out more about Volunteers' Week.
30 years of dedication
Reverend Peter Beaman has dedicated more than 30 years of his life to checking on the welfare of detainees.
He volunteered to become one of the first ever ICVs when the scheme was founded and stood to be the Chair at the first ever meeting in April 1984.
Since then he has carried out thousands of visits, attending police custody suites across the region in every weather and at all times of the night and day. Over the last year alone, he has conducted a total of 157 visits – approximately 13 each month, visiting every custody suite in Merseyside.
Rev Beaman said: “I was inspired to get involved because of my concern for the welfare of detainees.
“It’s been a real privilege to perform this role and I encourage all the custody visitors that join the scheme to think of it in that way.
“There have been lots of changes over the years, but there is now a real acceptance of our visits and we are very well received by the staff who are very professional. There also things like safety blankets and available cold water in every custody suite now that down the years we encouraged them to provide.
“We have very few issues or problems and I think over the years things have really improved. I see it as a beautiful partnership – we are critical friends.”
Find out more about the ICV scheme.
Image: Merseyside's PCC Jane Kennedy presenting Reverend Peter Beaman with his 30 years' service award last year