Volunteers are needed to help support young people or vulnerable adult detainees who enter police custody.
Somerset County Council’s Youth Offending Team is appealing for more volunteers to act as ‘Appropriate Adults’ helping young people or vulnerable adults understand what is happening to them whilst in police custody and why.
Appropriate adults support and ensure the person understands their rights and the police process whilst in custody. They also ensure their health, well-being, legal rights and entitlements are in accordance with the Police And Criminal Evidence Act (PACE).
Mark Runacres, Head of Custody Suites in Avon and Somerset, said: “Appropriate Adult volunteers play a key role for young or vulnerable people who are in police custody and have been unable to successfully nominate a family member, friend or other person to attend and support them.
“By representing the interests of the person in police custody, the Appropriate Adult Volunteer helps to ensure understanding of the person’s rights and enables the custody processes such as explanation of legal rights and completion of an interview to progress. This assists the person in custody, investigating officer and also custody staff as the availability of an Appropriate Adult Volunteer can help to minimise the amount of time spent in police custody.
“Without Appropriate Adult Volunteers to call on when needed, the custody process would grind to a halt, causing significant negative impact for a group of people who can include the most vulnerable to be detained after arrest. I greatly admire and value the Appropriate Adult Volunteers already assisting at custody units within Avon and Somerset Constabulary and would welcome others who feel able to assist in this important and interesting role.”
Operating from Bridgwater Custody Suite, volunteers can state what times and dates they are available for call outs, which could be day, evening and/or weekends, but should live within a 12 mile radius of the Custody unit.
Valerie Norton has been an ‘Appropriate Adult Volunteer’ for five years and enjoys it ‘enormously’, tending to be called to Bridgwater Custody Suite once a week.
Valerie said: “As a theatre sister and midwife and a Housemaster’s wife for 20 years, I feel I can contribute to the well-being of the young people and those with mental health and emotional problems, supporting them throughout a very difficult time in their lives.
“They like to speak with us as independent people, not connected with the Police, and they tell us they find our presence comforting.”
A Somerset County Council spokesperson said: “We are grateful to volunteers like Valerie who give up some of their spare time to help people detained in the police custody suite. Good communication skills, being patient and caring are essential skills. You don’t need to have a legal or police background, but experience of with working with children and young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is desirable. Full training is provided and the next training session is due to take place on Wednesday 14 June.”
For details on other Somerset County Council volunteer opportunities, check out www.somerset.gov.uk/volunteering.
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