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Great Yarmouth volunteers needed to spend time behind bars

Having had a taste of post-lockdown freedom over the summer months, residents in one part of Norfolk are being asked to consider voluntarily spending more time locked up this Autumn. 

Volunteers are needed to visit custody facilities in Great Yarmouth to check on the welfare of those detained by police and the conditions in which they are held. 

As Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs), volunteers will make sure that detainees are being treated fairly and with respect while in police custody. Turning up, unannounced and in pairs, at the Great Yarmouth Police Investigation Centre, ICVs will talk directly to detainees and make sure they understand their rights and entitlements. They will do a visual check of the facility and make a report of their findings, highlighting any issues to be addressed by police custody staff.  

Every year, hundreds of people detained by police in Norfolk receive a welfare check from custody visiting volunteers. There is a panel of visitors allocated to each of the four Police Investigation Centres in the county (King’s Lynn, Aylsham, Wymondham and Great Yarmouth). Each panel makes visits on a weekly basis, and the Great Yarmouth panel is currently looking for new members to join their existing volunteers. 

Speaking about being a custody visitor, one volunteer said: “There can be few experiences as stressful as finding yourself in police custody. For many detainees it is a frightening, bewildering and disorientating experience. 

“My experience as an ICV has been that the overwhelming majority of detained persons are grateful and comforted by the realisation that someone cares about their welfare, is willing to monitor their treatment and can ensure that they are being treated with dignity, compassion and respect. Knowing that my visits are so important and reassuring to people who are going through the trauma of custody gives me enormous satisfaction.” 

Another ICV said: “I enjoy volunteering as an ICV as I feel that I am making a difference by supporting my local community, supporting the police to improve standards in custody suites and reassuring some people when they are at their most vulnerable. The training to become an ICV is challenging but rewarding and interesting”.  

Putting out a call to those interested in a truly unique volunteering opportunity, Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Giles Orpen-Smellie, who runs the county’s custody visiting scheme, said: “If you or one of your family members found yourself in police custody, wouldn’t you want someone checking on your welfare? It’s important to remember that people being held in police custody have not been convicted of an offence. It can be a daunting and frightening experience, particularly if you’re not aware of your rights or entitlements. This is where custody visitors can help. 

“The closest most people will get to looking behind a cell door is the police documentaries on television. Not only is this a unique and interesting volunteering opportunity, it’s a chance to offer kindness and compassion to people at a really difficult point in their lives. You also get to see first-hand how our police custody teams work and, as the eyes and ears of the public, seek reassurance that they are treating people with fairness and respect.” 

Applications are being invited from individuals interested in joining the custody visiting panel in Great Yarmouth. To apply, you must be over 18, live in Norfolk and have lived in the UK for more than three years. Ideally applicants will be proficient in use of video conferencing software. Although this is a voluntary role, expenses are paid. Successful applicants will need to attend an initial training course to prepare them for the role, and complete a six-month probationary period in order to be fully accredited.

For more information, please visit our Independent Custody Visiting webpage or contact the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk (OPCCN) by email at