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PCC recognises 145 years of voluntary service by Norfolk’s custody visitors

Volunteers-1Over 21m people in the UK volunteer at least once a year, contributing an estimated £23.9bn to the UK economy.

At a time when police forces are being asked to do more with less, PCC Lorne Green says it’s vital we recognise the contribution that volunteers make to keeping the county safe.

During his election campaign, Lorne pledged to bring the police and public closer together, and explore opportunities for closer partnership working between police and the voluntary sector with the aim of reducing policing demand.

He reiterated that commitment when he was joined by volunteers from Norwich’s Safe Haven Project in making his formal declaration of office last month.

This week, as organisations across the country come together to celebrate volunteering, the PCC has praised the dedication of the volunteers managed by his office.

As well as offering his thanks for their continued support, he presented three members of the Custody Visiting Scheme with long-service awards in recognition of their valued contribution.

“From Specials to Community Speedwatch, Custody Visitors to Home Watch, volunteers with lots of different skills and knowledge are working alongside our police to keep Norfolk safe”, he said.

“As PCC, I’m responsible for running a custody visiting scheme for Norfolk. Unless you’ve spent time in police custody, you’ve probably not heard of these unsung heroes. What they do benefits a section of society most people wouldn’t give a second thought to.

“Their work is largely unseen despite hours of effort, but the role they play is a crucial one, offering public reassurance that people detained in police custody in Norfolk are treated fairly, in accordance with the rules and with respect for their human rights.”

Norfolk’s Custody Visiting Scheme is made up of four panels of volunteers, assigned to carry out visits at Police Investigation Centres in Wymondham, Aylsham, King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth. The scheme’s volunteers are tasked with checking on the welfare of those held in police custody, inspecting facilities and reporting on their findings.

“The commitment and enthusiasm on the part of these volunteers is substantial”, Lorne added. ”We currently have 20 custody visitors in Norfolk who have clocked up 145 years in voluntary service between them.

“It was my pleasure to formally recognise what they’ve achieved collectively, and to award individual long-service certificates to Paul, Michel and Bernard from the King’s Lynn visiting panel.”

While acknowledging the important role volunteers already play in policing, community safety and criminal justice in Norfolk, Lorne is keen to explore more opportunities for working with the voluntary sector.

“There are so many dedicated voluntary organisations who play a vital role in our justice system, working alongside our police, supporting victims and witnesses, and working to rehabilitate offenders.

“I’ve had the honour of meeting a number of them to hear about the work they do and the challenges they face. This has helped me not only appreciate the essential contribution volunteers make, but also consider the potential they offer for the future.

“I’m not talking about substituting or replacing police officers and staff with unpaid volunteers – ultimately it’s the Chief Constable who will decide on the powers police volunteers have, and I know the use and deployment of volunteers is a consideration in his 2020 policing review.

“What I want to see is the skill, expertise, experience and time available to us being fully explored and used to add best possible value to what we do.

“During my election campaign I highlighted the services that voluntary organisations like the Safe Haven Project and Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue provide, and how they can support and reduce demand on policing.

“I also raised the issue of community support for victims in the immediate aftermath of a crime, and how volunteers from schemes like Homewatch could have a role to play.

“I believe it is more opportunities like this that we should be pursuing.”