THE Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire spent a night in the cells recently to highlight the different ways the safety of detainees in police custody is maintained.
Philip Seccombe bedded down for the night on February 19 – spending 14 hours behind bars.
After being booked in by the Custody Sergeant, he was searched and valuables such as his wallet and phone were taken away to be kept secure, before being taken to his cell, where he was given drinks, a blanket and some books to read.
While in the cells he was visited by the independent custody visitors – volunteers who conduct unannounced visits to the police custody units – to provide an independent assurance service.
Speaking after his ‘release’ Mr Seccombe said: “It was definitely an interesting and challenging experience and I am glad to have done it, though it’s something I probably wouldn’t want to do again.
“The point of doing this was really so I could understand some of the vulnerabilities that detainees have while they are in custody.
“I must confess I haven’t felt so lonely for some time. You feel rather helpless, but you think: ‘well I’m here, I’m not getting out for some time, so let’s think about it’ and it’s actually quite a good chance to reflect on all sorts of things.
“I want to make sure we build on all of the efforts already in place which ensure those who come into custody are properly treated, mental health problems are identified and properly addressed.
“In the longer term, we can then hopefully reduce the overall numbers that come into custody in the first place.”
As well as raising awareness of the police custody environment and role of independent custody visitors, Mr Seccombe was also highlighting the Care of Police Survivors and Army Benevolent Fund charities, to whom he is making a donation and is encouraging others to do the same. So far more than £2,000 has been pledged between the two charities.
To make a donation, visit www.justgiving.com/careofpolicesurvivors and/or soldierscharity.org/donate/make-donation/.
Anyone interested in becoming a custody visitor should visit www.warwickshire-pcc.gov.uk/.