Praise for volunteers who keep tabs on people held in Norfolk cells

PUBLISHED: 11:18 01 June 2014 | UPDATED: 12:05 01 June 2014

Custody Visitor volunteer Trudie Needham takes to a detainee in a cell. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Custody Visitor volunteer Trudie Needham takes to a detainee in a cell. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

It’s certainly not the most glamorous of roles, but the work of volunteers who give up their time to make sure that people in custody in Norfolk are being properly treated, is a crucial one.

And, as Volunteers’ Week gets underway, the county’s police and crime commissioner has praised the contribution of Norfolk’s 27 independent custody visitors.

Last year, those volunteers made more than 200 visits to Norfolk’s four police investigation centres - in Aylsham, Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Wymondham.

The volunteers visit the custody suites, unannounced and in pairs, to check on the welfare of those detained and the conditions in which they are held.

Their role is to make sure that people detained in police custody in Norfolk are treated fairly, in accordance with the rules and with respect for their human rights.

Last year, a total of 203 visits were made. There were 1,181 people detained in custody at the time of the visits, and 646 of those being held were visited.

One of those who volunteers her time as an independent custody visitor is Trudie Needham, from Little Snoring. For the best part of a decade, she has juggled her job as a community nurse with her voluntary role visiting prisoners for two hours a week.

Last year she was presented with an ‘unsung hero’ community involvement award by Elizabeth Watson, the Mayor of West Norfolk for her commitment to the task.

Mrs Needham said: “As an independent custody volunteer, what I do safeguards detainees and the police too.

“Generally, people are very quick to highlight when things go wrong, but we don’t always hear about the things that are done well.

“By visiting detainees and reporting on what I see, I am offering reassurance to the public that the police are doing what they should be and treating people fairly and with respect.”

The annual report of the custody visitors had just been published. Stephen Bett, Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner, said: “No issues of serious harm or threat were reported from the visits and it is particularly pleasing when those detained specifically comment that they are satisfied with their treatment whilst in police custody - 179 such comments were logged on visit reports.

“The commitment and enthusiasm on the part of ICVs is substantial, and my continued thanks go to all those who give freely of their time in support of Independent Custody Visiting in Norfolk.”

• To volunteer to become an independent custody visitor, go to

• Do you have a crime story? Call crime correspondent Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email

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