A SERIES of unannounced checks have been made on police custody suites and cells across North Wales by independent volunteers.
The visits happened at precisely the same in Wrexham, St Asaph and Caernarfon. The custody suites in the North West of England received unannounced visits at this precise time too.
All the visits were overseen by the offices of North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones with the aim of checking on the welfare of people in police custody and the conditions in which they are being held to ensure all was above board and to their satisfaction.
Mr Jones said he was satisfied with the way they had gone and grateful to the dedicated team of volunteers who had carried them out.
According to Marilyn Jones, the chair of the Custody Visitors in North Wales, no serious complaints by people in custody had ever been made to her since she began this voluntary role.
She said: “Although the visits were co-ordinated across North Wales and the North West, custody visitors regularly make unannounced visits at any time of the day or night. Custody visitors always visit as pairs and it is only those two visitors who know when the next visit will be made.
“With the permission of the custody sergeant we go into the cells to speak to the people – both men and women – being held.
“I’d say about 90 per cent of people are glad to see us and happy to speak with someone.
“We ask them questions such as whether they have been advised of their rights, if anyone from their family has been informed that they are in custody and if they have asked to see a solicitor.
“We also ask if they wish to make any complaints about their treatment in custody and I find that the top issue raised is usually the food and drink they have been given.
“Quite a number tell us that they don’t understand why they are being held in custody. However, most people – considering the circumstances they find themselves in – say they are happy with their treatment and that they think the police are doing a good job.
“We then make a quite extensive written report on our findings which is passed to our co-ordinator.”
She added: “In my experience the majority of issues are handled straight way by the custody officers and staff.
“In the time I’ve been a voluntary visitor I’ve not had anything serious mentioned to me that couldn’t be dealt with immediately by the custody sergeant and had to be referred to someone higher.
“For the person being held in custody I think it’s good to have someone totally independent of the police visiting them to make sure they’re treated fairly.
“I find the work very rewarding and as custody visitors we all work well together and support each other, there are currently 22 custody visitors in North Wales.
Commissioner Jones said: “This is an excellent scheme; it is one of my statutory duties to have an effective and independent custody visiting scheme in the force area.
“They are an important safeguard for detainees and provide an independent audit of how people held in police custody are being treated.
“The vast majority of reports received from custody visitors are complimentary about the conditions in custody.”
Mr Jones added: “These absolutely vital visits could not be made without the dedicated volunteers who agree to carry them out and I celebrate the excellent work they do throughout the year.”