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Volunteers giving valuable time to make a difference

Volunteers group shot

Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry at a celebration event to thank volunteers.

Retired headteacher Mark Richardson said volunteering as an Independent Custody Visitor made him feel he was “giving something back” by helping vulnerable people.

After leaving the teaching profession, Mark found himself with time on his hands but he was inspired to take up an unpaid role after seeing an article in the Nottingham Post in 2020, where two volunteers spoke glowingly of the joy of offering their time for public service.

He is now one of more than a dozen Independent Custody Visitors who make random, unannounced visits to police custody on behalf of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. He helps to provide an impartial view of the welfare of detainees, checking that their rights and entitlements have been offered, as well as reporting on the condition of the custody environment.

Ensuring better welfare and conditions can also ensure detainees are more likely to cooperate with the police while in custody. 

“The news article stirred something in me,” said Mark. “At the time I was recently retired and had time on my hands and I haven’t looked back since. I really enjoy it.

“From a personal point of view I feel like I’m giving back. I had some time and I wanted to give it to a worthwhile cause.

“I think it’s such a critical role. It’s like quality control – making sure these very vulnerable people in custody are having their welfare needs met to the highest standards.

“We turn up at the custody suite totally unannounced so nobody knows we are coming and we look at it from the detainees’ point of view.”

The role is carried out on behalf of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, which is responsible for Nottinghamshire Police’s estates, including custody suites, and ensuring the welfare of those detained in police custody at either of the force’s two custody suites, including the state-of-the-art new facility in Radford and the recently refurbished custody suite in Mansfield.

Mark added: “In Nottinghamshire we are so lucky that we have this new custody suite in Radford, and the Mansfield site has recently been refurbished, so as a county we must be up there in terms of the best provision for detainees.

“Often these people are in a very anxious, frightened state, particularly those younger detainees. I just think it is good that they can have that opportunity to share their views.”

Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry recently held a celebration event to thank the volunteers who support her Office’s work, including Independent Custody Visitors and Animal Welfare Scheme volunteers.

They were presented with thank you cards and enjoyed a buffet while Commissioner Henry praised their much-appreciated efforts at the event, on the final day of Volunteering Week on Wednesday 7 June.

Commissioner Henry said: “Our amazing volunteers perform really vital roles that support my Office’s duty to ensure top standards are maintained in Nottinghamshire Police’s custody facilities and dog section.

“These people are from a wide range of backgrounds but they all share a common goal to give back to their community and give up their time for free to do these public service roles.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their continued support and would urge anyone who is interested in volunteering to get in touch.”

Another Independent Custody Visitor who attended the celebration event was Sonia Hulcome, who fits her volunteering around her job as an admin officer for the Probation Service.

The mother-of-two said it allowed her the flexibility to volunteer around her work and family life, while also getting the chance to make a difference.

“When I first started working for Probation it was more face-to-face but after working my way up I’m doing more admin work. But I’m more on the front line with the volunteering work which I really like.”

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner is also responsible for ensuring welfare for the hard-working canines in Nottinghamshire Police’s dog section and offers volunteer opportunities for this role too.

Animal Welfare volunteers make random, unannounced visits to Nottinghamshire Police dog kennels at Nottinghamshire Police’s Joint Headquarters at Sherwood Lodge in Arnold.  They may also visit dog training sessions and check Nottinghamshire Police vehicles.

Animal Welfare volunteers are asked to provide an impartial view of the health and wellbeing of police dogs and are also able to report on the accommodation that the dogs use.

For more information on volunteering, including opportunities to get involved, visit Volunteering (

Posted on Wednesday 28th June 2023
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