Thirty University of Sunderland students are to take part in a scheme that supports vulnerable people in police custody.
This scheme is working in partnership with Dame Vera Baird QC, a British politician, barrister and academic.
It aims to address the shortage of “appropriate adults” in the region and the students are being trained under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) to provide a 24-hour volunteer service across the Northumbria area.
Dr Donna Peacock and Dr Faye Cosgrove from the University of Sunderland developed the project for undergraduate students studying sociology, criminology and health and social care and master’s level practice development.
Dr Peacock, a senior lecturer in social studies, explained: “It is often difficult to find an appropriate adult, as is required under PACE, and this scheme has been received very positively by Northumbria Police, it’s highly valued and perceived to meet a need that was previously unmet.”
Dr Cosgrove, a senior lecturer in criminology, added: “Our student volunteers have reported positive and clear benefits of the scheme. They feel that they have gained valuable experience, skills and knowledge, which has enhanced their employability.”
The student volunteers will provide support in a number of areas including explaining the custody process, to helping detainees to understand their rights and entitlements. They will be able to offer assistance, advice and emotional support throughout a person’s time in police custody.
Following a trial earlier this year, the scheme received high praise from Northumbria Police and the police and crime commissioner.
Dame Vera Baird QC, who funded the scheme, said: “From initial findings there has been a huge reduction in the average waiting time for an appropriate adult to arrive at one of our stations, meaning swifter support for the most vulnerable in custody thanks to this cost-effective solution.”
The University of Coventry carried out a similar scheme in 2015 and more programmes are now being considered for other regions where shortages of appropriate adults have been identified.
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