Samaritans provide emotional support to Dorset Police custody detainees

A new partnership between Dorset Police and the Samaritans charity is offering support to detainees held in Bournemouth’s custody suite. 

Samaritans’ volunteers have begun working in Bournemouth custody to provide a confidential and impartial support service to enhance detainee well-being. 

Detainees are offered the opportunity to speak face-to-face or over the phone with a Samaritans volunteer, following their police interview. Like the national Samaritans’ free to call helpline, talking with one of its volunteers is confidential, and police do not disclose to the volunteer why a person has been detained.

Sergeant Forrest from Bournemouth Custody said: “This partnership between Dorset Police and the Samaritans means that a confidential and impartial support service can be provided to enhance detainee well-being, making what can often be felt as a daunting experience more manageable.

“While mental health and addiction support is in place, there is less available help for those who may simply be feeling scared or lonely and simply want to talk to someone. 

“In addition, often detainees do not want to engage with custody staff and insist they are well when in fact they are struggling emotionally or psychologically. Having a completely independent person available for individuals to speak to, can significantly improve the wellbeing of those under the care of the custody team.”

The support of the Samaritans is an additional service to that already provided by Independent Custody Visitors, who conduct independent checks on the welfare of people detained in custody by making random visits to police custody suites and then reporting their findings to facilitate changes and improvements to the custody environment. 

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Introducing Samaritans will compliment the important public duty carried out by Independent Custody Visitors, who scrutinise custody conditions.

“It’s important to remember that not everyone in custody is guilty of a crime and irrespective of why an individual has entered the custody environment, they could be vulnerable and in need of additional emotional support. I am grateful to all our volunteers who play an integral part in promoting the highest standards of policing.”

Sergeant Forrest continues: “I am delighted to have the support of the Samaritans in Bournemouth custody. 

“There are numerous benefits to having the Samaritans working in our custody suite, such as an enhanced package of care to the detainee and less demand on custody staff. The Samaritans will also be signposting detainees to emotional support services when they leave custody, which in turn could help reduce the chance of reoffending, benefiting police resources and services to the public in the long-run.”

The Samaritans staff working from custody are also linked with the Criminal Justice Liaison and Diversion Team who already work in the custody environment seven days a week, and specialise with mental health issues when required. 

Samaritans volunteer Charlie, who is also the Director of the Bournemouth branch of Samaritans said: 

“Our volunteers listen in confidence to anyone who may be feeling overwhelmed whatever circumstances they find themselves in. People held in custody can experience very difficult thoughts and feelings, so it can be helpful to have some impartial to speak to. 

“We welcome the opportunity to work with Dorset Police to ensure detainees have someone to talk to, helping them to feel less isolated and alone, and to see that there can be a way through even the most challenging of times.”