Dr Alan Billings paid a visit to the home of 94-year-old Vera Miles on Tuesday, 21 February to mark her retirement after 25-years as an Independent Custody Visitor (ICV).
Vera, a retired research assistant in the field of family planning first heard of the custody visiting scheme through her role as secretary to the Standing Conference of Women’s Organisations.
Custody visiting is a vital part of the work of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Independent Custody Visitors are volunteers from the local community who visit police stations unannounced to check on the welfare of people in police custody.
Dr Billings said: “Vera’s commitment to custody visiting has been remarkable and I thank her for it.
“The custody visitors have an important role to play ensuring that people taken into custody are treated well and the conditions in which staff work are as good as they can be.
“We welcome new custody visitors and I hope that people of any age will feel able to volunteer. Custody visitors work in twos, so new volunteers need have no fears as they will work alongside experienced people like Vera.”
Vera’s background of voluntary work in family planning, the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and the Federation of Townswomen Guilds prompted her interest in the welfare of others.
Vera visited custody suites across Sheffield including the Central Charge Office on Bridge Street and became panel co-ordinator, which involved compiling the visiting rota, dealing with day to day issues with her ICV colleagues and chairing the quarterly panel meetings held with police custody staff.
She was also one of a smaller team of ICV’s who visited the dog section to report on the conditions in which the dogs were housed, trained and transported.
Vera said: “When I applied to be an Independent Custody Visitor in 1992, I was interviewed by Chief Constable Richard Wells and the Mayor. It was all very official!
“I remember seeing bathroom facilities which included ‘a rusty old bath on the floor above the cells.
“I was pleased to see the charge office close and a brand new state of the art custody suite open on Shepcote Lane. ‘It’s a wonderful place but huge, the staff must walk miles.”
‘Visiting the dogs and meeting the staff that looked after them was a wonderful part of my ICV role when I chaired the Animal Welfare Panel.”
Tracy Webster, ICV Scheme Administrator said: “Vera has been held in the highest regard by her ICV colleagues, custody officers and the Commissioner’s staff. Her life experience, personable nature and dry wit have made her a delight to know and we will miss her.”