John previously worked as a commercial solicitor. In retirement he worked as a volunteer custody visitor to police stations under the statutory Independent Custody Visiting Scheme, and found it profoundly unsatisfactory. He undertook a self-funded PhD research project about the subject, centred on an in-depth local case study and supervised by Professor Richard Young and Dr Simon Pemberton.
He obtained compelling evidence about the visiting scheme from all those involved: detainees, who have never been heard before; visitors who are not allowed an independent voice; and from police officers and defence lawyers. He found that the visitors were not independent of the police, were in fact very much in their power, and that their regulatory work was largely ineffective. He found that the detainees did not trust the visitors, and that the visitors in their turn were not respected by the police. He found that government policy for custody visiting has always been controlled by the police, to ensure that the visiting scheme causes them the least amount of trouble. Most significantly, John found that the authorities had airbrushed out the idea that the visiting scheme should act as a deterrent to police misconduct which might lead to deaths in custody.