12 May, 2017

Volunteers needed to check on the welfare of police custody detainees – only the compassionate need apply

Are you looking for a volunteering opportunity that will challenge you, give an insight into the criminal justice system and ensure the protection of detainees in custody suites? Look no further, we have the role for you.

Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) check on the treatment of detainees in police custody, the conditions in which they are held and that their rights and entitlements are being met under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), Code C.

Richard Terry and Glen Bartliff, who carry out unannounced inspections at York Police Station, are encouraging more people to volunteer as ICVs in York, Harrogate and Scarborough—but they admit that the role is not for everyone.

Glenn, who worked for 37 years in the military and studied criminology at university, decided to volunteer once he retired as he thought that becoming an ICV would suit his skills and interests.

The 70-year-old said: “I thought that ICV work looked interesting because I would be able to see how detainees are treated, and importantly, understand that police detention procedures are being observed correctly.  After working in the military for such a long time, I believe that I had gained a wide understanding of different elements of society, so I thought I would be comfortable dealing with detainees from various walks of life.”

UK law requires all Police and Crime Commissioners to run an ICV scheme to promote transparency and reassure communities about the treatment of detainees. This means that when a person is arrested and detained in a custody suite whilst the details of the case are investigated, members of the community can observe, comment and report on the conditions, meanwhile providing an independent check on the way police officers carry out their duties.

Any issues raised by ICVs following a visit to custody suites in York, Harrogate and Scarborough are dealt with by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, and are taken up directly with North Yorkshire Police.

Glenn added: “I think many people would find this role very interesting. And for anyone worried about safety, steps are taken to protect ICVs, for example, we never interview anyone who is potentially dangerous, always work in pairs and there is always a detention officer nearby.”

Richard Terry, who has been an ICV for more than 15 months, said that he was looking for a voluntary role that would be ‘intellectually stimulating, fulfilling and of benefit to the wider community’.

The 57-year-old said: “I liked the idea that the role would ultimately contribute towards the maintenance of trust in the police via the reporting to the Police and Crime Commissioner. This contributes to the Commissioner being able to hold the police to account based on solid evidence.

“When interviewing a detainee, we never know who they are or why they are there because it’s vital that we are non-judgemental when speaking to them, and at that point, many have not been convicted or charged. Once the interview has been completed—with the detainee’s permission—we analyse custody records and make correct judgements about how legal rights are being provided.

“You really do feel that you are helping, some people may not want to speak to you but the ones that need you make it all worthwhile.”

Anyone who is successful in applying to become an ICV will receive relevant training and ongoing support from the office of Julia Mulligan, the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire.

Julia said, “Independent Custody Visitors are an important part of holding policing to account, locally.  If you are interested in helping your community and want to volunteer then please consider this unique role.”

To apply, or for more information

Pictured are North Yorkshire ICVs Glen Bartliff and Richard Terry