Independent Custody Visitors
Coronavirus – UPDATED message from the ICVA Chief Executive
The Coronavirus pandemic has put exceptional strain on police forces and restrictions on movement look set to continue for some time. Within this environment, independent custody visiting schemes are considering how to respond.
Police and Crime Commissioners and other local policing bodies have a duty to make arrangements for detainees to be visited by independent custody visitors and to keep these arrangements under review. This duty stems from OPCAT and PCCs’ / other policing bodies’ responsibilities under the UK National Preventive Mechanism. Monitoring detention is an important function and one that becomes increasingly important as police are under pressure. It is part of the UK’s national and international obligations and traditions.
Schemes will be balancing the need to monitor police custody with the safety of all. The ‘do no harm’ principle that guides independent monitoring means that schemes will be looking to ensure the safety of volunteers, detainees and staff and ensuring that they do not place a burden on the police which undermines their ability to respond to the crisis.
ICVA is in place to lead, support and represent schemes during this time. We have worked with the Home Office, NPCC and UKNPM to develop new guidance which has gone to schemes today. As schemes adapt to current challenges, we will support them to be flexible and responsive, aiming to provide the best monitoring that they can safely do over this period.
18 March 2020
We’re looking for volunteers
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.
- Annual report
- Quality Assurance Framework Award
- Who are Independent Custody Visitors?
- How are Independent Custody Visitors selected and trained?
- What policies cover the role of independent custody visitors?
- When and where are visits made?
- What happens when Independent Custody Visitors make a visit?
- Reporting procedures
- Time commitment
- The North Yorkshire Independent Custody Visiting Scheme
- Independent custody visits
- For more information
Quality Assurance Framework Award
A fitting end to #VolunteerWeek2019.
Who are Independent Custody Visitors?
Independent Custody Visitors are members of the local community who visit police stations unannounced to check on the welfare of people in police custody.
They come from a variety of backgrounds and sections of the community. They must be over 18 and have no direct involvement in the criminal justice system, for example, as serving police officers or special constables or magistrates.
Other people such as solicitors or probation officers may be excluded, to prevent possible conflict of interests for the individual. This maintains the independence of the scheme as a whole.
How are Independent Custody Visitors selected and trained?
Volunteers wishing to become Independent Custody Visitors complete an application form. Then they will be invited to attend an interview.
Successful applicants attend a one-day training course which familiarises them with the workings of the Scheme and provides them with the necessary knowledge and understanding of detainees’ rights and police responsibilities.
The training programme comprises multi-media presentations combined with practical and theoretical exercises which cover all aspects of custody visiting. This is complemented by a set of guidelines and the basic principles of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE).
All volunteers are issued with an official identity card which they must use when visiting.
Further training sessions are arranged locally to keep Independent Custody Visitors informed on new developments and to share experiences.
Newly appointed Independent Custody Visitors complete a probationary period, following which they are appointed for an initial term of three years, renewable at three-yearly intervals up to a maximum period of nine years.
What policies cover the role of independent custody visitors?
Independent custody visitors must adhere to the Home Office Independent custody visiting code of practice.
Home Office Independent custody visiting code of practice
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner will provide each Independent custody visitor with a written volunteer agreement summarising their agreed responsibilities and the legitimate expectations of both parties.
ICV Volunteer Agreement
When and where are visits made?
Independent Custody Visitors visit police stations in pairs. The visits are random and unannounced, and their actual timing is decided entirely by the Independent Custody Visitors themselves. Visits are usually made only to those police stations within the local area.
What happens when Independent Custody Visitors make a visit?
Independent Custody Visitors must maintain their independence and impartiality. They do not take sides but look, listen and report on what they find in the custody unit. On arrival at the police station, Independent Custody Visitors are escorted to the custody area. Detainees are identified by their custody numbers and strict rules of confidentiality apply.
Independent Custody Visitors may occasionally be denied immediate access to the custody unit for safety reasons and asked to wait. For their protection the interviews with detainees are normally carried out within the sight, but out of hearing of, the escorting officer.
A report is completed after each visit which provides an insight into the running of the custody area at the time of the visit. Copies of the reports are provided for the police, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and the coordinator of each independent custody visiting panel. They provide a vital source of information on the custody environment and the welfare of detainees. The information is analysed and any areas for action are highlighted.
Independent Custody Visitors must treat as confidential the details of what they see and hear on their visit.
The frequency of visits to custody facilities varies depending on the throughput of detainees at each location. An analysis of these figures produces a target number of visits for each location. Currently each independent custody visitor makes between ten and 15 visits per year, depending on his or her location. It is not anticipated that this commitment will change in the foreseeable future.
The North Yorkshire Independent Custody Visiting Scheme
The North Yorkshire Scheme involves three panels of independent custody visitors. These are based at:
- Harrogate Police Station
- Scarborough Police Station
- York Police Station
This reflects the centralised custody arrangements in place in the North Yorkshire Police area. Members of each panel visit the main designated police station in their area.
Independent custody visits
|Location||2013 2014||2014 2015||2015 2016||2016 2017||2017 2018||2018 2019|
Notes: Table updated June 2019
- Selby custody suite closed September 2014
- Skipton custody suite closed April 2015
- There was a pilot closure of Northallerton custody suite until 31 March 2017. As a result of the pilot, the decision was taken to close this custody suite permanently, effective October 2017
For more information
Tina James-McGrath, Independent Custody Scheme Administrator
The Office of the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner
12 Granby Road
Telephone: 01423 569 562