Since the Police reform Act 2002, all Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales have had a statuary obligation to deliver an Independent Custody Visitor scheme for their force area.
The programme is designed to independently monitor the standards of police custody suites, and safeguard the welfare of people detained within them.
The scheme enables appointed volunteers to visit police station custody suites at any time of day or night, to check on the treatment of detainees, the conditions in which they are held and that their rights and entitlements are being observed.
It offers protection to both detainees and police, and reassurance to the wider public. Custody visitors carry out between two and four visits to custody suites per month, and complete and submit a simple report after each visit.
Visits must be undertaken in pairs for health and safety reasons and generally last no more than an hour. It is important that visitors are able to compare different custody suites and the standards within them, so volunteers visit more than one suite in their relevant geographical cluster and at varying times of the day and of the week wherever possible.
ICV volunteers are not there to investigate or become involved in any of the on-going investigations which have resulted in the detention of a person.
When custody visitors visit police custody suites they must maintain their impartiality and must not take sides, but look, listen and report on what is seen or said to them by detained people about their experience since arriving in custody. After each visit a report provides a current picture of the custody suite, and any issues that the custody visitor has identified to do with the maintenance standards of the facility, and the rights and welfare of those detained in custody.
The reports are reviewed and the results presented to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, and any issues identified are then followed up.
Custody visitors must be over 18 years of age and come from all sections of the community. They must be independent of the criminal justice system to prevent possible conflicts of interest, and for the individual and to maintain the integrity of the scheme.
If you have any further questions about the Independent Custody Visitor scheme, please email your query to: Liane.Edwards@essex.pnn.police.uk or call 01245 291605.
If your enquiry relates to operational policing or a crime please contact Essex Police here