The Essex Independent Custody Visiting Scheme
Since the Police Reform Act 2002, all Police and Crime Commissioners have had a statutory duty to maintain an Independent Custody Visiting Scheme for their area and the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex is currently recruiting for more volunteers.
Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) attend police custody suites to check on the treatment and welfare of detainees, the conditions in which they are held and that their rights and entitlements are being observed. By being open and transparent, the scheme is instrumental in offering protection to detainees and the police, and in providing reassurance to the wider community.
Additionally, it can also help drive through changes in PACE legislation to better uphold and protect the dignity of detainees, including children, women and the vulnerable members of society.
You can learn more about the role by watching our Behind the Scenes video of a custody suite inspection.
The programme is designed to independently monitor the standards of police custody suites, and safeguard the welfare of people detained within them.
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, Fire and Crime Commissioner, and any issues identified are then followed up.
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. ICVs 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.
Our custody visiting panel members must be over 18 years of age and are welcomed from all sections of the community. They must be independent of the criminal justice system to prevent possible conflicts of interest and to maintain the integrity of the scheme. Therefore, serving police officers and other serving members of Police or OPFCC staff are unsuitable for this reason. The same applies to Special Constables, Justices of the Peace (JPs), and Police and Crime Panel members.
The Essex OPFCC is firmly committed to promoting equality of opportunity for all local people and communities.
It aims to ensure that in its organisational structures, decision-making processes, ways of working, communicating and managing, diversity is welcomed and embraced.
The OFPCC shall treat all individuals, regardless of age, disability, gender re-assignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation with dignity and respect. It shall provide a working environment which is free from harassment, bullying, victimisation or discrimination.
In all our contacts with members of the community the principles of respect, dignity and fairness will be upheld.
Staff and volunteers of the OPFCC will demonstrate their commitment to this statement by ensuring that all policies and procedures reflect these aims and by challenging any behaviour which fails to uphold these principles.
The OPFCC extends this commitment to cover all aspects of diversity.
If you are interested in becoming an ICV please contact the scheme manager, Liane Edwards.
Email email@example.com or call 01245 291605.
Following successful interview a standard criminal record check will be undertaken. Comprehensive training is provided and all visits will be carried out alongside an experienced panel member.
After an initial probationary period of six months, ICVs are appointed for up to a further three years as a review of all appointments is undertaken once every three years.
Custody visitors are volunteers and as such there is no financial remuneration. However, reasonable expenses incurred on custody visitor matters will be reimbursed by the PFCC.
2017 HMIC Custody Report