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Independent custody visitors

The main area that people can volunteer with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner is as an independent custody visitor.

Who are independent custody visitors?

Independent custody visitors are members of the local community that visit police stations unannounced to check on the treatment of detainees, the conditions in which they are being held and ensure that their rights and entitlements are being observed.

Independent custody visitors (ICVs) come from a variety of backgrounds and sections of the community. They must be over 18 years old and, as they must be independent, serving police officers and others who work in the policing family (Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner staff, Special Constables, lay justices or members of the Police and Crime Panel) cannot be independent custody visitors.

They must live or work in the area of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and have been resident in the UK for the past three years prior to application.

The role of an ICV

To observe, comment and report on:

  • The rights of the detainee;
  • The health and welfare of the detainee;
  • Conditions of the facilities of detention.

Why become an ICV?

This is your chance to offer protection to both detainees and the police, reassurance to the community at large and gain an insight into the criminal justice system by checking on the treatment of people in police custody, the conditions in which they are held, and that their rights and entitlements are being observed.

Visiting a custody centre can take between half an hour to a few hours twice a month. ICVs always visit in pairs and decide themselves when the visit is made - morning, day or night!

Custody centres receive four visits per month per station; these include Exeter, Torquay, Plymouth, Barnstaple, Newquay, Camborne and Launceston. However, ICVs generally visit their closest two stations.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) is a major reference for ICVs as well as equality, diversity and human rights, as they carry out inspections of police custody centres.  Full training will be provided, and your first twelve visits will be with experienced visitors. Further related training is provided to increase understanding of the diverse and challenging circumstances that arise in this voluntary position.

Interested in becoming an ICV?

We are currently recruiting Independent custody visitors. Find out more about current vacancies on the Devon and Cornwall Police's website.

You will need to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of the role of an Independent custody visitor;
  • Commitment to the role;
  • Respect for and understanding of equality, diversity and human rights;
  • Excellent communication skills;
  • Impartiality.

If you are successful at interview, you will be asked to go through vetting in order for the relevant security checks to be carried out. You will be issued with an official identity card, which you must use when visiting.

Following clearance, you will be invited to attend an Induction day, organised by the coordinator of the scheme.

The training programme is made up of practical and theoretical exercises covering all aspects of custody visiting and is complemented by a set of guidelines and the basic principles of the PACE. Further training sessions will be arranged locally to keep you informed on new developments and to share experiences.

Once appointed you will complete a probationary period of approximately six months, and then appointments are usually made for a set period, which may be renewable. You would be allocated at least one mentor completing two visits per month for at least the first six months. Following a review at six months, it may be that two visits per month will continue with the mentors for a further six months.

Further training will take place during your time as an ICV including mandatory equality, diversity and human rights training, which will include information regarding the general duty on public sector organisations and the Human Rights Act of 1989.

When and where are visits made?

Custody centres should be visited ideally once a week, in accordance with the ICV rota.

An ICV will be expected to undertake two visits per month. Visits can be at any time of the day or night and they can take anything from 30 minutes to three hours depending on how many detainees wish to be seen and how busy the centre is.

It is the responsibility of the volunteer, in consultation with their visiting partner, to arrange a mutually convenient time to undertake a visit.

The visits should be random and unannounced but should ideally aim to ensure that a visit takes place over a wide selection of days and times throughout the month.

What happened when and ICV makes a visit?

ICVs must maintain their independence and impartiality. They do not take sides but look, listen and report accurately on what they find in the custody centres. On arrival at the police station, the ICVs will be escorted to the custody centre. The detainees will be identified by their custody numbers only and strict rules of confidentiality apply.

Conversation with detainees will focus on whether or not they have been offered their rights and entitlements under PACE. Interviews with detainees are, for the ICV’s protection, normally carried out within sight, but out of hearing of the escorting officer. Immediate areas of concern will be raised by ICVs with the custody officer, at the time of the visit and any necessary action taken.

Reporting procedures

A straightforward report is completed after each visit. It provides an insight into the running of the custody centre at the time of the visit.  Copies of the reports are provided for the police and Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Visit reports provide a vital source of information on the environmental and welfare conditions in which detainees are held.  The information is analysed and the areas for action highlighted.

Other duties

ICVs must treat the details of what they see and hear on their visit as confidential. They are expected to report in general terms to the OPCC at appropriate times. ICVs must also attend volunteer meetings, which provide an opportunity to resolve outstanding issues, share experience and best practice. These meetings will be held four times a year, usually on a Saturday.

 Further information:

If you are interested in becoming an ICV or would like further information please conact the office on 01392 225555 or email opcc@devonandcornwall.pnn.police.uk