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Independent custody visits to re-start

Independent volunteers will re-start visiting people being held in police cells across Devon and Cornwall this week. The scheme, which is operated by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, has been suspended under Covid regulations since January.

Independent custody visits to re-start

Independent custody visitors (ICVs) 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.

The visits are unannounced and take between 30 minutes and 2 hours. They are conducted at all police stations with custody suites, including Exeter, Torquay, Plymouth, Barnstaple, Newquay and Camborne.

Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “The ICV scheme is a very important part of a PCCs duties and I’m delighted these are able to commence once again.

“This service is vital in providing transparency and reassurance to the public about the treatment of detainees while held in custody.

“Although our team have been actively continuing with their work by scrutinising custody, speaking with detainees over Skype and staying in touch with custody officers, it is great news that this service will be able to resume in person as this will help with the quality of reports.”

What happens when an 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.

Conversations 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.

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.

More information

The scheme will be recruiting new volunteers in 2021. In the meantime you can out more about what ICVs do by visiting devonandcornwall-pcc.gov.uk/take-part/custody-visiting/