Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Lord Willy Bach has praised his team of independent custody monitors for responding to the challenges brought by Covid-19 and continuing their vital scrutiny work.
Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) are designated as key workers by the government and have continued to deliver unannounced inspections at Leicestershire’s custody facilities throughout the pandemic, while adhering to strict social distancing and health regulations.
Many ICVs have been unable to carry out their role due to falling in high risk categories for the disease, however five volunteers are continuing to visit Euston Street and Keyham Lane custody facilities once a month. Beaumont Leys is temporarily closed due to staffing issues.
Leicestershire’s ICV scheme has received national recognition for its work, achieving the coveted Investors in Volunteers quality standard and scooping a gold award in last year’s Quality Assurance awards, which recognise excellence in volunteer management and visiting standards.
Since September 2019, the scheme has been involved in a national pilot alongside five other schemes whereby ICVs scrutinise custody records outside of custody visits to check on the welfare and wellbeing of vulnerable detainees including those with mental health or learning difficulties, migrants and children.
The team is currently reviewing 12 custody records per week and liaising with the inspector if any issues arise. Monthly reports of reviews are also being provided alongside the details of custody visits.
Willy Bach said: “Despite the numerous challenges brought by Covid-19, our ICV volunteers continue to carry out their vital work and provide assurance to the public.
“Policing nationally has been under considerable strain since the start of the pandemic with additional demand pressures, new hygiene regulations and staffing challenges and it is more important than ever that we continue to provide oversight and independent monitoring to protect the rights of vulnerable people and ensure welfare standards are being met during the health crisis.
“I’m proud of the efforts of my team and their continued achievements in what are difficult and testing times.”
ICVs dedicate their own time to carry out unannounced visits to police custody facilities to ensure the rights’, entitlements and wellbeing of detainees are being adhered to. They report their findings to PCCs who have the responsibility of holding their force to account and requesting improvements in standards.
Risk assessments were completed with non-vulnerable ICVs to ensure they were able to continue their duties safely.
Full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is provided on arrival at Leicestershire’s custody facilities and hygiene stations are in place.
ICVs communicate to detainees through the hatch which is protected by Perspex to mitigate the risk of infections and ICVs ensure social distancing is maintained between colleagues.
A guidance document has been developed to ensure visits are carried out as safely as possible.
Currently, ICVs are visiting custody facilities once per month in accordance with a temporary roster up to June 2020. The situation is being constantly reviewed.
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Posted on Wednesday 3rd June 2020