As outlined in the annual report, Independent Custody Visiting is one of the PCC’s statutory duties and not only helps the public have greater faith in the police, it also helps the PCC to hold the Chief Constable to account.
The scheme is administered by officers within the OPCC. They are a point of contact for the teams and co-ordinators, and collate and monitor the statistics of visits. There are 3 custody suites and and a team of ICVs. The team of ICVs has a co-ordinator and an appointed Volunteers Manager from the OPCC.
The process of a visit is outlined on this web page, but the thoughts and experiences of each ICV may, understandably, differ. We asked a current visitor to give a view on her time and experiences in the Scheme and you can read her thoughts here.
The scheme does not require a huge amount of the volunteers time as we appreciate that people lead very busy lives, however it does require a level of commitment and flexibility. During the first six months ICVs are required to complete an induction training programme consisting of 3 evenings and 1 Saturday.
Each custody suite must receive a minimum of one visit per week. Rota’s are drawn up in advance so visitors know which week they will be visiting and so there is a fair rotation with regards to how often each volunteer carries out visits. Visits can be carried out at any time, 7 days a week. It is important for the success of the ICV scheme to have visits carried out at a variety of times and this is where the need for flexibility arises. The ICV scheme has quarterly team meetings and ICVs are expected to attend.
Upon appointment, ICV’s are given a memorandum of understanding, which further details what is expected from them. To see a copy, please click here.
A copy of the person specification can be found here. It is important to be able to listen well and have the ability to talk to people from a wide range of backgrounds.
There is no set uniform or written dress code, however there is important guidance on the matter. As a general guide ‘smart-casual’ will be most appropriate, although it is up to each individual to determine what is most appropriate for themselves. Formal wear such as suits are not advised as this may give the impression that the visitor is an ‘official’ or ‘authority’ figure rather than an independent individual. Visitors should consider not only how they want to appear to staff and detainees but also health and safety issues; some items of clothing or accessories are advised against in all cases, for example: Neck ties, scarves, necklaces, expensive jewellery, short skirts and shorts.
You can resign at any time and resignations should be given in writing to the OPCC. When an ICV resigns they will be offered an exit questionnaire to give feedback on their experiences whilst in the scheme.
Weekend visits must be carried out by each team to ensure an even distribution of visits. It is helpful if several volunteers are willing to carry out frequent weekend visits, and each volunteer must undertake at least one weekend visit after 8pm. This is detailed in the memorandum of understanding.
You do not make physical contact with the detainee, and you will usually be positioned just in the door way of the cell, while the detainee will be inside, usually sat down.
Many steps are taken to ensure the safety of visitors; Visitors can only undertake visits in pairs and the visitors will be advised by the police if there are any specific health and safety risks from detainees and advise if it is ever unsafe for ICVs to visit a particular detainee. Information is also given in the hand book about specific situations and safety concerns to be aware of, but overall, the process is safe and well controlled.