Independent Custody Visitors

Independent custody visiting is a vital element of the work of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in ensuring the police service is open and accountable to the people it serves. The Scheme works to Home Office guidelines.

Who are Independent Custody Visitors?

Independent Custody Visitors are members of the local community who visit police stations unannounced to check on the welfare of people in police custody.

They come from a variety of backgrounds and sections of the community. They must be over 18 and have no direct involvement in the criminal justice system, for example, as serving police officers or special constables or magistrates.

Other people such as solicitors or probation officers may be excluded, to prevent possible conflict of interests for the individual. This maintains the independence of the scheme as a whole.

How are Independent Custody Visitors selected and trained?

ICV Seminar 2015
ICV Seminar 2015

Volunteers wishing to become Independent Custody Visitors complete an application form. Then they will be invited to attend an interview.

Successful applicants attend a one-day training course which familiarises them with the workings of the Scheme and provides them with the necessary knowledge and understanding of detainees’ rights and police responsibilities.

The training programme comprises multi-media presentations combined with practical and theoretical exercises which cover all aspects of custody visiting. This is complemented by a set of guidelines and the basic principles of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE).

All volunteers are issued with an official identity card which they must use when visiting.

Further training sessions are arranged locally to keep Independent Custody Visitors informed on new developments and to share experiences.

Newly appointed Independent Custody Visitors complete a probationary period, following which they are appointed for an initial term of three years, renewable at three-yearly intervals up to a maximum period of nine years.

What policies cover the role of independent custody visitors?

Independent custody visitors must adhere to the Home Office Independent custody visiting code of practice.
Home Office Independent custody visiting code of practice

The Police and Crime Commissioner will provide each Independent custody visitor with a written volunteer agreement summarising their agreed responsibilities and the legitimate expectations of both parties.
ICV Volunteer Agreement

When and where are visits made?

Independent Custody Visitors visit police stations in pairs. The visits are random and unannounced, and their actual timing is decided entirely by the Independent Custody Visitors themselves. Visits are usually made only to those police stations within the local area.

What happens when Independent Custody Visitors make a visit?

Independent Custody Visitors must maintain their independence and impartiality. They do not take sides but look, listen and report on what they find in the custody unit. On arrival at the police station, Independent Custody Visitors are escorted to the custody area. Detainees are identified by their custody numbers and strict rules of confidentiality apply.

Independent Custody Visitors may occasionally be denied immediate access to the custody unit for safety reasons and asked to wait. For their protection the interviews with detainees are normally carried out within the sight, but out of hearing of, the escorting officer.

Reporting procedures

A report is completed after each visit which provides an insight into the running of the custody area at the time of the visit. Copies of the reports are provided for the police, the Police and Crime Commissioner and the coordinator of each independent custody visiting panel. They provide a vital source of information on the custody environment and the welfare of detainees. The information is analysed and any areas for action are highlighted.

Confidentiality

Independent Custody Visitors must treat as confidential the details of what they see and hear on their visit.

Time commitment

The frequency of visits to custody facilities varies depending on the throughput of detainees at each location. An analysis of these figures produces a target number of visits for each location. Currently each independent custody visitor makes between ten and 15 visits per year, depending on his or her location. It is not anticipated that this commitment will change in the foreseeable future.

The North Yorkshire Independent Custody Visiting Scheme

The North Yorkshire Scheme involves three panels of independent custody visitors. These are based at:

  • Harrogate Police Station
  • Scarborough Police Station
  • York Police Station

This reflects the centralised custody arrangements in place in the North Yorkshire Police area. Members of each panel visit the main designated police station in their area.

Independent custody visits

Location 2013 2014 2014 2015 2015 2016 2016 2017
Harrogate 49 50 42 30
Northallerton 57 60 57 24
Scarborough 98 79 64 29
Selby 11 10
Skipton 49 34
York 117 82 88 65
Total 381 315 251 148

Notes:

  • Table updated November 2016
  • Selby custody suite closed September 2014
  • Skipton custody suite closed April 2015
  • There is a pilot closure of Northallerton custody suite until 31 March 2017

For more information

Please contact:

Trevor Latus, Independent Custody Scheme Administrator
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner
12 Granby Road
Harrogate
HG1 4ST
Telephone: 01423 569 562
E-mail Trevor.Latus@northyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk