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Independent Custody Visiting

NOW RECRUITING!


The office of the South Yorkshire Police a Crime Commissioner is recruiting for a number of voluntary independent custody visitors (ICV) to complement the already outstanding team currently in place.

For more information, visit our RECRUITMENT page.

Getting involved

Custody SuiteThe Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner runs an Independent Custody Visiting Scheme, where members of the public visit police stations unannounced to check that people being held in custody are being treated properly.

The people who carry out these visits are called Independent Custody Visitors. They are volunteers recruited from a variety of backgrounds and sections of the community. They must be over 18 years old and because of the need to be independent, serving police officers and other serving members of the police or Police and Crime Commissioner staff, special constables, lay justices or members of the Police and Crime Panel cannot be Independent Custody Visitors. This maintains the independence of the scheme.

What is the role of Independent Custody Visitors?

To observe, comment and report on:

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

When and where are visits made?

Police stations visited on a regular basis are Doncaster, Rotherham, Barnsley, and in Sheffield: Ecclesfield, Moss Way and Charge Office Bridge Street.

Each suite should be visited ideally once a week, in accordance with the roster. An Independent Custody Visitor will usually be expected to undertake at least one visit a month. Visits can be at any time of the day or night and they can take anything from less than an hour up to 2 hours depending on how busy the station 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.

The Scheme operates in panels.

Independent Custody Visitors will be appointed to one of these panels. The panels meet quarterly in order to discuss the results of their visit and other issues.

North Panel (Barnsley and Ecclesfield) – 13 Visitors
South Panel (Moss Way and Charge Office) – 15 Visitors
East Panel (Doncaster and Rotherham) – 14 Visitors

Police Horses

What happens when independent custody visitors make a visit?

Visits are always undertaken by pairs of custody visitors, under no circumstances do they ever visit alone, nor do they combine visiting with any other business at a police station.

Independent Custody Visitors must maintain their independence and impartiality. They do not take their sides but look, listen and report on what they find in the custody unit.

On arrival at the police station, Independent Custody Visitors should be escorted to the custody area immediately.

Visitors have access to the entire custody area, including cells, detention rooms, charge rooms and medical room to check detainees have been offered their rights and entitlements under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. 

Independent Custody Visitors must first introduce themselves to the detainees and ask if they will consent to the visit. If a detainee refuses then that must be respected.

Interviews with detainees are, for the Independent Custody Visitors’ protection, normally carried out within sight, but not of hearing of the escorting officer.

Immediate areas of concern will be raised by the Independent Custody Visitors with the Police at the time of the visit and any necessary action taken.

Independent Custody Visitors must treat the details of what they see and hear on their visit as confidential. It is essential that visitors do not name or otherwise identify persons in custody even in reports or discussions with the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Reporting procedures

A straightforward report is completed after each visit which includes any aspect of treatment and conditions they consider to be unsatisfactory. Copies of the reports are provided to the police and the Police and Crime Commissioner. These visit reports provide a vital source of information on the environment and welfare conditions in which detainees are held.

Each panel of Independent Custody Visitors meet quarterly to discuss findings of all visits within their designated area and other matters of mutual concern. A report is then submitted via a Convenor, appointed by the panel, to the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Police DogAnimal Welfare Scheme

Independent Custody Visitors are also given the opportunity to join the Police Dog and Police Horse Welfare Scheme.

The purpose of this scheme is to enable an independent observation, comment and report on the conditions under which the dogs and horses are housed and stabled, trained and transported with a view to securing greater public understanding and confidence in these matters. It also provides an independent check on the way the police dogs handlers and grooms carry out their responsibilities with regard to the welfare of animals in their care.

Why would you want to become an Independent Custody Visitor?

This is your chance to offer protection to both detainees and the police and 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 unit takes a few hours once a month. You and a fellow Independent Custody Visitor decide when the visit is made, morning, day or night!

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) is a major reference for Independent Custody Visitors as they carry out inspections of police custody suites. Full training will be provided, and your first six months of 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.

Reasonable travelling and out of pocket expenses will be reimbursed. 

The Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) is a voluntary organisation that promotes the custody visiting process nationally, through advocacy, training, publicity and ongoing support to all involved in the process.

 
 
 
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