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Volunteers are being sought to visit police cells to provide public reassurance about the treatment of detainees in police custody.
Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) are members of local community who visit police custody to check detainees’ rights, entitlements and conditions of detention.
Police and Crime Commissioners have a statutory duty to provide custody visiting. Devon and Cornwall’s Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, wants to hear from anyone with an interest in the criminal justice system and human rights to join the scheme.
“ICVs are an essential and valuable resource, providing the police with the assurance that their custody centres are safe and legal,” she said.
“We want to ensure that we have a diverse and enthusiastic set of volunteers across Devon and Cornwall to visit custody centres in Exeter, Torquay, Plymouth, Barnstaple, Newquay and Camborne.
“Prospective ICVs do not need to have any experience, as all training will be provided. This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in a career in the criminal justice system.”
During the early part of the Covid-19 pandemic, like many services, ICV visits were temporarily suspended due to concern about the spread of the virus. Alternative means of checking the treatment of detainees were conducted but due to the essential nature of the visits and a mitigation of risk the decision to resume custody visits was taken. Between April 2020 and March 31 2021 a total of 77 detainees were physically and 21 virtually seen as well as a total of 72 detention logs checked.
ICV visits are unannounced and can take place at any time of the day or night. Volunteers check detainees’ needs are being met whilst in custody. This could be ensuring they have access to free legal advice, food and water medication and sanitary protection. As well as speaking to detainees, they assess conditions of detention and speak to custody officers. All expenses are covered.
ICVs arrange their visits based on a roster and so can be planned around their own busy personal and working lives. Visits are made as a pair, are unannounced and can take one to two hours. Visitors generally visit their two nearest stations.