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Police cell visitors needed

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022 9:56am

By Philip Churm, local democracy reporter

Crime commissioner asks for volunteers

Volunteers are needed to visit police cells across Devon & Cornwall and check whether detainees are being treated properly. 

Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) are members of the public who help to monitor the conditions in which people are held by police forces.

ICVs check whether police stations are respecting detainees’ legal rights and entitlements while they are being held. 

Police and Crime Commissioners have a statutory duty to provide custody visiting and Devon and Cornwall’s Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, is calling on citizens who have 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.”

Volunteers check whether the needs of detainees are being met while in custody. This could be ensuring they have access to free legal advice, food and water, medication and sanitary protection.

ICVA’s Chief Executive Officer, Ashley Bertie, added:  “Independent custody visitors are absolutely essential in ensuring that the treatment and rights of individuals being detained in police custody are respected. 

“They play a vital role in providing the public with confidence that good and fair practice in custody is maintained”

ICV visits were suspended during the Covid-19 lockdown and alternative means of checking on the treatment of detainees were introduced but due to the importance of monitoring the wellbeing of those in custody it was decided that the visits should resume. 

Between April 2020 and March 31 2021 a total of 77 detainees were physically seen and 21 were virtually seen as well as a total of 72 detention logs checked.

ICV visits are unannounced and can take place at any time of day or night. 

Volunteers speak to the detainees and assess the conditions in which they are being held as well as liaising with custody officers. All their expenses are covered.

ICVs arrange their visits based on a rota and so can be planned around their own personal and working lives. 

Two visitors normally attend their nearest police station at one time. 

The visits are unannounced and can take one to two hours.  Visitors generally visit their two nearest stations.

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