Independent Custody Visitor Scheme

Independent Custody Visitor Scheme

As part of its statutory function, the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner for Lancashire manages an Independent Custody Visiting Scheme. Independent Custody Visitors, or ICVs as they are commonly called, visit detainees in police custody to check on the welfare of those detained and to ensure their human rights are being upheld. Some volunteers also view public place CCTV cameras managed by the police. Through independent oversight of CCTV usage, volunteers ensure that the operation of the system is in accordance with relevant legislation and codes of practice. This independent scrutiny provides vital reassurance to the public and both these roles illustrate how local people can make a difference to their communities. Volunteers come from a range of backgrounds, ages and experience. What is common to all is the satisfaction gained from giving a few hours a month of their time to society.

About the Role

The Office of the PCC for Lancashire manages around 40 dedicated volunteers who undertake vital duties for its Independent Custody Visiting (ICV) Scheme. Representatives from the community are recruited and appointed on a geographical basis to visit the police custody centres in Lancashire. Unannounced visits are made by pairs of visitors at varying times of the day and night to ensure a consistent pattern of visits. After every visit, the pair of visitors complete a written report form about their findings, which is then passed onto the ICV Scheme Officer at the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner for Lancashire.

Following completion of an application form and interview by the Office of the PCC for Lancashire, volunteers are appointed to a panel of people available to visit the custody centre in the area concerned. Each area panel has a local Co-ordinator who provides support to volunteers in conjunction with the local custody inspector. Each panel of visitors has bi-annual meetings to discuss issues arising from visits and relevant information is communicated to the police at local and force level as well as to the Office of the PCC for Lancashire. Each Panel Co-ordinator is responsible for organising the rota of visits to the custody centre.

Full training is given to all volunteers when they begin their role and to enhance their role throughout the year further training is given on a variety of issues such as mental health, travellers and fixated complainants. Volunteers are also given regular updates on the work of the PCC and their Office and findings from reports and inspections that all help them carry out their role.

The work carried out by Independent Custody Visitors is entirely voluntary, but travelling expenses are payable.

The Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) promotes the custody visiting process nationally and is a good source of information for the public, for ICVs themselves and for their administrators. 

ICVA have produced a briefing for PCC Election candidates here.