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Independent custody visitors maintain independence and impartiality by actively looking, listening and reporting on what they find in the custody unit. Section 51 of the Police Reform Act 2002 (as amended) requires Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales to make arrangements for detainees to be visited by ICVs. Such arrangements may make provision for access to detainees by ICVs, examination of records, inspection of detention facilities and provision of a Code of Practice.
To become an ICV you need to meet some minimum requirements and complete an application form. Candidates who meet the person specification will be invited to attend an interview here at the OPCC. If you are successful you will need to attend a training day.
Newly appointed independent custody visitors complete a probationary period, and then appointments are usually made for a set period, which may be renewable.
ICVs attend in pairs (minimum) and must be admitted to the custody area immediately. Delay is only permitted when immediate access may place the visitors in danger and if authorised by an officer of Inspector rank or above. A full explanation must be given to the visitors as to why access is being delayed and that explanation must be recorded by the visitors in their report.
The actual timing of visits is entirely a matter for independent custody visitors and it should be random and unannounced. Independent custody visitors will normally only visit those police stations within their local area. The custody officer or a member of custody staff must accompany ICVs during visits (TACT prisoners have a different procedure).
Police staff must be alert to any specific health or safety risks ICVs might face and must advise them appropriately.
Subject to the exceptions referred to in paragraph 55, ICVs must be allowed access to any person detained at the police station. Only ICVs who have undergone the appropriate security vetting and training will be permitted access to TACT detainees. Detainees may only be spoken to with their consent, and the escorting officer is responsible for establishing whether they wish to speak to the ICVs, which may be established by self-introduction by the ICVs themselves (in the presence of the escorting officer) or by the escorting officer.
Children and/or young persons may be spoken to with their own consent. If, for whatever reason, a detainee is not in a position to give consent, the escorting officer must allow the visit unless any of the circumstances are present, as stated below.
It is important to avoid any potential conflict of interest. Those exempt from applying are serving police officers/members of police/OPCC staff/special constables or justices of the peace. Others may be excluded if they have direct involvement in the criminal justice system, such as probation officers or prison officers.
All other applications must be considered on merit.
An individual’s involvement with the ICV scheme may be revised or discontinued if there are any changes to that person’s circumstances that could cause a conflict of interest or compromise the independence and integrity of the scheme.
After the probationary period which is approximately 6 months (and includes appropriate training), ICVs can volunteer to do as many visits as they would like to offer. This is coordinated between the volunteers without OPCC involvement, but there has to be the minimum of one custody visit a month.