Keeping a Close Eye on Police Custody
Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) are specially trained volunteers who make unannounced visits to police custody units to check on the welfare of detainees and the facilities they are held in. Following a recruitment drive to encourage volunteers to come forward and replace those who have retired, PCC Ian Johnston is proud to announce the appointment of eight new custody visitors for Gwent.
The recruits now form part of the thirteen-strong team of volunteers responsible for visiting police stations and police cells throughout the Force area. They will play a vital role in ensuring that the wellbeing of people who have been arrested is monitored and that issues relating to individuals or the custody environment are addressed appropriately.
The volunteers collectively bring a varied range of experiences to the table and are made up of former armed forces personnel, those who work in the business sector and individuals who work in the criminal justice and safeguarding world. All of the new recruits were put through their paces during an interview process last year and they have been fully vetted by Gwent Police and attended rigorous training courses before commencing their work.
Police cells in Ystrad Mynach and Newport are visited at least once a week by the custody visitors. Working in pairs, each volunteer has to conduct at least one visit a month and are trained to prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable detainees. They can also access police stations at any time of the day or night, without prior warning, to speak to people who have been arrested and look at the condition of the facilities.
People in custody have certain rights including access to free legal advice, having someone told where they are, to be fed and have their medical needs looked after. Custody visitors also check that appropriate adults have been requested for vulnerable detainees and ensure that cultural and religious beliefs are met with and that translators are provided when requested. The custody visitors ensure these rights are upheld and they can speak with police officers and interview as many detainees as they see fit. They can never know the detainee's name so as to ensure they treat everybody the same. They also look at food preparation areas, blanket stores and the medical room and anything not up to scratch is recorded and flagged up with custody staff immediately.
If a problem cannot be fixed then it is reported to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner which has responsibility for monitoring the independent custody scheme in Gwent. Each visit is concluded with a report which is sent to the PCC and any issues arising are discussed during specific quarterly meetings with the Police Force.
Welcoming the new volunteers, Gwent PCC Ian Johnston said: "It's important for those detained and for police officers working in custody units to know there is someone out there looking after their rights. Most people in the community probably don't know that independent custody visitors exist despite the crucial role that they play in raising the standards of custody and the treatment of detainees. I would like to personally welcome all of the new volunteers to the scheme and thank them for volunteering their services to maintain public confidence in the custody system."
For further information about the Independent Custody Visiting scheme please visit the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent website www.gwent.pcc.police.uk/engagement/getting-involved/custody-visiting/