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Guest blog: What does it mean to be an independent custody visiting volunteer?

Posted: Thursday 9th June 2016
Blog: 2016

As Custody Visiting and Voluntary Sector Officer and Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) Champion for Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens, a large part of my role is made up of managing the Avon and Somerset Independent Custody Visiting (ICV) scheme. 

Independent custody visiting is a vital part of the work of the Office of the PCC.  It not only helps Sue to scrutinise how Avon and Somerset Police are performing, but also aims to reassure local residents, by making the police service open and accountable to the people it serves.

The Avon and Somerset ICV scheme currently has 47 custody visiting volunteers servicing Patchway, Keynsham, Bridgwater and Yeovil custody suites and is one of the largest schemes in the country.  Over the last year, these individuals have made 291 visits to custody and over 1000 interviews with detainees were held during this period.

We are fortunate to have some extremely committed independent custody visiting volunteers across Avon and Somerset and we recently had the pleasure of bringing them all together at our annual Independent Custody Visiting Conference at Police HQ last month.

We were joined by ICVs from Wiltshire and Appropriate Adults from across the force area and heard presentations from a number of partner agencies working in custody. I would like to take this opportunity once again to say a massive thank you to all our custody visitors for their hard work, tenacity and dedication.

So, what does it mean to be an independent custody visiting volunteer?

The role of a custody visitor is simple – to visit individuals who have been detained in police custody to ensure that they have been given their legal rights and offered their entitlements as well as checking on that individual’s welfare.  The independence of the volunteers is vital in providing a totally objective view into custody conditions. 

Custody visitors drop in to custody suites unannounced and are required to observe, comment and report on the conditions they find individuals being detained in police custody, following an escorted visit around the custody unit.

Typical observations that custody visitors might report back on include anything from cleanliness of cells to shortage of blankets. Any queries are clarified by talking to custody staff and checking the detainees custody record.

ICV volunteers are expected to attend one visit a month and four meetings a year, with all expenses and full training provided.

Want to find out more about becoming an independent custody visiting volunteer?

Well, I’m pleased to be able to say that we’re currently looking for custody visiting volunteers in Bridgwater and Patchway and I would strongly encourage you to get in touch. 

If you are over aged 18, live or work in the Avon and Somerset police force area, have not had any direct involvement in the criminal justice system and think that you could effectively carry out the role of a custody visiting volunteer, then we would love to hear from you.

You can find out more information about becoming an independent custody visiting volunteer here: www.avonandsomerset-pcc.gov.uk/Take-Part/Custody-Visiting.aspx   


Anna Hill

Custody Visiting and VCSE Officer, and ASB Champion

Avon and Somerset Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner

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