Independent custody visitors (ICVs) have a difficult job – they go into police custody to check on the rights, entitlements and wellbeing of detainees. Their scheme managers, one in each police force area, use their reports to praise good work and to make change when they need to. Making change is not easy, but this huge team of custody visitings and dedicated managers make improvements to police custody. The least that we can do, as ICVA, is to highlight this.
ICVs will speak to at least 5,000 detainees each quarter and these quarterly updates reflect their findings. This is hugely valuable information and something to be proud of in the UK – our citizens can observe and feedback on what is occurring in police custody. Our new webpage on openness now includes quarterly updates from our scheme managers – reflecting the good and the issues that need to be addressed within police custody. ICVA’s COO account is now tweeting about successful changes that ICVs have instigated. She is tweeting at least one improvement a week, which starts to reflect the magnificent work that ICVs complete.
So – what are ICVs telling us? Please do go online and download our quarterly updates which you can find under our ‘Annual Report and Business Plan Publications’ section for the full report. For now, quarter two saw the following:
Schemes report improvements in diversity and equality issues in police custody. This includes better storage of religious items and improved processes for enabling detainees to practice religious requirements. However, a number of schemes report problems accessing good quality translation and interpretation within a reasonable timescale.
Schemes continue to report problems with the conditions of custody estate. These include peeling paint, standing water, and suites that require refurbishment or closing down. Local schemes will report this to their Police and Crime Commissioner or Police Authority / Board to inform local decision making to improve or replace police estate.
A number of areas report problems with staffing. Some schemes entered custody, but have not been able to conduct visits as staff have been too busy to escort them. Other volunteers have had access delayed or been turned away from conducting their visits due to inadequate staffing and other schemes have reported problems in recruiting. This trend, again, will be reported to PCCs or Police Authorities / Boards to inform discussions about staffing with the local Chief Constable.
The impact of ICVs
We are pleased to receive numerous reports where ICVs are overseeing healthcare and raising issues with local providers. High quality healthcare is essential for the safety of detainees and ICVs have a unique insight into the views and experiences of detainees. They find out and feedback important information about the healthcare detainees receive.
ICVs also report success securing detainee dignity through improved menstrual care, ensuring that detainees are aware that they can use toilets in privacy and ensuring access to showers. Whilst these issues may initially feel small, they are incredible important to detainees and really matter for those stay in police custody for interview or investigation.
Our ICVs are brilliant, they do a wonderful thing giving up their time to speak to detainees. Our scheme managers work hard to make change and we are proud to reflect that. Watch this space, we’ll be feeding back progress as we go.