A volunteering opportunity like no other: Become an Independent Custody Visitor

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner is looking for compassionate, community-spirited people to volunteer for her Independent Custody Visitor (ICV) scheme.

Emily Spurrell is looking to recruit more volunteers to make a contribution to policing by joining this important scheme which sees members of the public check on the welfare and wellbeing of people detained in police custody.

Independent Custody Visitors or ICVs have an independent role, checking that people held in police cells and who are not yet convicted of any offence, are being properly treated.

The Independent Custody Visiting programme was established following the investigation into the Brixton riots in 1981 and is now the responsibility of Police and Crime Commissioners to operate in their respective areas across the country.

Under the scheme, volunteers in pairs make random, unannounced visits to the police custody suites, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Once on-site, they check on the conditions of those detained and within the suite and produce a report for the Police Commissioner. They can also raise any issues directly with Merseyside Police.

These visits give members of the public a fascinating insight into how this important police duty is carried out and an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of Merseyside Police.

A team of 20 volunteers currently dedicate their time to the scheme, but the Police Commissioner is hoping to expand this by almost double.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said, “Independent Custody Visitors perform a crucial role and it’s only right that this important work is carried out by volunteers from the local community.

“Detainees are potentially vulnerable and visits by our ICV volunteers are a key protection for them, ensuring their legal entitlements and rights are respected.

“This is a volunteering opportunity like no other, through which volunteers can gain a unique insight into how our police service operates and play their part in promoting the highest standards of service.

“This is a hugely interesting and rewarding role and I am looking for compassionate, community-spirited people, from any background and from all sections of our community, who believe in upholding standards and care about the treatment of others.”

The ICV scheme in Merseyside has been in operation since April 1984, when 20 members of the public were trained as visitors.

ICVs must have good observational and thinking skills, strong ethical principles and be able to maintain confidentiality. They should also be comfortable challenging authority if required. Ideally the volunteers will also come from a range of backgrounds, ages and experience.

Volunteer Chair of the ICVs Ruth Rogers said, “The scheme has immense value in providing some scrutiny of the police and support for people in custody who are often highly vulnerable. We are independent of the police and report to Emily Spurrell the Police and Crime Commissioner.

“Our reports are viewed by the Criminal Justice command team who are responsible for custody and our presence is valued not just by those in custody but also by the officers and staff who see it as validation of the work they do to keep people safe in sometimes difficult circumstances. 

“As an independent custody visitor, you help to ensure people in detention are treated fairly and decently whoever they are and whatever they have done. For many detainees, it is a difficult environment and they may be very vulnerable for many different reasons, we can play a small part in making the situation easier.

“The flexibility of visiting times makes it ideal for those people who have other interests and commitments.”

Volunteers must be over 18 years old and live or work in the Merseyside area. Full training will be given. It is expected that volunteers make a minimum of one visit a month.

If you are interested in applying, please visit www.merseysidepcc.info/ICVrecruitment

The deadline for applications is Friday 3rd March 2023.

Image: ICV Volunteers Emma Chambers and Paul Allonby checking on the welfare of a detainee

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