• Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner for Cambridge

Cambridgeshire’s Independent Custody Visitors praised during National Volunteering Week

June 5th, 2015

Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Graham Bright today paid tribute to the work of the county’s Independent Custody Visitors as the nation celebrates the contribution made by the UK’s volunteers.

There are 25 volunteer Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) working across Cambridge and Peterborough paying weekly visits to the Force’s main custody centers to monitor the standard of facilities and the wellbeing of detainees. They also visit custody facilities in Huntingdon, March and St Neots on a monthly basis.

During 2014/15, the Independent Custody Visitors made 133 visits to the five custody suites and spoke to a total of 377 detainees about the conditions of the facilities and their overall treatment.

Their work has been highlighted by Sir Graham as the nation marks Volunteers’ Week – a national event running from June 1 to 7 to celebrate the efforts of the UK’s millions of volunteers.

Sir Graham said: “Volunteers make a huge difference to their local communities and donate their precious time freely for the benefit of others. Our Independent Custody Visitors provide a hugely valuable service, upholding the rights and entitlements of the detainees being held in our custody facilities and ensuring standards are maintained and improved in the future.

“There is no better way of delivering openness and accountability to local people than by appointing members of the public themselves to deliver independent scrutiny of our facilities. The economic value of their time amounts to thousands of pounds every year however these volunteers donate their time willingly without financial reward.

“I would like to take this opportunity, during Volunteering Week, to recognise their hard work and thank them for their continued support in what is a very important part of my work as Commissioner.”

Independent Custody Visitors are volunteers from the local community who make unannounced visits in pairs to places of detention to check on the welfare of detainees and the conditions under which they are detained.

The purpose of their role is to act as an independent monitor of police custody areas and to comment on whether PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) guidelines are being met.

One of their most important tasks is to record the outcomes of a visit. Systems are in place to ensure that any negative reports are responded to swiftly and positively. They have a duty to feedback this information to the Commissioner to enable him to identify trends and address them with the Force.

Volunteers complete an average of two to three visits per month, without payment, and undertake regular unpaid training as part of the role. The visits are made at different times of the day and night and the Independent Custody Visitors must have immediate access to the custody area.

A current volunteer said: “I like to see people treated fairly, and given their rights, and to ensure the custody area and cells are to a high standard of cleanliness. It’s a worthwhile volunteering role.

“We enjoy the ever changing role of an Independent Custody Visitor. Over the years this has changed enormously. Also the satisfaction of knowing we can make a difference to the detainees, it’s rewarding being in a position to ensure this during their stay at the Police Station.”

The Commissioner has a statutory duty to administer and monitor the scheme for the county.

If you are interested in becoming involved with Cambridgeshire’s Independent Custody Visitors scheme please contact Hannah Watson, Volunteer Co-ordinator, at hannah.watson@cambs.pnn.police.uk or Tel: 01954 713911.

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Volunteers’ Week is run by voluntary sector champions NCVO in partnership with Volunteer Development Scotland, Volunteer Now (Northern Ireland) and Wales Council for Voluntary Action.

It aims to showcase the various volunteering roles available and provide taster sessions as well as boost recruitment levels.

For more information visit: http://volunteersweek.org/

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