• Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner for Cambridge

Police and Crime Commissioner thanks volunteer custody visitors

June 8th, 2016

TO celebrate National Volunteers’ Week, Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite is paying tribute to Independent Custody Visitors.

Every Police and Crime Commissioner in the country has a statutory duty to have an Independent Custody Visitor Scheme in place.

Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) are volunteers who make unannounced visits to custody suites to check on the wellbeing of detainees and the standard of facilities. They act as independent monitors to report on whether Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) guidelines are being met.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite explains:

“People volunteer as ICVs for a whole host of different reasons – they may be interested in human rights or want to do more to help vulnerable people. Whatever the reason, ICVs make an important contribution to the rights of people in custody and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their continued dedication and professionalism.”

With 25 years’ experience under his belt, Peterborough resident Andrew Wilcox describes what inspired him to become a custody visitor.

“I always wanted to give something back to my community so when I spotted an advert in the local paper I thought this would be a meaningful way for me to contribute without giving up too much of my time.”

“Volunteering as an ICV gives you access to an area the public are generally unaware about. You get good training and buddy up with experienced volunteers when you start. Visits (which happen unannounced and once a week), always happens in pairs and your safety is paramount. You don’t know the reason why detainees are being held – your job is to make sure their rights and entitlements have been acknowledged, and that they understand why they are being held. If there is something we are not happy about, we speak to the Custody Manager to put it right and file a report which goes to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.”

So what has changed for Andrew over the years?

“There’s a definite improvement in custody provision – the staff are very professional, the custody environment is generally clean and bright, people are treated as individuals and their rights and entitlements understood.”

Following retirement, Jane Luzio wanted to put her new spare time to good use. Having always felt a strong sense of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, Jane was keen to put her belief into practice.

Jane explains:

“How would you feel if you were locked in an 8 x 12 cell with no control of your life? Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. I didn’t know such a scheme (custody visiting) existed, so, when I saw a local advert about the role four years ago, I jumped at the chance to volunteer.”

“Being able to make sure detainees’ rights are respected is a humbling and fulfilling role and I feel incredibly privileged to hold the position.”

There are currently 18 volunteer ICVs between them paying visits to the Force’s two custody centres in Cambridge and Peterborough. During 2014/15, ICVs made 133 visits and spoke to a total of 377 detainees about the conditions of the facilities and their overall treatment.

For more information about the ICV scheme in Cambridgeshire, visit: http://www.cambridgeshire-pcc.gov.uk/volunteer-schemes/independent-custody-visitors-scheme/.

For more information about National Volunteers Week, visit: http://volunteersweek.org/

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