Find out more about our custody volunteer scheme below. If you would like more information or would like to register your interest to join our Scheme, please submit the request via the online contact form.
What is the Independent Custody Visiting Scheme?
Independent Custody Visiting was established in 1984 on a non-statutory basis to provide assurance to local communities about how those in the custody of the police are being treated. In 2003 custody visiting became statutory and the Home office issued a Code of Practice for PCCs and Independent Custody to follow. To accompany the Code of Practice, the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) produced the National Standards to support effective custody visiting.
The Commissioner’s office has a statutory responsibility to have an effective Independent Custody Visiting Scheme in place.
How and why did Custody Visiting start?
During the first half of 1981, several outbreaks of unrest occurred in major cities throughout the country. The most significant of these disorders was the ‘Brixton Riots’, when hundreds of young people attacked property and the police.
These disorders centred around people protesting oppressive policing and in particular the alleged harassment of people, especially young black people, by the police – in short, these incidents were anti-police and voiced a lack of trust in the law and order authorities. These serious incidents led to an urgent government inquiry, culminating in the Scarman Report. Lord Scarman advocated a system for members of the public from local communities to inspect the way the police detained people in their custody.
Originally referred to as lay visiting, independent custody visiting is the system that has been developed to meet this recommendation.
Why do we need oversight of the Police?
This public oversight helps to prevent harm, it provides public reassurance that custody is safe and contributes to the UK’s human rights obligations. Police forces welcome the role of the custody visitors to give them an independent insight into their custody suites, often stating that the visitors’ reports are helpful to drive improvements.
The UK National Preventive Mechanism was established in 2009 to strengthen the protection of people in detention through independent monitoring. Across the UK, the NPM focuses attention on practices in detention that could amount to ill-treatment, and works to ensure its own approaches are consistent with international standards for independent detention monitoring.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment is an optional UN Protocol that countries sign up to. It has a preventive mandate focused on an innovative, sustained and proactive approach to the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.
PACE Code C
PACE Code C sets out the requirements for the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects not related to terrorism in police custody by police officers.
The Revised PACE Code C document came into force on 2 June 2014. They are available on the following GOV.UK pages:
View the latest version of the revised PACE Code C document, as issued by the Home Office, containing the new written notice.
The National Standards puts into context the Codes of Practice that underpins paragraph 51 of the Police Reform Act 2002 and identifies what are considered to be National Standards to all involved in the process. A copy of the Standards can be found here: National Standards
Independent Custody Visiting Association
The Independent Custody Association ICVA is a Home Office funded organisation set up to promote and support the effective provision of custody visiting nationally. ICVA values the work of independent custody visitors, who play a vital role in raising standards of custody and the treatment of detainees. It provides support to ICVs right across the UK.
Police custody inspections are carried out by HMICFRS and HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), as part of the criminal just inspectorates’ joint work programme. HMICFRS and HMIP have a rolling programme of unannounced police custody inspections across all 43 Home Office-funded police forces in England and Wales. The programme ensures that each force is inspected every six years, at a minimum.
These inspections contribute to the UK’s response to OPCAT and the NPM. To comply with obligations under OPCAT, all places of detention must be inspected regularly to monitor treatment of, and conditions for, detainees. HMICFRS and HMIP are just two of the UK’s NPM members.