Custody Visitors have an independent role, checking that people held in police custody (not yet convicted of any offence) are being properly treated.
When a person is arrested by the police, they are taken to a custody suite where they are detained whilst the details of the case are investigated. To promote transparency, and provide reassurance to communities about the treatment of detainees, an Independent Custody Visiting (ICV) scheme is in place.
The Scheme is operated locally by the Mayor of West Yorkshire, independent of West Yorkshire Police. ICVs are volunteers, over the age of 18, from a variety of backgrounds and different communities, all whom live or work within West Yorkshire who have broadly based interests in the local community. ICVs can enter a custody suite in pairs, unannounced, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and are expected to make at least 24 visits spread evenly over a 12 month period. Custody Visitors are encouraged to make visits anytime during the day or night. All custody visits are made without prior notice to the custody suites.
Following an enquiry into the Brixton and Toxteth Disorders in 1981, Lord Scarman's report recommended that random checks be made by persons other than police officers on interview and detention of suspects in police custody.
Following successful pilots, the West Yorkshire Independent Custody Visiting Scheme was introduced in 1983.
A number of changes to the operation of the Scheme have been made over the years; most recently, Section 51 of the Police Reform Act 2002 placed custody visiting on a statutory footing
In preparing the Scheme, the Mayor has had regard to the Code of Practice on Independent Custody Visiting issued by the Home Office under section 51(6) of the Act.
ICVs are volunteers, over the age of 18, from a variety of backgrounds and different communities, all whom live or work within West Yorkshire who have broadly based interests in the local community. Although Custody Visitors may be directed to visit specified police custody suites on rostered visits to ensure an even spread of visits throughout the county, in the majority of cases they can choose when and where to visit.
Custody Visitors speak directly to detained people to ensure that detainees understand their rights and entitlements whilst in custody, and check on their general feeling and welfare. Custody Visitors can also check around the cells, and some areas of the custody suite, for example the food preparation area. They are volunteers and completely independent of the police service.
Visits are always conducted in pairs, and visitors report only to the West Yorkshire Mayor. Issues raised by ICVs are dealt with anonymously by the Mayor's Office, and are taken up directly with West Yorkshire Police; custody visitors remain independent of both the detainee and the police.
The recruitment window is currently closed however you can express your interest to the scheme manager by emailing email@example.com or call 0113 348 1740 (leave a message with your name, contact number and the reason for your call and we will call you back).
Independent Custody Visiting Scheme - A Volunteering Opportunity like No Other
- Are you interested in what goes on behind the scenes in police custody?
- Do you have a flair for bringing people together to make a positive difference?
- Do you want to gain unique experience like no other volunteering opportunity can offer?
The scheme covers all five West Yorkshire areas; Wakefield, Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale. Custody visitors are expected to make a minimum of 24 visits per year (as far as possible spread evenly throughout the year). Custody Visitors are eligible to claim reasonable travel expenses for undertaking visits and training.
Applicants are usually appointed for a 3-year period and must:-
- Reside or work in West Yorkshire.
- Be over 18 years of age (at the time of appointment).
- Be willing and able to travel across West Yorkshire to access all custody suites.
Application is by completion of a short application form. If you are shortlisted you will be asked to attend an informal interview. All applicants selected for appointment will be vetted in accordance with the Mayor's vetting procedures. Successful applicants will be required to undertake a one-day training course (usually held on a Saturday) to equip them with the knowledge and skills to be effective in carrying out the role. A dry visit to a custody suite and complete two custody visits in the company of experienced custody visitors. In addition to the initial training, custody visitors are expected to attend training and meetings held during their period of appointment.
All newly appointed Custody Visitors are required to undertake training prior to taking up their custody visiting duties. In addition to the initial training, Custody Visitors are required to attend training seminars and meetings held during their period of appointment. ICVs will be provided with ongoing training, development and support throughout their appointment.