The Independent Custody Visiting (ICV) scheme enables volunteer members of the local community to observe, comment and report on the conditions under which persons are detained at police stations. These arrangements also provide an independent check on the way police offices carry out their duties with regard to detained persons and therefore increase public confidence in these matters.
The Scheme is operated by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, a body independent of West Yorkshire Police.
Custody Visitors are volunteers.
All custody visits are undertaken in pairs.
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 encouraged to make visits anytime during the day or night.
All custody visits are made without prior notice to the custody suites.
Custody Visitors can visit any of the 5 principal custody suites within West Yorkshire.
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 Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire has had regard to the Code of Practice on Independent Custody Visiting issued by the Home Office under section 51(6) of the Act.
Although Custody Visitors may be directed to visit specified Police Stations on rostered visits, in the majority of cases they can choose when and where to visit.
On arrival in the custody suite, Custody Visitors speak to the custody staff about the people being detained. Custody Visitors can only speak to detainees who agree to speak to them. The discussions with the detainees focus upon their welfare, rights and entitlements during their detention and the Custody Visitors can raise issues with the custody staff on the detainees' behalf.
Custody Visitors also inspect and report on the conditions of cells, detention rooms, medical rooms, washing and kitchen areas, exercise yards and the operation of CCTV systems.
Real Life Experience
Two of our ICV's Jane and John (not their real names) have provided accounts of their time and experiences with the West Yorkshire Independent Custody Visiting Scheme. They discuss what visiting custody means to them, why they chose to get involved and the positive impacts they have had.
The West Yorkshire Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) has a responsibility to ensure that detainees are able to speak to independent custody visitors openly and without fear of reprisals from the force as part of its responsibility under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). OPCAT is an international human rights treaty designed to strengthen the protection of people deprived of their liberty.