Norfolk volunteers restart custody visits
As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, volunteers who go into Norfolk’s police custody facilities to check on the welfare of those held there have restarted their visits.
Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) are members of the local community who volunteer to visit the county’s Police Investigation Centres (PICs), unannounced and in pairs, to ensure the proper treatment and welfare of those detained by the police.
The scheme is managed by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk (OPCCN). Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) around the country have a responsibility to ensure a custody visiting scheme is provided in their police force area. PCCs receive reports from their ICVs from the visits they do so that any issues or concerns highlighted can be addressed.
Visits to the PICs in Wymondham, King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth and Aylsham were suspended in January in line with Government guidance on COVID-19.
Custody Visitor and Panel Coordinator, Tracey Matthews, who has resumed visits to the custody facilities in Gt Yarmouth said: “It’s wonderful to be back doing our jobs after such a long layoff.
“The Constabulary staff were most welcoming and we were able to quickly pick where we left off all those months ago.”
ICV Scheme Manager Simon Atherton said: “It’s been a challenging year for the scheme and our volunteers who monitor the conditions in Norfolk’s custody facilities and the welfare of those held there. ICVs are the eyes and ears of the public on behalf of their PCC – providing reassurance that the police are treating detainees fairly and with respect.
“The safety of our volunteers, and the custody staff who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic, is paramount. To keep everyone safe, it’s been necessary to pause physical visits at times over the last year in line with Covid guidance.
“While interim measures have been in place during these times to maintain regular monitoring and scrutiny of what was happening in custody, it is great to be able to restart physical visits. We have worked closely with custody staff to put in place additional safety measures to allow this to happen and are very grateful to our volunteers for their service.”
As ICVs restart their visits, a new set of scheme guidelines have been published to support them in performing their role safely, effectively and to the best of their ability.
Over the last 12 months, the OPCCN has worked with the Suffolk PCC office to review and refresh the guidelines – which set out how visits are to be conducted and the protocols ICVs must follow, as well as offering guidance on recruitment, selection and training of ICVs.
This was the first review of the guidelines since 2014 and they have been updated to take account of changes in legislation and local practices, while also drawing on the Home Office Code of Practice.