Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) are members of the local community who volunteer to make unannounced visits to police custody suites.
They check on the welfare of detainees in police custody by speaking to those detained and monitoring the conditions of the cells. The visits provide an independent check on the way in which detainees are held, in accordance with strict guidelines laid down by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and also help foster better public understanding and confidence in the way prisoners are treated.
ICVs check and make sure that:
- Detainees have been offered food and drink
- Detainees are warm enough
- Cells are in a reasonable condition
- Religious and cultural needs of the detainee have been considered
- Detainees have been informed of their rights.
Visits are regularly made to eight designated police custody suites in Thames Valley: Abingdon, Aylesbury, Banbury, High Wycombe, Loddon Valley, Maidenhead, Milton Keynes and Newbury.
How can I get involved?
To become a custody visitor, you need to be at least 18 years old and independent of the police. Serving police officers, police staff, special constables, justices of the peace and Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner staff, for example, will not be considered.
If you meet this criteria, you’ll need to complete an application form which will be followed by an interview and short induction programme if you’re successful. After this, there will be a six-month probationary period which will need to be satisfactorily completed before a full appointment can be confirmed.
Case study – Paul (Volunteer Independent Custody Visitor)
Paul volunteers as an Independent Custody Visitor at Aylesbury Police Station. He feels that this is an important role and says that, as with his many other volunteering roles, he gets far more out of the experience than he feels he puts in.
What is your role?
I’m part of a team of independent custody volunteers who make unannounced visits to people held in police custody to check on their rights, entitlements, wellbeing and dignity. The independent custody visiting scheme is run by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. My custody visits are all to Aylesbury Police Station.
What attracted you to this role?
I have been volunteering for years in various roles, including those that the VMS matched me to. They have always tended to be practical roles, very worthwhile and rewarding but the Independent Custody Visiting role offered more of an intellectual challenge than some other roles. I had worked for the Police Service many years ago and that also played a part in piquing my interest.
What difference do you think your role makes?
It is an opportunity to be an independent voice commenting on the running of the custody process. It is important to both the person being detained and to the Police who have placed that person in custody, providing an independent perspective to both sides.
Was there a long induction process before you could get started?
It did take a while – I was matched to the role in July but did not do my first custody visit until December. I remember that, for a while, visits were difficult to do because of Covid-19. Both the interview stage and the induction process were positive experiences and so didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the role.
What has the experience been like so far?
It is living up to my expectations, and the induction process prepared me very well, so there have been no real surprises. The most interesting bit is meeting people in very unusual circumstances and working out how to have a conversation with them that reassures them of my independence and can establish whether they are being properly treated without prying into how they came to be detained. Some detainees definitely welcome the human element that the custody visits provide.
Would you recommend this role to others?
Yes, I am enjoying it and would be happy to talk to anyone about the role. Anyone who has an independent perspective, and an open mind, could volunteer as a custody visitor.
Would you recommend volunteering generally?
Yes. It seems to me that in every role I have, I get more from the experience than I feel I have given. I have met such a variety of people that I would not otherwise have done. Most importantly, I feel I am part of something that is delivering for the common good.
If you would like an informal talk about the role please call the Scheme Administrator on 01865 846726.
For more information, please visit the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) website:
NOTE Thames Valley ICV Scheme abides by the Home Office Code of Practice on Independent Custody Visiting:
How to apply
Please follow the below buttons for a copy of the Custody Visiting Application Form and Role Description:
Completed forms can be emailed to Custody Visiting or returned to:
Custody Visiting Scheme Administrator, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Thames Valley Police Headquarters, Oxford Road, Kidlington OX5 2NX
You can view previous years Annual Reports in our archive.