Merseyside custody visiting scheme recognised with national award


The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside has been recognised nationally for its Independent Custody Visitor (ICV) scheme.

Under this scheme, trained volunteers from the local community make unannounced visits to police custody suites to check on the rights, entitlements, wellbeing and dignity of the detainees held there. Their findings are reported to the Police and Crime Commissioner who holds the Chief Constable to account. 

Last year, Independent Custody Visitors made a total of 147 unannounced visits to custody suites across Merseyside and checked up on 574 detainees.

By listening to individuals in custody, they provide valuable and independent oversight of the care that is provided when an individual is detained.

By shining a spotlight on the processes, people and environments within custody, their recommendations cover everything from ensuring that there are enough blankets in winter, to safeguarding someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis.

The Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) - the national membership organisation that supports, leads and represents these schemes - has developed a quality assurance framework to assess how well schemes comply with the code of practice that governs custody visiting.

This is the second year that schemes have been assessed under the framework, and have been able to gain quality assurance awards to recognise the value of their work. The Merseyside scheme was presented with a code complaint quality assurance award by ICVA on Wednesday 29 November, at a ceremony in Birmingham.  

Welcoming the award Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, Emily Spurrell said: “Independent Custody Visitors are a priceless asset to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), effectively serving as the communities' eyes and ears in police care.

“Their observations are key to helping the police improve and serve to strengthen public trust in policing by making sure officers and staff are doing everything they should be.

“These compassionate, community-oriented people, believe in upholding the very highest of standards and I thank them for everything they do and their tireless commitment to the role. Not only are they performing vital work in the world of policing, but they’re also supporting vulnerable people and their communities.”

Dame Anne Owers, Chair of ICVA, said: "Independent custody visiting schemes ensure that the public have oversight of a high pressure and often hidden area of policing.  These awards demonstrate how local schemes use volunteer feedback to make change and ensure that police custody is safe and dignified for all.”

Sherry Ralph, Chief Executive at ICVA said: “The quality assurance framework represents a significant amount of additional work to ensure that independent custody visiting is regularly reviewed, improvements are made where they are needed and excellent practice is shared. I congratulate schemes on their accomplishments and thank them for their commitment."

Find out more on our Independent Custody Visitor scheme.