Independent Custody Visitors

Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) are members of the local community who volunteer to visit police stations unannounced to check on the treatment and welfare of people held in police custody.

ICV recommendations can require the police to make improvements for the welfare of detainees. Working as part of a local panel, they play a valuable role in maintaining public confidence in this important area of policing by making sure that detainees are treated well.

The London Scheme

An ICV panel operates in every London borough that has an active custody facility. Overall the scheme is made up of over 200 volunteers visiting over 27 custody suites. The London ICV Scheme is a member of the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA). Visit the ICVA website for more information.

Custody visiting in London

Each Police and Crime Commissioner has a legal obligation to make arrangements for a custody visiting scheme to operate in its area. In London, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) holds overall responsibility for the scheme’s management and administration. ICVs are volunteers from within the community and the scheme is independent of the police.  

Be a vital part of police custody oversight

Join a dedicated group of volunteers in your borough who visit police custody suites and speak to detainees to ensure fair and equal treatment under the law.

To apply

MOPAC recruits Londoners from across the capital to the Independent Custody Visiting Scheme, and would like to hear from you if you believe you can offer your time and experience to this important role.

To apply complete a copy of the ICV application and monitoring form available below and at the bottom of this page, and email your completed form to us or post it to the address shown on the form.

Key facts about the ICV Scheme

  • 248
    ICV visits
    in total
  • 2303
    detainees
    in custody during visits
  • 274
    detainees
    refused
  • 1056
    detainees
    unavailable

The Visits

Once a week two visitors from a local panel attend a police station at a random, unannounced time to make an inspection and speak to detainees. On arrival at the police station, visitors are escorted to the custody area where they interview a number of detainees in their cells and complete a structured report form.

For the visitors’ protection interviews are normally carried out within sight, but out of hearing, of the escorting custody officer.

Strict rules of confidentiality apply. Detainees are identified only by their custody numbers, and the details of what visitors see and hear must also be treated as confidential. It is equally important that independent custody visitors maintain their independence and impartiality and do not become involved or take sides. They are there to look, listen and report on conditions in the custody facility.

The online visit report form (VRF) completed after each visit provides an insight into the running of the custody facility, and the conditions under which the detainees there at the time are being held, including the provision of their rights and entitlements. Copies of the reports are provided for the police, police authority and the visitors’ local panel for discussion and follow up.

Panel Meetings

ICV panels hold their local police to account on behalf of their community. Police representatives attend local meetings of the panel to discuss the ICV reports and address any concerns that have been raised. These meetings assist in rectifying any problems affecting the running of custody and conditions for detainees in the borough.

Recruitment & Eligibility

MOPAC is responsible for recruiting, selecting and appointing all custody visitors and aims to do this from as many different backgrounds and communities as possible to ensure the scheme reflects London’s diversity.

To be eligible to join the MOPAC London Independent Custody Visitor Scheme you must be 18 or over and have no direct involvement in the criminal justice system. For example, serving or retired police officers or staff, special constables or magistrates would not be considered for the role.

Other people such as solicitors or probation officers may also be excluded, to prevent possible conflict of interests for the individual. This maintains the independence of the scheme as a whole.

Appointment as an independent custody visitor is subject to a successful application and interview process. This includes receiving clearance from the Metropolitan Police Service Vetting Department and signing up to MOPAC's Memorandum of Understanding.

Training

Successful applicants will need to attend an initial training course to prepare them for the role, and complete a six-month probationary period in order to be fully accredited.

 

FAQs

What is the role of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime in the scheme?

Each Police and Crime Commissioner has a legal obligation to make arrangements for a custody visiting scheme to operate in its area. In London, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) holds overall responsibility for the scheme’s management and administration. The Scheme not only helps the public have greater confidence in the police, it also helps MOPAC to hold the Commissioner to account. The scheme is administered by officers within MOPAC who provide a point of contact for each panel of ICVs and coordinate, collate and monitor the statistics of visits.

How much of my time would I need to put into the scheme?

We appreciate that people lead very busy lives and fortunately the scheme does not require a huge amount of the volunteers; however it does require a level of commitment and flexibility. When they join the scheme visitors are required to participate in the induction training, which takes place over two weekday evenings and to conduct 3 shadow visits with an experienced pair of existing ICVs. 

Each custody suite must receive a minimum of one visit per week. Rotas are drawn up in advance so visitors know which week they will be visiting and so there is a fair rotation with regards to how often each volunteer carries out visits. Visits can be carried out at any time, 7 days a week. It is important for the success of the ICV scheme to have visits carried out at a variety of times and this is where the need for flexibility arises. Each panel meets on a quarterly basis and ICVs are expected to attend.

Upon appointment, ICVs are given a memorandum of understanding, which further details what is expected from them.

What experience is required?

The person specification lists the essential and desirable criteria. It is important to be able to listen well and have the ability to talk to people from a wide range of backgrounds. 

What is the dress code?

There is no set uniform or written dress code, however it is important to consider health and safety and practicality. For this reason some items of clothing or accessories are advised against in all cases, for example: neck ties, scarves, necklaces, expensive jewellery, short skirts and shorts.

It is up to each individual to determine what is most appropriate for themselves, but as a general guide ‘smart-casual’ will be most appropriate. Formal wear such as suits are not advised as this may give the impression that the visitor is an ‘official’ or ‘authority’ figure rather than an independent individual.  

What if I decide I want to resign from the Scheme?

You can resign at any time and resignations should be made in writing to MOPAC. When an ICV resigns they will be offered an exit questionnaire to give feedback on their experiences whilst in the scheme.

Do I have to work weekends?

It is important that custody visits are spread out across different days and times of the week and weekend visits must be carried out by each team to ensure an even distribution of visits. It is helpful if several volunteers are willing to carry out frequent weekend visits, and we would encourage each volunteer to undertake at least one weekend visit after 8pm. 

How close do I have to get to the detainees?

You should not make any physical contact with the detainee, and you will usually be positioned just in the door way of the cell, while the detainee will be inside, usually sat down.

Is it safe?

Police custody is a very controlled environment and steps are taken to ensure the safety of custody visitors. Visitors can only undertake visits in pairs and the visit will be conducted in the line of sight of the escorting officer. Visitors will be advised by the custody staff if there are any specific health and safety risks from detainees and if is ever unsafe for ICVs to visit a particular detainee then the visit will not go ahead.