Custody care independently scrutinised

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MORE detainees are agreeing to speak to Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) charged with checking on their care – and it is all down to the way they are asked.

The volunteers, who make unannounced visits to the constabulary’s custody blocks, have moved to ‘self introduction’. This means instead of relying on a member of custody staff to ask the detainee if they will speak to the ICVs, they simply ask them themselves, thus emphasising the scheme’s independence of the police.

The Independent Custody Visitors’ Scheme annual report, released by Cambridgeshire Police Authority, explains about the change in process and says in just one month 99 per cent of detainees asked directly said yes to a visit.

In the past year (April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011) ICVs have made 198 unannounced visits to custody blocks across the county. During this period 1,199 people were in custody and the ICVs spoke to 622 of them. The rest were either asleep, with their solicitor, in interview or refused the check.

During that year, according to the report, no breaches of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984, which governs how people should be detained, were found. ICVs did raise some minor points such as temperature of cells and general repairs and maintenance, these have already led to improvements.

Chair of Cambridgeshire Police Authority’s Independent Custody Visitors’ Panel Ansar Ali, said: “The energy and commitment of each of the visitors has been exemplary over the year. These independent checks enable the authority to seek a response from the constabulary to any concerns as soon as they are identified.”

Cambridgeshire Constabulary Assistant Chief Constable, Mark Hopkins praised the work of the scheme. “‘This work is essential in providing the public and other groups the assurance that detainees are treated with sensitivity, integrity and respect and that the custody suites are of an acceptable standard.”

A copy of the report is available on the Cambridgeshire Police Authority website www.cambs-pa.gov.uk