Crime Commissioner praises Sussex volunteers who check on the welfare of people in custody
This National Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7) Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has praised the dedicated work of the 35 volunteers who check custody centres across the county.
The volunteers observe and report on the conditions they find and to ensure the welfare of detainees is upheld.
Mrs Bourne said: “The role of the Independent Custody Visitor (ICV) has become even more important, especially during the pandemic, with volunteers ensuring compliance with Covid recommendations and making the safety of detainees a priority.
“I am committed to maintaining public trust in Sussex Police and that includes how we treat detainees. People need to be assured that their police officers always act with integrity and impartiality and that detained individuals will be treated fairly, professionally and according to their needs. Independent Custody Visitors have an important role in getting this message out to the wider community.
“I really appreciate the dedication with which ICVs do their job, giving up evenings and weekends to check on police custody centres, providing independent oversight of what is happening behind closed doors to people when they are at their most vulnerable.
“The pandemic has changed some of the ways we do things in Sussex and I want to thank all our volunteers for being so accommodating and stepping up to the challenge.”
The year of lockdown restrictions led the Scheme to move to a remote way of working with the dedicated volunteers working from home. They remain committed to providing scrutiny of the custody environment through online and remote audits. In line with the requirements of physical visits, the audits have been completed at a range of times during a 24-hour period. The reports are then submitted to the PCC’s office for a timely review and action as appropriate.
During just the first three months of lockdown, the volunteers carried out 40 custody record dip checks and 31 unannounced remote visits.
A number of positive changes in relation to detainee care were introduced thanks to members of the ICV Scheme during 2020/21 including: a quarantine system to protect detainees and staff; investing in monthly distraction packs; increasing the range of self-care items for detainees, including deodorant wipes; promoting the availability of ‘easy read’ guides for detainees which details all of the information they need when coming into custody.
Seventy-nine-year-old retired auctioneer, Ian Porter from Hastings said: “I have been an Independent Custody Visitor for 16 years.
“In my opinion the ICVs have a very important role to play, now more than ever, in ensuring that the detainees are aware of their rights, feel safe at all times and are humanely treated by the custody staff.”
Katy Bourne continued: “I would like to pay tribute to all volunteers who help make Sussex a safer place to live and I would encourage as many people as possible who can spare some time to volunteer for the community, they live in.”
The Sussex ICV Scheme successfully achieved the highest possible ‘Platinum’ status for its Quality Assurance Framework awarded by the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) in May 2019. The scheme remains one of only two in England and Wales that has achieved this prestigious accolade.
If you are interested in becoming an ICV then please email: [email protected]
Pictured is Ian Porter with Katy Bourne (picture taken prior to the pandemic)