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PCC joins ICV volunteers working to keep detainees safe in a tour of custody at Kempston Police HQ

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, joined two of the custody visitors her office engages to tour custody suites in the county checking detainees are being well treated as her office appeals for more to join them.

The Commissioner joined visitors Victor Eltringham and George Dykes who have been working as Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) in Bedfordshire for 20 and 14 years respectively in a tour of the temporary custody suite at Bedfordshire Police’s HQ in Kempston on 16 August.

“Independent Custody Visitors are absolutely essential for me and the force to know that those who come into police custody are being treated properly. We sometimes need to remember that those who have been detained are innocent until proven guilty and I’ve never yet come into one of our custody suites and found any of our officers or detention staff treating them in a way in which I myself would not wish to be treated," said the Commissioner.

"The ICVs pay visits unannounced and speak to everyone in detention who is prepared to speak to them, who is not away from a cell being interviewed or for any other reason such as a visit to the shower or medical room. They don’t know why a person has been brought into custody and they don’t need to know. As I saw for myself, they approach each detainee with a completely open mind, simply trying to establish if they are comfortable, have had food and drink or a blanket if they require them, if someone knows they’re there and even if they’re a carer or responsible for children so appropriate arrangements can be made.

“I’d urge anyone who wants to see what custody is like for themselves and to perform a key responsibility to give confidence to all our communities in how Bedfordshire Police runs these facilities to consider becoming an ICV," she said.

ICV Victor Eltringham, explained why he is committed to his role as an ICV: "I had a friend who worked in the police force 20 years ago and he knew of the Independent Custody Visiting Scheme and encouraged me to join. Overall, the experience is enjoyable and interesting at times. We find people are willing to speak to us and we find detention staff understand what we’re trying to achieve."

George Dykes, who joined 14 years ago, said: "I joined as I had left work and was looking for something to do within the voluntary sector and the ICV Scheme provided something that was interesting to me and was easy to fall into. Being an ICV is enjoyable and there’s still so much learning to do."

"We, on behalf of other ICVs over the years have made improvements within custody. The quality of the food in custody has improved as well as the standards of cleanliness in the cells and custody reception. Overall, it is a rewarding role, especially seeing the outcomes," said George.

Detention officer Steve Harris, who has been in the job for more than 10 years said: "The ICVs perform a really valuable role, even when you’ve been working in the job as long as I have as it’s always good to have some feedback to keep you at the top of your game and to confirm you’re doing things properly.

"In my work before becoming a detention officer I was used to ‘secret shoppers’ checking how I was doing so it’s very similar."

The ICVs accompanying the PCC spoke to detainees and checked the shower and medical facilities. They have a checklist to report against.

All Bedfordshire ICVs are recruited and trained by Katie Beaumont from the OPCC.

"Bedfordshire ICV Scheme is a great team of 24 volunteers who really want to make a difference. The ICV scheme highlights the importance of local community volunteers, and our ICV team delivers effective oversight of police custody in order to ensure a safe environment and deliver public reassurance. I want to personally thank all of the ICVs that give up their time and continued dedication," said Katie.

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner is currently recruiting for new ICVs. If you are interested please visit the Commissioner's website at:
Bedfordshire OPCC ICV Scheme