Independent Custody Visiting

Independent Custody VisitingIndependent Custody Visitors are members of the public - like you - who visit detainees in custody and make sure that they are being looked after properly.

They help the PCC to ensure that the police service is open and accountable to the public. They provide an independent check on the welfare of people who are detained in custody.  The scheme typically operates on between 18-22 Independent Custody Visitors and they take it in turns to visit. 

Where do they visit?

There are two custody units in Wiltshire, one in Melksham and one in Swindon. Each has its own team of visitors who make unannounced visits, in pairs, to the custody suites. Detainees can raise any concerns about their detention with the custody visitors who can then speak to the custody staff to solve any problems and report their findings back to the PCC.

What else do the Independent Custody Visitors do?

They all meet at least twice a year to discuss their findings at Panel meetings which are also attended by members of the police force and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Custody Visitors are recruited, appointed and overseen by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and are totally independent of the police force. They carry out a very valuable and important role that helps to strengthen police accountability.

What qualifications do you need to be an Independent Custody Visitor?

All Independent Custody Visitors must:

  • Be over 18 years old
  • English speaking
  • Live or work within Wiltshire and Swindon
  • Have been resident in the United Kingdom for at least two years
  • Not be a serving police officer, member of police staff, special constable, magistrate or from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. 

What else do you need to know about being an Independent Custody Visitor?

How are visits arranged?

You'll always visit in pairs and you will always be told well in advance who you will be visiting with and which weeks you should visit- you then decide with your partner exactly when you go. Visitors should be punctual and reliable. When you visit you will follow a structured procedure and you must be methodical and comply with all the policies, procedures and the relevant legislation.

What will you see during a visit?

When you visit, you may come into contact with sights and sounds which you may be unfamiliar to you. Some detainees may be more challenging than others but you need to be able to be flexible, adaptable and open minded.  All our visitors also need to be able to deal with people from a cross section of society and confidence when dealing with custody staff and detainees is essential. You will always be accompanied by a custody officer who will remain in sight but out of hearing when you speak to a detainee

What other skills do you need to be a visitor?

Good communication skills are vital. Visitors need to be assertive but not aggressive. You have to be able to communicate with many different types of people many of whom could be upset or angry. You have to be able to ask questions, listen to answers and write up accurate reports at the end of the visit, summarising your findings and the action taken by custody staff. Independence of custody visitors is vital to the success of the scheme and you will come across people from all walks of life. So you have to respect their opinions, circumstances and feelings without being judgemental and be able to communicate with them to ensure that they are being looked after properly in custody.

What support do you get to be a visitor?

All custody visitors have induction training and are then paired up with a more experienced visitor who acts as a mentor. There is an experienced visitor who acts as team co-ordinator for each of the two teams and a Scheme Manager to manages the scheme on behalf of the PCC.  You have a responsibility to keep your knowledge of custody visiting up to date by attending Panel meetings and training sessions. We also provide reading material in the form of briefings.

Are you interested in becoming a custody visitor?

At the moment we have no vacancies but if you would like your details to be kept on a waiting list, please email pcc@wiltshire.pcc.pnn.gov.uk

Useful links

Independent Custody Visiting Association