Not all of the people that enter a police custody suite are suspected of breaking the law.  There are many people who enter, that are not directly employed by the police.  These can include defence solicitors, forensic medical examiners (or in old money – police doctors, but they are now provided by private contractors to the police).  As well as the doctors, there may be nurses that attend for more minor complaints made by detainees.  If the detainee is believed to be suffering from a mental illness, a social worker and a (Section 12 qualified) doctor will attend to assess the detainees’ fitness to be detained in police custody and/or to be interviewed by the police.  If they are determined to be unfit – are they in need of sectioning and/or detaining in a psychiatric hospital or ward?

Other people that may enter a custody suite include those working for one of the prisoner transportation contractors such as SERCO, G4S or Reliance etc., who move people from prisons to court and back, sometimes passing through police cells.

Another type of visitor may include an Independent Custody Visitor (ICV).  These are people currently recruited from the local community and trained by Police Authorities to be granted immediate, unannounced access to the custody suites with a mandate to speak with detainees, should they wish to be spoken to.  If they don’t, the ICV has no authority to force them to speak with them.  The ICVs are INDEPENDENT of the police.

Association of Police Authorities

The aim of the custody visits is to observe and report on the conditions in which people are being held, to check on their welfare and see that all the rules in respect of their rights and general care are being observed. So, it is important that people want to talk and feel they can discuss issues freely and openly with the visitors

Complaints or requests from the detainees are generally not major issues but tend to be about being provided with a drink or an additional blanket, or using the phone.

There are instances of detainees making complimentary remarks about the conditions in the custody centre, the staff and the way they are treated.

Where serious allegations are made, they will be brought to the attention of a senior officer on duty who then has to deal expeditiously with the complaint.

Could an ICV feature in one of your stories or in fact any of the other visitors to a custody suite?  Could they wreak revenge on or support a detainee?

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