Merseyside’s Police Commissioner is calling on local residents to make a contribution to policing by volunteering to become an independent custody visitor.

Jane Kennedy is looking to recruit more volunteers to be part of an important scheme through which independent members of the public check on the welfare of people detained in police custody.

The Independent Custody Visiting programme was established following the investigation into the Brixton riots in 1981 and is now the responsibility of Police and Crime Commissioners to operate in their respective areas across the country.

Under the scheme volunteers undertake random, unannounced visits of police cells to check on the conditions and make sure those being held are being cared for appropriately. It gives members of the public an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of Merseyside Police, while gaining a real insight into how an important police function is carried out.

A team of 20 volunteers currently give their time to the scheme, but the Commissioner is hoping to encourage up to 15 more people to join.

The volunteers visit the region’s custody suites in pairs, at varied times of the night and day, throughout the year. Once on site, they check on the welfare of those detained and the conditions within the suite and produce a report for the Police Commissioner. They raise any issues directly with Merseyside Police. During the Covid-19 outbreak, these visits have been carried out virtually via video-link.

Jane said: “Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) carry out an important public duty which provides reassurance to the public, the police and to me that we are detaining men and women here on Merseyside properly and caring for them appropriately.

“Detainees are potentially vulnerable and visits by our ICV volunteers are a key protection for them, ensuring their legal entitlements and rights are respected.

“This is an interesting and rewarding role where volunteers can make a real difference within their community and get an insight into how our police system operates. By volunteering for this scheme, people can play their part in promoting the highest standards of policing. This is a fantastic opportunity for people who wish to make a contribution to policing and their community.”

The ICV scheme in Merseyside has been in operation since April 1984, when 20 members of the public were trained as visitors.

Last year, Merseyside’s ICV volunteers made a total of 229 impromptu trips to custody suites in the region, offering to see just less than 3,000 detainees. During the Coronavirus outbreak, visits were conducted remotely. While some physical visits have now resumed, visitors will be able to decide what type of visit they wish to carry out, according to how comfortable they feel at the time.

ICVs must have good observational and thinking skills, strong ethical principles and be able to maintain confidentiality. They should also be comfortable challenging authority if required. Ideally the volunteers will also come from a range of backgrounds, ages and experience.

Volunteers must be over 18 years old and live or work in the Merseyside area. Full training will be given. It is expected that volunteers make one visit a month.

Interviews will be conducted either remotely or face to face following a review of the Covid-19 guidance at the time of shortlisting.

If you are interested in applying, please find out more on the Merseyside PCC website.

The deadline for applications is 5pm on 30th September 2020.