Hello one and all! It’s truly an honour and a privilege to be ICVA’s new CEO. I am just over three weeks into the role, and I want to use my first blog to share my reflections so far and outline some of my immediate priorities.
Firstly, a bit about me. I’ve vast amounts to learn about the world of custody, however this isn’t my first foray into the world of custody. In a past life, I was the West Midlands Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for over three years. On behalf of the Police & Crime Commissioner, I oversaw custody oversight, working with the scheme manager and incredible ICV’s on all aspects of detention. As well as recruiting nearly a hundred ICV’s, making the West Midlands scheme one of the largest in the country, we also collaborated with West Midlands Police to ensure that the design of new custody suites in the region was devoid of potential ligature points. Without ICV’s posing challenge and being a critical friend, it would be impossible to assure the public that custody suites are safe environments. It is this truth that informed my work back then, and one that will always guide me and the organisation moving forward.
So, what are my immediate priorities, I hear you ask. A huge priority for me is to ensure that we are an anti-racist organisation. That means that we will conduct a review of our operations to assure the public that we are fair and inclusive, and redress areas where we are found wanting. In this vein, we will also challenge unconscious, and at times, conscious biases amongst our stakeholders. Sherry and I will present a paper to an upcoming ICVA board meeting on achieving our anti-racist ambitions. Once ratified by the Board, I will share our action plan with ICV’s and scheme managers. At a time when, arguably, diversity, equity and inclusion has never been more topical, it is incumbent upon all of us to seize the moment and do our bit to make tangible change. With this mind, over the last year we have been collaborating with the Criminal Justice Alliance on practical solutions to tackle and dismantle racial and gender inequities in custody. This work is almost at the finish line… watch this space!
As you’ll be aware, a new version of the Joint Interim Interview Protocol (JIIP version 4) has been published. This latest revision includes significant changes to how legal advice is given to all detainees. We’ll be monitoring closely how the new version is being implemented across the country and whether any amendments are necessary. Sherry and I have met to discuss JIIP with colleagues at the National Police Chiefs Council and Home Office, and I am assured that in the main, the protocol is being adhered to in the way it is intended. A massive thank you all ICV’s and scheme managers who have not only monitored the use of JIIP in custody, but more broadly have been creative and innovative towards ensuring that the rights of detainees are protected during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sherry and I are hosting ICVA’s annual scheme managers conference on Wednesday 24th November, with the ICV conference to follow in March 2022. These are great opportunities to share best practice and to learn about aspects of detention that need to be modified to preserve the rights and dignity of detainees. I can’t wait to meet you all (in person or online) to learn from your experiences and hear ideas on how ICVA can be more effective, as well as celebrate the invaluable time that you give on behalf of people in custody. Details on the conferences will be forthcoming shortly.
Lastly, but no means least, I have to say a huge thank you to Sherry. I am sure you’ll agree that she has done a phenomenal job as interim CEO. In the midst of a global pandemic, Sherry has shown tremendous leadership in preserving, and at times like with JIIP, helping design and monitor novel methods of custody oversight. I’m really looking forward to building on the fantastic foundations laid by Sherry and previous CEO, Katie Kempen, and supporting our amazing ICV’s across England and Wales in contributing to initiatives to improve conditions in police custody.
Ashley Bertie, Chief Executive.