The Coronavirus pandemic has put exceptional strain on police forces and restrictions on movement look set to continue for some time. Within this environment, independent custody visiting schemes are considering how to respond.
Police and Crime Commissioners and other local policing bodies have a duty to make arrangements for detainees to be visited by independent custody visitors and to keep these arrangements under review. This duty stems from OPCAT and PCCs’ / other policing bodies’ responsibilities under the UK National Preventive Mechanism. Monitoring detention is an important function and one that becomes increasingly important as police are under pressure. It is part of the UK’s national and international obligations and traditions.
Schemes will be balancing the need to monitor police custody with the safety of all. The ‘do no harm’ principle that guides independent monitoring means that schemes will be looking to ensure the safety of volunteers, detainees and staff and ensuring that they do not place a burden on the police which undermines their ability to respond to the crisis.
ICVA is in place to lead, support and represent schemes during this time. We have worked with the Home Office, NPCC and UKNPM to develop new guidance which has gone to schemes today. As schemes adapt to current challenges, we will support them to be flexible and responsive, aiming to provide the best monitoring that they can safely do over this period.