In Derbyshire, we developed and continue to operate the Custody Record Reviewing (CRR) process, and really value the wealth of data it provides. For those ICVA members not familiar with the CRR, I have developed a simple flowchart outlining the process in detail in the members library- please do take a look if it is of interest. In short, CRRs involve our ICVs retrospectively reviewing custody records and reporting on access to and timeliness of custody processes, safeguards and overall record keeping. Ordinarily, our ICVs would come to HQ to review the redacted custody records…
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, life as we knew it changed and we all had to adapt, and so did our independent custody visiting schemes. For many of us, this meant decreased visits to custody, or operating remote methods- telephone or video calls to custody. In Derbyshire, it also meant adapting the way we operate the CRRs. Initially, OPCC staff conducted the CRRs as a temporary measure to maintain oversight of custody, during an unprecedented and difficult time for all involved. However, Independent Custody Visiting is just that- independent. Members of our communities give up their time to ensure the welfare of people who find themselves in police custody, and this independence is key to the reassurance ICV schemes give our communities that custody is operating as it should. We needed to get our ICVs back to reviewing records, and in true pandemic style, remote working was the way forwards.
After a long (and at times frustrating!) search for a technical solution that would meet data protection and security needs, we came across Egress. Egress is a secure document sharing platform which allows us to upload custody records for ICVs to view in read-only format behind a password barrier. We need only two licenses for the scheme managers who upload the documents, and conveniently we could tag on to our Force’s procurement of Egress to avoid the minimum 25 license purchase. ICVs create a free account to access documents shared with them and each record can be restricted so that only the allocated pair of reviewers can access it. The ICVs simply follow the link we send them, log in and read the records- they cannot edit, download, save or manipulate the document in any other way.
The benefits of this remote system have been and will be a game-changer for us. Aside from bringing back the crucial independence to the CRR method, our ICVs can now work flexibly. They can review records morning afternoon or night within the week that the records are uploaded for, which is an obvious bonus for ICVs who have other commitments to juggle. One of our ICVs has commented that they feel they have less pressure compared to reviewing with a partner in HQ at set times and that they can review the records in more depth from the comfort of their own home. Reporting is done by survey software, so this too can be done from home, and ICVs still enjoy the social aspect of volunteering by chatting to their review partner on video call to discuss their findings. Our volunteers no longer have to add travel time on to their CRR volunteering commitment, and petrol not used is CO2 not emitted, making it greener too.
If Egress doesn’t seem to be the solution for you, ‘watch this space’ on the National Enabling Programme (NEP), as we are aware that Teams has the capability to facilitate remote CRRs during later stages of the NEP. ICVs can eventually be added as ‘guest users’ to a Team and have records shared with them in read only format. As we start to reopen our society from lockdown, there is learning and innovation we can continue to take forwards, and for us remote CRRs is a definite keeper.