ICVA – Meet the Team – Part 3


February 5, 2020

Guest Blog

  • blogging
  • board of directors
  • criminal justice
  • custody
  • custody visits
  • human rights
  • Police and Crime Commissioner
  • QAF
  • volunteers

Professor Nick Hardwick

Becoming involved in the work of ICVA and independent custody visitors felt like the natural thing to do.

I have been working in or around the criminal justice system throughout my career. I began working for NACRO with young offenders who had been released for borstals and detention centres, as youth custody was then known, in 1980.  I then went on to head the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint between 1986 and 1995 and the Refugee Council from 1995 to 2003.

Most of the young people I worked with in these roles had contact with the police as offenders or victims, more often than not as both.  And over this time, my experience bore out what the research tells us, that gradually, inconsistently but demonstrably, the way the police dealt with these young people began to improve. Those who were arrested could be more confident of being treated fairly and proportionately, those who were victims stood a better chance of getting the help they needed.

Of course, problems still remained and then, much to my surprise, I had the opportunity to establish the Independent Police Complaints Commission in 2003 as its first Executive Chair.  It was without doubt the most difficult job I have had.  Every day seemed full of controversy and I won’t revisit that now. But I learnt three things that may be relevant to the work of ICVA. I saw the best and worst of what the police can do. We should keep in mind both the exceptional difficulty of the police’s role and the courage and skill it requires and the need for them to be accountable for the exceptional power they wield over our everyday lives. Second, I firmly believe in the need to make a distinction between ‘people doing wrong’ and ‘things going wrong’ – between a police officer deliberately abusing their powers or neglecting their responsibilities and trying to do something exceptionally difficult and not being successful. And third, far better to be learning lessons and preventing mistakes than to be working out who is to blame after the event.

I tried to apply these lessons when I went on to become HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and Chair of the UK National Preventive Mechanism in 2010.  The House of Commons Justice Committee recently reported that the prison system is undergoing an ‘enduring crisis.’ We need to deal with that if pumping more demand into the system with more police and longer sentences is not to make matters worse. And I think we should be careful not to blame prison officers and governors – or police officers come to that – for political and policy decision over which they have no control.

Following my term as HMIP I chaired the Parole Board for a couple of years. There are some tales to tell about that too, but they need more space than I have here.  I now spend most of my time as a Professor of Criminal Justice at Royal Holloway University of London and undertake some consultancy projects. There is nothing like teaching students to remind you of how much you don’t know.  That true of being part of ICVA too.  I hope I have some relevant experience, but I have also much to learn about the work independent custody visitors do.  I am looking forward to that very much.


Elise Pout – Diary of a Scheme Manager – the next chapter

When Sherry asked for members of the Board to do a blog I thought, ‘haven’t I just done one a few months ago, so I thought I would just check (it’s an age thing) well, what I thought was a few months ago was actually the end of March 2019, so just the 10 months ago then (doesn’t time fly these days)

So, I’d left off by saying that I was looking forward to the next chapter in the ICV book…. Well I couldn’t have foreseen what was coming next!

I’m never sure what to write in a blog so I will start with a bit about myself. I’ve been with the OPCC in Cleveland just over 3 years, I’m the Standards and Scrutiny Manager so I oversee the PCC’s scrutiny programme and my role also involves managing the ICV scheme and the Complaints Resolution Team. I’ve also spent a good bit of time in local government before joining the OPCC, including scrutinising the Local Authority and local health services.

I think I have an inquisitive nature which is what has led me to a career in scrutiny, I love trying to get to the bottom of how things work, why we do things the way we do and how we can do things better. Which is why my involvement with the ICV scheme is so interesting, I can see exactly what’s happening in custody and through the ICV feedback I can assist the PCC in holding the force to account.

On a personal level, I live near Darlington (even though its ‘up north’ it’s handy for London, I can be there in just under 3 hours) and have lived in the North East all my life. I am very proud of the region and to be working with the Police and Crime Commissioner and although I love London, I’m always happy to come home.

I’m married with a, soon to be, 9 year old boy who questions everything and is very curious about how the world works (I wonder where he gets that from J)  I love spending time with my family and live for travelling to new places, both of which I enjoy taking pictures of, for my hobby of photography.

Anyway, back to what I couldn’t have envisaged back in March….

The QAF results came out and our scheme achieve a silver award. Our volunteers were so proud, and I was proud of them.

Katie and Sherry were fantastic,  organising an event to clebrate the QAF in the House of Lords, which was a real morale boost for scheme managers and made all the hard work in the run up to QAF worthwhile, plus I don’t think my mum has stopped telling people I had to go to the House of Lords for work!

Riding high on the back of the QAF celebrations, ICVA were seeking Board Members, again my inquisitiveness and desire to be more involved led me to apply and I was successful. It has been great to work with the Board and I’m looking forward to my future involvement.

It’s been a busy time since the QAF, I’ve been involved with the Board, the QAF feedback, completing the Holding to Account training which led to the production of a really useful policy on this, ensuring there is a reprisals policy, attending the scheme managers’ conference and working with the volunteers in our scheme.

This year is shaping up to be another busy one, for the volunteers, as we are seeing more people in custody and for our office with the PCC election looming.

Well it’s already nearly February so let’s see what this year brings…..