ICVA provides leadership to Independent Custody Visiting schemes in the UK, helping to define their aims and ensuring that schemes remain up to date in policing reforms. A member of many nationwide groups, ICVA will continue to use this platform to lead schemes on changes to the custody arena.

Activities include

Responding to the increase in terrorism related arrests in the UK by redesigning and updating our training materials to reflect the current UK terrorism picture, setting up a network for scheme managers covering those suites which hold terrorism suspected detainees and working with the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation to ensure quality of custody visits in this area.

Developing a Quality Assurance Framework for schemes to be recognised for the excellent work they are undertaking, to benchmark progress and achievements alongside other schemes, and to further enhance engagement with PCCs and the local community.

ICVA is a national co-ordinator of data pertaining to custody visiting and on-going issues within police custody. ICVA works with schemes and advisors to develop data collection standards and corresponding documentation, ensuring it collects increasingly robust national data to represent the findings of volunteers on the ground.


A crucial role in supporting local schemes and scheme managers. A key role is to provide effective, timely and consistent support to its schemes. This covers a range of activities but at the heart of our support is to ensure schemes have all of the tools they need and want to be able to deliver effective oversight of detainees rights, entitlements and wellbeing.

Activities include

ICVA provides up to date induction training materials for schemes to train new volunteers, including a pre-read for new custody visitors, a student handbook for the training day and a delivery guide for trainers. It also produces ‘bitesize’ training modules for schemes to deliver to their visitors with the topics chosen by the members themselves.

ICVA has provided and moderates a members’ website, which includes a forum and library section, where scheme managers can share good practice, discuss any issues they may have in their scheme/areas and access local documents and policy from other schemes.

ICVA provides schemes with a weekly newsletter containing ICVA news, as well as an overview of national custody issues that are of relevance and interest to schemes. ICVA provides conferences and briefings for schemes and custody visitors to attend on a range of topics and with guest speakers.


ICVA has an on-going national role to represent ICV schemes as an integral part of policing. It does so as a member of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), alongside Independent Custody Visitors Scotland and the Northern Ireland Policing Board Independent Custody Visiting Scheme.

Activities include

Being the voice of custody visiting at national meetings Following up on custody issues in a topical way, our most recent work includes working on the oversight of those attending police custody for voluntary interviews and sanitary protection for female detainees in police custody.

ICVA provides a conduit between schemes and national bodies such as the inspectorates. It represents schemes at quarterly Home Office meetings.

ICVA collates data regarding custody visiting across the UK to promote the scale of custody visiting, highlight the frequency of visits and the number of detainees seen. In addition to this ICVA represents schemes on issues of national concern regard detainee care.

Interested in volunteering?


How do I apply to be an independent custody visitor?

You can enquire about joining your local scheme by clicking on the interactive map HERE in the area that covers your local area and emailing the relevant Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner or police authority body on the email address supplied. You can only volunteer in the area where you live or work.

Who can be an independent custody visitor?

There are some restrictions on who can volunteer as an independent custody visitor in order to avoid conflicts of interest. For example, serving members of the police force and those who currently sit on the bench are not eligible to become custody visitors.  If you are concerned that you may have a conflict of interest, then please contact your local scheme manager who will be able to advise you.

Do ICVA manage all of the volunteers?

No, ICVA is a membership organisation for independent custody visiting schemes; local scheme managers are responsible for managing their local volunteers.

How/why did custody visiting start?

During the first half of 1981 several outbreaks of unrest occurred in major cities throughout the country. The most significant of these disorders took place in Brixton when hundreds of young people attacked property and the police.

The cause of these disorders centred around people protesting about oppressive policing and in particular the alleged harassment of people, especially young black people, by the police – in short, these incidents were anti-police and voiced a lack of trust in the law and order authorities.  After days of unrest, these serious incidents led to the government ordering an urgent inquiry and appointing Lord Scarman to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the events.

As part of the recommendations arising from the investigation and following report, Lord Scarman advocated a system for members of the public from local communities to inspect the way the police detained people in their custody.

Originally referred to as lay visiting, independent custody visiting is the system that has been developed to meet this recommendation.

Why do we need oversight of the police?

This public oversight helps to prevent harm, it provides public reassurance that custody is safe and contributes to the UK’s human rights obligations. Police forces welcome the role of the custody visitors to give them an independent insight into their custody suites, often stating that the visitors’ reports are helpful to drive improvements.

Who are the NPM?

The UK National Preventive Mechanism was established in 2009 to strengthen the protection of people in detention through independent monitoring.

In coordination across the four nations of the UK, the NPM focuses attention on practices in detention that could amount to ill-treatment and works to ensure its own approaches are consistent with international standards for independent detention monitoring. You can find out more about the NPM and its members here.

What is OPCAT?

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is an international human rights treaty designed to strengthen the protection of people deprived of their liberty.

Its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 2002 reflected a consensus among the international community that people deprived of their liberty are particularly vulnerable to ill-treatment and that greater efforts were needed to prevent such ill-treatment from happening. OPCAT entered into force in June 2006.