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Warning: This is archived material and may be out of date. The Metropolitan Police Authority has been replaced by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC).

See the MOPC website for further information.

Get involved with the London ICV scheme

Interested in becoming an Independent Custody Visitor in London?

The MPA is seeking to recruit visitors from as many different backgrounds and communities as possible to ensure the scheme reflects London’s diversity.

Become an Independent Custody Visitor

To be eligible to join the London independent custody visitor scheme you must be 18 or over and live, work or study in the borough you wish to visit in. Independent Custody Visitors must have no direct involvement in the criminal justice system. For example, they cannot be serving police officers or staff, special constables or magistrates.

Appointment as an independent custody visitor is subject to a successful application and interview process. This includes receiving clearance from the Metropolitan Police Service Vetting Department and signing up to our scheme’s Memorandum of Understanding.

On becoming a volunteer you will need to attend training sessions to prepare you for the role, and complete a six-month probationary period in order to be fully accredited.

The MPA is recruiting Londoners in various boroughs across the capital to the independent custody visiting scheme, and would like to hear from you if you believe you can offer your time and experience to this important role.

Message from Kit Malthouse, vice chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority

Thank you for taking an interest in the London independent custody visiting (ICV) scheme.

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) exists to make sure that London’s police are accountable for the services they provide to people in the capital. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is the largest police force in the country and accounts for a quarter of all policing resources in the UK.

As part of its role, the Authority has been given a number of statutory responsibilities, including under paragraph 51 of the Police Reform Act 2002, the management of the independent custody visitor scheme.

Twenty-five years on from Lord Scarman’s report into the Brixton riots, it is as important as ever that Londoners have confidence in the police. Independent custody visiting continues to be crucial in helping to build and maintain community confidence in a significant area of policing - detention. The MPA and the MPS appreciate the large contribution that independent members of the community make in conducting unannounced visits to police stations to monitor the treatment and conditions of detainees. The MPA is always keen to recruit more volunteers to undertake this vital role.

This page provides some background to the MPA and policing in London, as well as further information on our custody visiting scheme.

Kit Malthouse
Metropolitan Police Authority

About the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA)

The MPA is an independent statutory body, established under The Greater London Authority Act 1999, and came into effect in July 2000. It exists to make sure that London’s police are accountable for the services they provide to people in the capital.

The establishment of the MPA marked a fundamental change in the policing of London. The Authority gives Londoners a regime of local democratic accountability for policing that previously did not exist – its duties and responsibilities formerly rested directly with the Home Secretary.

The Authority has achieved real benefits for the people of London. There are now over 31,000 police officers, the largest number ever, and London was first to introduce Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) - over 4000 now provide extra public reassurance and tackle anti-social behaviour that affects our communities.

How does the MPA work?

The MPA has 23 Members who scrutinise and support the work of the MPS. The 23 members comprise of twelve London Assembly members appointed to the Authority by the Mayor of London, and 11 Independent members, at least one of whom must be a magistrate and one appointed directly by the Home Secretary. Members are appointed for a period of four years. The Mayor of London is able to Chair the police authority if they so wish and the current Mayor, Boris Johnson, assumed the role of Chair of the MPA on 1 October 2008 when changes to the appointment of members regulations were brought in to force, under The Metropolitan Police Authority Regulations 2008.

Each borough has a link member. This means that wherever you live a member is taking a keen interest in policing issues in your area. Members also work alongside the Senior Management Team of the MPA.

The MPA promotes equality and diversity within the police service and is working in partnership to ensure all those who live and work in the capital are treated fairly and with respect.

What are the MPA’s priorities?

The Authority will:

  • hold the Commissioner rigorously to account for improving the operational performance of the MPS
  • transform community engagement to help Londoners secure more responsive policing
  • work with the MPS to achieve cultural change throughout the service so that everyone in London can gain and retain confidence in policing
  • drive the MPS to make the most effective, efficient and cost conscious use of all of its resources
  • deliver a fit for purpose, efficient and effective MPA.

The Metropolitan Police area and the ICV Scheme

The MPS is by far the largest of the forces that operate in London (the others being the City of London police and the British Transport Police). The MPS is also the largest force in the UK, responsible for a population of 7.2 million, as well as the millions of visitors who come to the capital each year. As a major capital city, the policing challenge is significant.

The MPS is a large organisation with a complex command structure that reflects the diversity and complexity of its responsibilities. It is made up of many different departments, each with their own specific focus, but all working together with a shared aim of making London the safest major city in the world. Further details can be found on the MPS website:

Local borough policing

Street level policing in London operates through 33 Borough Operational Command Units (BOCUs). These BOCUs work within the same boundaries as the 32 London boroughs, with the exception of one BOCU, which serves Heathrow airport.

A Borough Commander heads each BOCU, reporting to the MPS Territorial Policing command unit. Each BOCU has a senior management team, responsible for the management of all officers and staff working within the borough structure. Custody is just one of the many areas for which each borough has responsibility.

Independent custody visitors

Independent custody visitors are members of the local community who volunteer to visit police stations unannounced to check on the treatment and welfare of people held in police custody.
They come from a variety of backgrounds and sections of the community. They must be over 18 and have no direct involvement in the criminal justice system; for example, they may not be serving police officers or magistrates.

Other people such as solicitors or probation officers may be excluded, to prevent possible conflict of interests for the individual. This maintains the independence of the scheme as a whole.

The structure of independent custody visiting in London

An independent custody visitors’ panel operates within each borough. The scheme is made up of over 400 volunteers across 32 panels.
The panels visit each 24/7 operational custody suite in their borough once a week. Each panel elects a Chair and Vice Chair, who provide leadership for the panel locally and can reflect local needs and concerns.

A Coordinator, employed by the MPA, also supports each panel. The panel liaises with the local custody manager who will attend (or send a representative) to each
panel meeting to discuss queries and problems that have arisen out of the custody visits.

Custody visiting in London

Under the Police Reform Act 2002, each police authority has a legal obligation to make arrangements for a custody visiting scheme to operate in its area. Custody visiting in London is managed by the MPA. The scheme has the full support and cooperation of the Commissioner but is independent of the police. The MPA holds overall responsibility for the scheme’s management and administration.

Prospective custody visitors are volunteers from within the community. The MPA is responsible for recruiting, selecting and appointing all custody visitors and tries to ensure a balance of age, gender and ethnicity. Successful applicants to the scheme are given training in all aspects of a custody visitor’s role and responsibilities.
Custody visiting is governed by a range of legislation and guidance including the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 as well as Home Office Codes of Practice and National Standards.

The role of custody visitors

Following a successful interview, custody visitors need to complete security vetting and initial training. They are then able to make unannounced visits with another custody visitor to their local custody facility. The objective of all visits is to monitor and report on the treatment and conditions of individual detainees.

Custody visitors are escorted by a custody sergeant/officer or dedicated detention officer (DDO) at all times during the visit. The officer will offer every detainee being held (and not in interview) the opportunity to speak with the custody visitors. S/he will explain the role of custody visitors to the detainees, emphasising their independence from the police. For the visitors’ protection interviews are carried out within sight, but out of hearing, of the escorting police officer./p>

Strict rules of confidentiality apply. Detainees are only identified by their custody numbers, and the details of what visitors see and hear must be treated as confidential. Custody visitors are not concerned with the alleged offence and must maintain their independence and impartiality at all times. They cannot provide advice to any detainee. They do not become involved or take sides, but are there to look, listen and report on conditions in custody at the time of their visit.

Independent custody visitors are expected to attend local borough panel meetings every 4-8 weeks to discuss the visits they and colleagues have made.

Reporting on visits

After every visit, custody visitors fill out a report form outlining the details of the visit. The form contains all the information about the visit, including details of problems that were resolved immediately and those that need further action. Having completed the report form, custody visitors raise issues with the police before leaving the station.

Copies of the reports are provided for the police, police authority and the ICVs’ panel for follow up and discussion. Details of all custody visits, including the times, dates and any issues raised are held centrally on a database that is maintained by the MPA. Where concerns cannot be resolved immediately, the police will report back to the next panel meeting on how they were resolved after the visitors left the station. Most issues are raised and dealt with locally by each panel, but should any more serious issues arise or if problems seem to be occurring across London then the MPA may raise these directly with the MPS’ Custody Directorate - the department responsible for custody suites, policies, practices and procedures relating to those in custody across London.

How to apply

If you are interested in becoming an independent custody visitor please read the following person specification and role description. If you feel you meet the criteria and description, fill out the application form, and monitoring information form, and return it to the Freepost address on the form. (The forms are available to download from the 'Supporting information' section at the top of this page). If your application is successful you will be asked to attend for a short interview.

Requirements of applicants:

  • You must be 18 years or over.
  • For vetting purposes you must have resided in the UK for the last 3 years.
  • Your appointment as an independent custody visitor is subject to successful clearance by the MPS Vetting Department

Person specification 

Essential criteria  Measure by
Must be at least 18 years of age Application
Must live or work in the police authority area (volunteers may visit in either the borough they live, work or study). Application
To demonstrate sufficient time and flexibility to carry out the custody visiting role. Interview
To work with other visitors as part of a team to meet the police authority’s visiting programme. Interview
Good communications skills both oral and written. Application/Interview
Shows an appreciation of the different groups and communities that reflect London’s diversity and a commitment to equal opportunities. Interview
To demonstrate resilience and an ability to challenge. Interview
To demonstrate an independent and impartial view in relation to all parties involved in the custody visiting process. Interview
To be able to maintain confidentiality. Interview
To demonstrate ability to complete forms clearly and concisely. Application/Interview
Desirable criteria  
Some knowledge of independent custody visiting. Interview
To demonstrate mobility in relation to undertaking visits. Interview

Role description

  • To arrange custody visits with fellow visitors, in line with agreed rosters.
  • To keep the Chair, ICV coordinator and fellow custody visitors informed of any problems with rostered custody visits.
  • To attend regular local meetings of independent custody visitors.
  • To carry out custody visits to designated police stations in line with the scheme guidelines and training.
  • To check on the conditions in which a detainee is kept, their health and wellbeing and their basic legal rights and entitlements, with reference to PACE Code C.
  • Where appropriate to consult the detainee’s custody record to clarify and check any concerns raised by the detainee.
  • To discuss with the custody officer any concerns and requests arising from the custody visit and bring to the custody officer’s attention any issue that need to be dealt with.
  • To complete an independent custody visitor report form, ensuring that all relevant information is recorded correctly, clearly and concisely.
  • To distribute copies of the visit report form to the appropriate people.
  • To complete and submit expense claims in line with the scheme guidelines.
  • To attend continuous training sessions as appropriate.
  • To carry out the duties of an independent custody visitor with regard to the Health and Safety requirements of the custody visiting scheme.
  • To carry out the duties of an independent custody visitor as set out in the scheme handbook.

ICV Coordinator
Metropolitan Police Authority
LON 17808

Freephone: 0808 100 1036
Minicom: 020 7202 0173


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