Record turn out for custody visiting annual conference


SPA's 2016 ICV conference - Edinburgh


The volunteers behind the SPA's independent custody visiting scheme in Scotland met on Saturday 7 May in Edinburgh for their third annual conference.

The event was the biggest conference yet since independent custody visiting was organised as a single service three years ago, alongside the creation of the SPA and Police Scotland.

Organised by the Authority’s custody visiting team in support of the SPA’s statutory responsibilities, the conference attracted nearly 60 visitors from all over Scotland – from Stranraer in the south to Orkney in the north.

The event was opened by SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan who spoke about the vital contribution he had seen volunteers make in previous leadership roles – not least as Chief Executive of the NSPCC. He acknowledged the huge contribution that volunteers make to policing and that this contribution comes into sharp focus in an area like custody where an individual has had their personal freedom taken away.

This key theme of checks and balances on the treatment of people in all forms of custody and detention was taken up by David Strang, Scotland’s chief inspector of prisons and a former Chief Constable. He reminded delegates of the contribution that the independent custody visiting scheme in Scotland makes  as one of 20 UK bodies who support the UK’s international obligations to the prevention of torture and degrading treatment.

Visitors also took the opportunity to hear from Police Scotland on the changing face of custody within the broader criminal justice reforms coming in over the next couple of years, and were able to raise issues they identified in their visits around staffing, infrastructure and training.

A central theme of this year’s conference was to give visitors new perspectives on emerging issues in our society that are having an increasing impact on custody. The event closed with a series of thought-provoking inputs on mental health, immigration detentions, and the impact of new psychoactive substances.

And the conference also took the opportunity to hear about how custody visiting schemes are developing south of the border and what learning England and Wales might take from the Scottish experiences - with the new Chief executive of the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) also attending for the full day.

Speakers at the conference included:

  • Katie Kempen, Chief Executive of the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA)
  • Superintendent Arlene Smith, Criminal Justice Services Division, Police Scotland
  • David Strang QPM, Interim Chair of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM)
  • Michael Brown, College of Policing
  • Lynne Davidson, Home Office Immigration
  • Dr Richard Stevenson, Emergency Medicine Consultant