Residents of Bexley.
Please don't believe that a system is in place to monitor adequately the treatment of detainees in the Bexley Police custody suite.
Lord Scarman's recommendation and the provision that followed, for members of the public to ensure the proper treatment of detainees, is in disarray in Bexley.
The chair, for years, has been a well meaning, but ineffective elderly woman, more concerned to catch up on the domestic news of the custody staff ,than ensure that the detainees are being properly treated.
Instead of spending time raising concerns about the lack of food being given to detainees, she has been more inclined to check the 'sell by' dates of the pre-packed microwaveable food in the canteen. She has spent her visits checking that the showers are clean, unconcerned that detainees are rarely allowed to use them. She wanted to ignore the fact that an eleven year old was banged up in an adult cell alone and instead exchange happy banter with the police on duty at the time.
She, with the deputy chair, appear to enjoy the access their roles give them to influential figures in local and Met wide policing and the socials funded at London's city hall. However so little progress has been made on the provision of the most basic of the PACE 'Rights and Entitlements' of detainees.
If one considers the panel members. One has a son in the police force. Another fusses about whether members are properly insured. A new member worries lest we upset the police by pressing our questions. Meetings resemble a cosy chance to feel important, to rub shoulders with police inspectors and feel fulfilled in contributing to society.
Meanwhile the facts are that the detainees in Bexley's custody suite have been and continue to be abused.
They are not fed properly. Prisoners with empty stomachs are interviewed, even sent before the courts, sometimes starved for 24 hours or longer.
No systematic checking takes place to ensure they have drunk enough liquids.
They are denied their regular medication, even when this triggers anxiety and provokes instability.
Vulnerable detainees, with emotional or mental health issues can be goaded and regarded as a nuisance.
Children are locked up in adult cells and left alone.
Often no access is given to the exercise yard, even if a detainee has been in for longer than the 24 hour usual period.
Detainees aren't invited to wash, not even their hands after they have used the toilet.
Blankets are often not offered.
Lights are left on overnight.
Cell doors and wickets are slammed shut.
At times, detainees are forcibly strip searched.
Sometimes they are restrained by four officers pinning them to the ground.
Those, for whom English is a second language or who cannot speak English at all, are left stranded in their cells unable to communicate.
The police become adept at concealing this mistreatment, at answering criticism and dodging responsibility. The truth remains however, that the PACE rules are not being observed.
Cuts in the police budget mean that the present woeful standards are likely to deteriorate further. However, it is essentially not a financial issue. The poor care is related more to a culture of laziness, indifference and a lack of respect for the principle that underpins our judicial system that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
How am I privy to this information.
First because when I was wrongly arrested in 2009 by the police for giving my children a safe and supervised climbing adventure, I was mistreated by the police. This alerted me to the problem.
I applied to become an Independent Custody Visitor and for a number of years have sought to prompt reform of the Bexley standards.
Unfortunately, my passion to ensure proper standards at Bexley has not been shared by the other panel members.
I'm afraid I wanted to turn their social tea party, where they munch luxury biscuits, dine at local restaurants and hobnob with the influential, into an agent to hold the police to account and raise standards.
My repeated questioning was not appreciated. At one meeting when I questioned the veracity of a police custody record, the police representative walked out. At another, when I insisted that detainees had to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty, the police representative left the room.
Then I wrote in an email that MOPAC, the Mayor's Office For Policing and Crime received, that the panel members appeared reticent to raise matters with the police. I suggested that that this may be because ' they are drawn in the main from a generation that was expected to show deference to the police and figures of authority and were unused to confronting injustice, malpractice or corruption.'
I wrote also that the panel was 'an ineffective instrument' and was not 'fit for purpose' and suggested that panel members wanted to 'continue the self-satisfaction of being able to say they do voluntary work...while achieving so little'.
The police wanted me out.
The panel members wanted me out.
My accreditation has now been removed because allegedly 'I failed to treat fellow ICV's with due respect and courtesy'.
So there it is. Let the detainees suffer abuse, as long as the Bexley ICV panel can continue their sweet liaisons.
The Bexley ICVs work in league with the police and MOPAC supports the pretence of custody visiting when the reality is that the ICV work locally is mere window dressing to given the impression that all is well in police custody.
It is not.
The public, the media and local politicians overlook this to the peril of society.