Association of Visiting Committees for Scottish Penal Establishments

FAQ's

How can I become a Visiting Committee Member?
In the first instance you should contact the Secretary to the Association of Visiting Committees E-mail:  avc.secretary@btinternet.com.  A search will be carried out on your behalf to seek out any existing vacancies in your locality.  You will then be advised to whom you should contact to offer your services.  For further information click here.

What are the functions of the Association of Visiting Committees?
The Association acts as a collective voice for Visiting Committees and provides guidance and advice on training.  It liaises with other agencies and organisations at national level.  The Association agrees national procedures for the guidance of local visiting committees and organises conferences and events at national level.

What do Visiting Committees do?
Visiting Committees act on behalf of the Scottish Ministers to provide an independent monitoring role within prisons.  They co-operate with the Scottish Ministers and Governors in promoting the efficiency of prisons.  They visit prisons on a regular basis and have unrestricted access to both the prison and prisoners.  Visiting Committee members hear and investigate issues and complaints which prisoners may raise with them and subsequently advise the prisoner, Governor and Scottish Ministers of their findings.  An annual report is submitted to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice covering the work of the Committee, its views on the state of the prison and its administration and any recommendations.

Who appoints Visiting Committees?
Most Visiting Committees are appointed by Local Authorities.  Visiting Committees for the young offenders’ institutions at HMP Polmont, HMP Friarton and HMP Cornton Vale are appointed by the Minister for Justice.  For further information click here.

When are Visiting Committees appointed?
Local authorities must appoint Visiting Committees within two months of an ordinary election of councillors.  Appointments to Visiting Committees for young offenders institutions are made by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice for terms of three years.

How many Visiting Committees are there?
There are sixteen Visiting Committees in total – one allocated to each of the fifteen adult prisons and a two further committees serving the young offenders’ institutions at HMP Polmont and HMP Cornton Vale.  In the remote areas of Scotland, legalised police cells (LPCs) provide accommodation for prisoners for periods up to thirty days.  Each LPC also has a Visiting Committee which comprises three members.

How do I locate my local VC?
Follow this link.

How often do Visiting Committees meet?
This can vary between Committees, however, there is a statutory requirement for each Committee to meet at its prison at least once in every period of three months. 

Are Visiting Committee members paid?
No.  Membership of a Visiting Committee is undertaken on a voluntary basis although travelling and subsistence claims are reimbursed.  In some circumstances members may be able to claim loss of earnings which may include the cost of childcare. 

Can I still be a member of a Visiting Committee if I am in full-time employment?
Yes.  Being a member of a Visiting Committee may take up 2-3 days of your time each month and many of our members are in full-time employment.  The timing of monitoring visits is flexible. Committee meetings are usually held during the morning or afternoon.  You may also be asked to attend training days during working hours.


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