The rights of a detained person.

Article shared with kind permission of Conor Hunt (Student).

If you are arrested and held at a police station or other premises you have certain statutory rights.


Detained persons are treated in accordance with the Police And Criminal Evidence Act 1984, Codes of Practice . The custody officer must ensure that the detained person is informed of his rights.


The right to legal advice:

A detained person has a right to consult a solicitor in private and free of charge at any time. A duty solicitor scheme is in operation at every police station in England and Wales, so that free telephone advice or a free visit from a solicitor is available. On arrest the custody officer should inform you, in writing or by telling you, that you have a right to free independent legal advice. The police must remind you of your right to see a solicitor during your detention, for example they can inform you before any interview. Some people may feel that when they ask for a solicitor it makes them look guilty, this is not the case, it is your right to have legal advice more so to help you than to make you look like a guilty suspect. The police must let the detainee speak to a solicitor at any time of the day that the detained person requests, and they must continue to try to contact a solicitor if they don’t answer or they cannot get hold of one.

This right can be delayed for up to a maximum of 36 hours if the person has been detained in connection with an indictable offence,has not yet been charged with an offence and a superior officer authorises the delay.  This could be requested if the police believe that the detainee could ask the solicitor to pass on a message or inadvertantly or otherwise alert others to the detainee's predicament. The detainee could be asked to choose another solicitor and in any event he should be allowed to see a solicitor before any court hearing. 



The right to have someone informed:

You can ask the police to contact one person who is interested in your welfare or who is known to you and tell them that you are at the police station. It is free. They will contact someone for you as soon as they can. You have the right to let someone know that you are at a police station, because someone could be looking for you and getting worried and would end up calling the police to report a missing person. It just makes sense to let someone know that you have been arrested so that people know where you are.

This right can be delayed for up to a maximum of 36 hours if the person has been detained in connection with an indictable offence,has not yet been charged with an offence and a superior officer authorises the delay.  This could be requested if the police believe that the detainee could pass on a message or alert others to their predicament. Just because the grounds for delaying notification of arrest may be satisfied it does not automatically mean the grounds for delaying access to legal advice will also be satisfied.


The right to read the Codes of Practice:

The Codes of Practice are rules which will tell you what the police can and cannot do while you are at the police station. The police will let you read the Codes of Practice but you cannot read it for so long that it holds up the police finding out if you have broken the law. If you want to read the Codes of Practice, tell the Police Custody Officer. You have the right to know what you can and cannot do and also know what the police can and cannot do. This is because this could be your first time in custody and you may have no idea what you are entitled to have (e.g. food, water, clean cell and so on). It will also help you know what the police are allowed to do for example how long they can hold you, or your rights, if you are under 18, to have with you a responsible adult aged 18 or over who is not employed by the police.


This also deals with any instances with people being disabled in any way. For example, if they are blind or deaf they should be treated in a way that is appropriate to them and if English is not their first language the custody officer must request the assistance of an interpreter as quickly as possible.


The detainee must be given a written notice setting out the above three rights, how to get legal advice, his right to a copy of the custody record , a note of the caution and a written notice briefly setting out their entitlements while in custody.



Other things you are entitled to while a detainee:


  • Unwell - Tell the police if you feel ill or need medicine. They will call a doctor or nurse or other healthcare professional and it is free. You may be allowed to take your own medicine but the police will have to check first. Detainees should be visited at least every hour whilst in their cells, if they are sleeping and there is no underlying cause for concern they do not have to be woken but if there is some concern due to their state of health they should be checked and roused every half hour and their condition should be assessed and medical help called for if needed.

  • Your cell - reasonable standards of physical comfort. If possible you should be kept in a cell on your own. It should be clean, warm and lit. Your bedding should be clean and in good order. You must be allowed to use a toilet and have a wash. Juveniles should not be placed in police cells unless there is no other secure accommodation suitable or available. They must not be put in a cell with a detained adult.

  • Clothes - If your own clothes are taken from you, then the police must provide you with an alternative form of clothing. Detainees may usually keep clothing and personal effects with them. If the custody officer considers they may use them to harm themselves or others, interfere with evidence, damage property, effect an escape or if they are needed as evidence the custody officer may take away articles they consider necessary but they must tell the detainee why.

  • Food and drink - adequate food and drink must be provided. You must be offered 3 meals a day, at least two light meals and one main meal, with drinks. You can also have drinks between meals.

  • Exercise – exercise when practicable. If possible you should be allowed outside each day for fresh air.

If you are questioned by the police the room used to question you in must be warm and lit and you must be allowed to sit. The officers must tell you their name and rank and you will be offered refreshment and allowed to rest for 8 hours out of 24.

Whilst in detention you may be searched, your fingerprints, photograph or DNA may be taken or you may have to take a breath test and you may be charged with an offence.

You can normally be detained for up to 24 hours without being charged. This time can be extended by a Police Superintendent or a court. After 36 hours only a court can allow the police more time to detain you without being charged.


When you leave the police station, you can ask for a copy of the Custody Record. This is a record of everything that has happened while you have been detained at the police station. The police have to give you a copy as soon as they can.

PACE Code C 2013

Notice of Rights and Entitlements: English (from 27 October 2013)

Detention of children overnight in police cells 'is chronic breach of law'

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