Custody

When someone is arrested they are usually taken to a police station where they will be held in custody in a cell.

When someone is arrested they are usually taken to a police station where they will be held in custody in a cell. The custody sergeant will tell them their rights which are as set out below:

  • right to free legal advice

  • right to tell someone where you are

  • right to have medical help if you’re feeling ill

  • right to see the rules the police must follow (‘Codes of Practice’)

  • right to see a written notice, in your own language, telling you about your rights - eg regular breaks for food and drink, exercise if practicable and to use the toilet

  • And at least an 8 hour uninterrupted rest period if detained overnight.

These rights can be delayed under certain circumstances but can not be denied.

The suspect will be searched and any belongings will be taken from them and kept by the custody officer while they are in the cell. They will be questioned and a record will be kept of the questions and their responses. They will be read the police caution “You do not have to say anything. However, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

A suspect can be held for up to 24 hours before the police have to charge the suspect with a crime or release them.

In the case of serious crimes such as murder the police can extend the period of detention up to 36 hours. The decision to extend the time limit must be made by a senior police officer (superintendent or above).Magistrates can authorise further detentions up to a maximum of 96 hours.

Someone arrested under the Terrorism Act can be held without charge for up to 14 days.

Once charged the police have to decide if the suspect can be released and allowed home, possibly with certain guidelines which must be followed known as bail, or if they must remain in police custody until the court hearing.

The accused is more likely to be detained in police custody for a serious offences or if they have been convicted of serious offences before. Bail is also unlikely to be given if the police do not think the accused will attend their hearing or if they think he or she might commit a crime whilst on bail or if he or she has previously broken the terms of their bail.

Detained people are treated in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, Codes of Practice.

If the suspect is under 17 or a vulnerable adult the police will have to contact the suspect's parent, guardian or carer. They will also have to appoint an ‘appropriate adult’ to come to the police station to help and be present during questioning and searching. This could be the suspect's parent, guardian or carer, a social worker, another family member or friend aged 18 or over or a volunteer aged 18 or over.

Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE): all versions and accompanying codes of practice 



BBC News - Overnight child custody must end, says charity

The overnight detention of children in police cells - The Howard

Building better police custody suites

Guest post: arrest and investigation in Romania - Fair Trials

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