When an individual is arrested, they are taken into police custody at the relevant police station. If that police station is full, they will be taken into custody at the nearest police station that has sufficient space.

Booking in and searching at the police station

Once in the custody suite at the police station, the detainee will be searched and all the property they have on their person will be taken and placed in a secure locker, to be returned upon their release. Some items may be seized if they are deemed relevant to the investigation.

There are some instances when a more intimate search may be conducted  – typically in arrests involving drugs. Any intimate search will be completed in a private room at the police station, under special conditions.

The custody sergeant will then talk the individual through their rights and entitlements whilst in police custody. They will also ask certain health and well-being related questions to ensure that the individual is not at risk from any health condition whilst being detained. If any medication is taken on a regular schedule, provisions will be made to allow this. Efforts will also be made to ensure any necessary medication is obtained if such medication is not in the possession of the detainee at the time of their arrest.

Anyone with injuries or any specific health problems will be seen by a doctor or other qualified medical professional, who will make a record of any injuries that again may be relevant to the investigation or any possible complaint regarding arrest.

Your rights at the police station

A detainee will be asked whether they wish to speak to a solicitor free of charge. This may be either a duty solicitor or a solicitor from a named firm of their choice. If the detainee opts to consult a duty solicitor, the police are then obliged to notify the duty solicitor call centre, who will then forward the information to the relevant establishment.

The custody sergeant will also ask whether the detainee wishes to have anyone notified of their arrest and on most occasions allow the detainee to speak to that nominated person.  The requirement is only to inform the chosen person of detainment, so this contact may be made a member of the police staff.

There are occasions where the police are granted permission to keep someone for a specified period of time without the obligation to notify a chosen person of their arrest. No calls will be made until that has been lifted. This doesn’t usually prohibit speaking to a solicitor, but in certain circumstances this communication may also not be allowed.

How long can you be held at the police station?

The police are entitled to hold a detainee for up to 24 hours before they must either charge the individual with a crime, or release them without charge.

If an individual is arrested on suspicion of a serious crime such as murder, the police can apply to hold the detainee for a period of 36 hours up to a maximum of 96 hours.

If the detainee has been arrested under the Terrorism Act, the police can hold the individual for a maximum of 14 days without charge.

Police enquiries and interviews

Once the booking in procedure has been completed, the detainee will be taken to a cell, or if they are a juvenile (aged 17 or under) into a detention room pending the police being in a position to interview.

Either at this stage or prior to release, the police will take fingerprints, photographs and a DNA sample. A detainee will be asked for their consent of this procedure but the police are able to use reasonable force should consent not be granted.

The police will typically then go to make their enquiries if the allegation is relatively recent. They will obtain statements, CCTV footage and any relevant, documentation and carry out searches if they are authorised to do so. Once the enquiries have been concluded, the case will be allocated to an officer who will conduct the interview and take over the role of officer in the case.

If a solicitor has been instructed and the police are ready to interview, disclosure will be provided to the nominated solicitor giving an outline of the allegation against the detainee.  A private consultation will take place between the detainee and solicitor to discuss this evidence and whether there is any defence to the allegation. A decision will then be made as to how to respond to questions in interview and the solicitor will remain with the detainee during the interview.

Post-interview procedure

Once the police interview has taken place, the officer in the case will consult a senior officer or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to make a decision as to what happens next.

  1. There are three possible options: If there is clearly a need for further investigation to take place but there is no question of a risk to public safety, then the detainee will be bailed or released under investigation and asked to return to the police station at a specified date and time. This may or may not be subject to police bail conditions.
  2. If there is insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution then no further action will be taken. The matter will be ended unless any further evidence comes to light
  3. If there is sufficient evidence and no further investigations can be carried out for either the prosecution or the defence, then the detainee may be charged and either bailed for court or detained for court proceedings in certain circumstances. If the decision is made to remand the detainee for court, representations can be made by the solicitor.

Nb. This guide is intended to give general information only and not intended to be used as the basis upon which advice is given nor should it be relied upon as giving advice specific to a case or individual. Lawtons do not accept liability for anyone using this guide. Should you require specific advice in connection with a real case or situation, please contact us immediately so that we can provide specific advice.