At the Police Station


If you’ve seen The Bill it’s actually not that bad an overview of what happens when someone is arrested.

Sometimes people attend the police station voluntarily and are spoken to without being arrested. In that case, different consideration applies. If they are arrested on arrival at the police station, then the same rules apply as here.

What are your rights?

The rights that someone has are set out in Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 ‘PACE’ and the Codes of Practice (and in fact, one of the rights is the access to the Codes). These are very long documents that are intended to cover most eventualities.

The key rights that someone detained has are :

  • To have someone notified of their arrest (C5.1) and to speak to someone (C5.2)
  • To have access to legal advice (C6)
  • To have an interpreter if needed
  • If a juvenile or ‘mentally disordered’ or vulnerable then an appropriate adult
  • To be detained in a single-person cell (if possible) as well as to have adequate heating and standards of cleanliness and bedding (C8)
  • Meals and drinks to be provided, to include any dietary requirements (C8)

With all of these, there are exceptions for serious offences where there are ground to suspect that this will interfere with the course of investigation.

Also. Note that Police Stations are not exempted from the smoking ban – there is no right to smoke if you’re detained.

Everything that happens in the police station is (supposed to) be recorded in a Custody Record (C2). This is an electronic document that someone has access to during their detention and for 12 months after they are released.

How long can you be held for?

For most offences, the maximum period of detention is 24 hours (s41 PACE). If the offence is an indictable one, then this can be extended for a further 12 hours provided that it is authorised by a Superintendent. This can only happen if (a) it is necessary to secure evidence and (b) the investigation is being carried out diligently and expeditiously.

Beyond that, the police can apply to a Magistrates’ Court for a ‘warrant of further detention’. This application is on the same grounds as the Superintendent’s extension. A court can extend for any period up to 36 hours, but subject to an overall total of 96 hours. Beyond that, no further detention for questioning is allowed.

The police can bail a suspect at any time during this period and this ‘stops the clock’ which will only re-start once they surrender to their bail. It is common, in serious investigations, for this to happen over a period of months.

There will be a separate post on bail and charging as it’s a pretty complicated area.

Can the police take DNA and fingerprints?

Almost certainly. Fingerprints can be taken (without consent if necessary) for any ‘recordable’ offence. A recordable offence is ANY imprisonable offence as well as certain specified non-imprisonable offences (see The National Police Records (Recordable Offences) Regulations 2000 as amended). Basically there are lots, but the main ones that we would come across are loitering for prostitution, begging, football banning order offences, drunk and disorderly and, depending where you are, poaching.

A non-intimate sample is :

  • Hair (apart from pubic hair)
  • Nail, or nail swab
  • Body swab (including mouth but excluding any orifice)
  • Saliva
  • Skin impression (eg finger or foot print)

These can be taken, without the suspect’s consent, if an Inspector authorises it.

An ‘intimate sample’ is:

  •  Blood, semen or any other tissue fluid (apart from saliva)
  • Urine:
  • Dental impression
  • Swab from genitals or any bodily orifice (apart from the mouth)

This can only be taken if an Inspector authorises it. It requires the suspect’s consent and the police cannot take the sample without that. If someone refuses however, then the can be the subject of an ‘adverse inference’ at the trial.

If someone is not charged, or charged and acquitted will the police destroy the DNA?

The position after May 2013 is that they will in certain circumstances. There is full details here. This is based on s1 Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

What happens at a police interview?

This is, in most occasions, the purpose of an arrest. Before the interview the police will give ‘disclosure’ (a very limited summary of what the allegation is) to the legal representative (if there is one). The interview will be tape recorded, and may be videoed. At the start of the interview, the police will ‘caution’ the suspect – “you do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you fail to mention, when questioned, something that you rely on in court, everything you do say may be given in evidence”. Then there will be a series of questions put to the suspect which they may (or may not) answer.

What happens if you don’t answer the police’s questions?

This a very complicated topic which we’ll look at in more detail in a separate post.

Do I need a solicitor?

Up to you. We can’t, on this blog, give you legal advice. It may be worth noting that police officers, who know what they’re doing, will always get a lawyer if they are arrested or questioned for a criminal offence. You would be mad not to.

3 thoughts on “At the Police Station

  1. Pingback: Your Rights at the UK Police Station | Language, society and law |

  2. Pingback: What’s the difference between being arrested and being charged? | UK Criminal Law Blog

  3. Pingback: The Police Interview | UK Criminal Law Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s