If you are arrested by Police
This purpose of this guide is to give a basic overview of what to expect when
arrested, your rights following arrest, what happens in a police interview and the
possible outcomes following a police interview.
If you are arrested by the police, the police officers are under an obligation to
take you to a police station ‘as soon as practicable’. Before taking you to a
station, police officers must inform you that you have been arrested, and the
grounds for your arrest.
The police are also required to give you a caution, confirming that “you do not
have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when
questioned something which you later rely on in Court, and anything you do say
may be given in evidence.”
If arrested, you will normally be taken to a police station, kept in custody and
interviewed by the police. This can be a daunting experience. When you arrive
at the custody suite of the police station you will be booked in by the police
custody officer on duty. Once that has been done you will be searched, and
your possessions kept by the police custody officer.
The Custody Officer (CO) is the key person responsible for authorising your
detention and for supervising your welfare. On arrival at a police station, you
should be taken to see the CO as soon as practicable. The CO will then look at
all the evidence available against you and decide whether there are sufficient
grounds to charge you with an offence, or, if not, whether there are other
grounds or keeping you at the police station, for example in order to secure
further evidence by questioning you.
If the CO authorises your detention, they must inform you of any offence or
offences for which you have been arrested, the grounds for your arrest, and their
reasons for detaining you. The CO is also responsible for reviewing your
detention at regular intervals to ensure that it continues to be justified.
In addition, the CO is responsible for informing you of your rights while you
are at the station. You can have someone notified that you have been arrested
and are in custody - the police do have some limited grounds to restrict this
right, for example, if they believe it would lead to the tampering of evidence. If
you are under 17 years old or are a vulnerable adult, you can have an
appropriate adult such as a parent or carer present during searching and
You also have the right to seek medical assistance if you are feeling unwell, see
the rules the police must follow in their Code of Practice, be presented with a
written copy of your rights, such as regular food and toilet breaks. If English is
not your first language you also have the right to an interpreter free of charge.
Next you will have your photograph taken, your biometric data including
fingerprints and DNA samples – this can be a mouth swap or a head hair root.
You may also have swabs of the skin on your hands and arms taken. These are
all without requiring your permission. However, if they wish to take samples
such as blood, urine, or dental impressions they need both your permission and
the authority of a senior officer. This does not apply when they take a blood or
urine sample in connection with drink or drug driving. The information from
fingerprints and samples is then stored in the police database.
The Custody Officer has a duty to find out what items of property you have on
your person on arrival at the police station and can search you themselves or
authorise another police officer to conduct the search.
Following a search, the police can seize clothing or personal items from you, if
they believe that they form evidence of the crime for which you have been
arrested, or if they believe that you may use the item (a) to cause physical injury
to yourself or others; (b) to cause damage to property; (c) to interfere with
evidence; or (d) to assist you to escape. The most common items to be taken
before you are placed in the cell are your belt and shoelaces.
Once placed in a cell you will then await interview. While you are at the police
station the conditions of your detention and the police’s treatment of you must
comply with certain minimum standards. Your cell must be adequately heated,
cleaned, ventilated, and lit. Your bedding must be of reasonable standard and
clean and sanitary and you must have access to toilet and washing facilities.
You should be visited in your cell a minimum of every hour to check on your
welfare and offered 2 light meals and 1 main meal in any 24 hour period, with
drinks at meal-times and when reasonably requested.
It is also important to remember that throughout your arrest and detention, the
police are only permitted to use force against you if it is justified, and any force
used must not be excessive.
If you feel you need medical attention you should inform the CO (or ask that
they be told by another officer). If the CO considers that any person in custody
is injured, appears to be suffering from physical illness or mental disorder, or
appears to need clinical attention, they must ensure that they receive appropriate
clinical attention as soon as reasonably practicable.
There will be a custody doctor or nurse at the police station for you to speak
with. In addition, if it is necessary for your health, the police must take you to a
When taken into police custody you have the right to legal advice either from
the duty solicitor or a representative of your choice. This advice will be free of
charge unless you request to speak to a solicitor who you wish to pay for. If
you do not already have a solicitor, the police must call the Defence Solicitor
Call Centre and you will be allocated a Duty Solicitor. If your solicitor decides
it is necessary for them to attend the police station to advise you in person, you
must be informed once they arrive.
While you are waiting for your representative to arrive you do not have to
answer any questions. You should receive legal advice quickly save in
exceptional circumstances where a senior officer can authorise withholding
legal advice for a maximum of 36 hours after arriving at the custody suite or 48
hours for suspected terrorism offences. If you decide not to have a legal
representative, you can change your mind at any time.
You should be very cautious about attending the police station for an informal
chat to ‘give your side of the story’. It can be very easy to incriminate yourself.
Any communication you have with the police, whether over the phone, in
person or in writing, should always be done only after you have taken advice
from your lawyer and only in the presence of your lawyer.
Even if a police officer tells you that ‘you don’t need a lawyer’, that ‘you’re not
a suspect’ or ‘waiting for a lawyer will just slow things down’, you should
always insist on having your lawyer with you before saying anything.
The length of time you can be held in custody without being charged with a
crime will depend on the type of offence you are suspected of having
committed. The time limits are basically 24 hours for most crimes. After 24
hours your further detention of an additional 12 hours must be authorised by an
officer of the rank of superintendent or above.
Detention without charge beyond 36 hours can only be authorised by a
Magistrates’ Court in respect of serious ‘indictable offences’. In total you cant’
be kept longer than 96 hours. For terrorism offences (under the Terrorism Act)
you can be detained without charge initially for 48 hours, but this can be
extended to up to 7 days with judicial authority and then a further extension of
up to 21 days can be granted with further applications.
When looking at the police interview process, the police will provide
information (disclosure) about the offence or offences you are suspected of
committing to your legal representative without you present. Police can and
usually will withhold information such as witness statements and other evidence
at this stage.
You and your legal representative will be able to speak alone in a private
consultation room at the police station. This allows your lawyer to explain the
allegations you are facing and gives you a chance to respond to those
The advice Lawise gives at the Police Station is confidential and should not be
discussed with the Police or any third party. Upon analysis of the disclosure
given, our representative will advise you whether you should answer ‘No
comment’ to questions, answer police questions or serve a prepared statement
outlining your defence. Each case will be different depending on the individual
In interview you will be asked questions by one or two police officers in a
recorded interview in the presence of your lawyer. Before your interview, you
should be cautioned with the following words:
“You do not have to say anything. But 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.”
The police should not interview a person if they are unable to (a) appreciate the
significance of questions or their answers; or (b) understand what is happening
because of the effects of drink, drugs, or any illness, ailment or condition.
In addition, during the interview, police officers should never attempt to use
oppression, such as raising their voice or making threats, to obtain information
from you, or offer you an inducement to admit guilt to an offence.
If the interview takes place over 24 hours, you must be given at least 8 hours
continuous rest, and you should be given breaks at recognised mealtimes and
refreshment breaks every 2 hours.
Following police interview, there are four basic outcomes that could occur:
Released with no further action - this means the police accept that you have not
committed a criminal offence or at least that there is no realistic prospect of
them proving that you committed an offence.
Released under investigation - this means the police still suspect you may have
committed a criminal offence, but they do not currently have enough evidence
to charge you. You will be released but may be called back to a police station
or custody suite at a later point for further questioning.
Released on bail pending further enquiries - this is the same as being released
under investigation, except that you will be placed on ‘pre-charge bail’,
meaning conditions can be placed on your release e.g that you must comply
with a curfew or not associate with certain people. If you breach the conditions
of pre-charge bail you can be arrested.
If you are charged with a crime, the exact details of the crime you are being
charged with will be set out in a charge sheet and you will be required to sign to
say you have been told about your charge and your subsequent Court date.
You will then either be kept in police custody or released on bail until an initial
court hearing can be held to decide what happens next. If you are refused bail
and kept in police custody, you must be produced before the next available
Magistrates’ Court. The Magistrates Court sits every day except Sunday.
Your first court hearing after you are charged with a crime will be at
a Magistrates’ Court – even if your trial will be at a Crown Court later.
However, if you are charged with a minor offence your case could be decided
without going to court (‘Single Justice Procedure’).
If you are released on bail, the police may set conditions on that bail e.g to have
a curfew, avoid associating with or contacting certain people, visiting certain
If you are due to be released from police custody, you will go through a
standard pre-release process. Your possessions will be returned (apart from
items that are being kept as part of an ongoing police investigation) and you will
be allowed to phone a friend or family member to arrange transport home. If
that is not possible you may be issued with a travel warrant for public transport.
Before you are finally released, your conditions of your bail if you have any
will be explained clearly to you.
Lawise Solicitors are here for you. We are based in London and offer a 24-
hour, 365 days a year Police Station legal advise service, with a call out service
for people in Police Custody. Please contact us at Lawise Solicitors, 5 Bell
Parade, Bell Road, Hounslow, Middlesex, TW3 3NU email is
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and at the telephone on 07854
311390 or 0208 572 9734.