Entitlements & Rights

A person arrested and detained has been subject to a restriction of liberty as a result of lawful powers in response to an event or incident. Equally, the law defines how the individual will be detained and treated in custody, specifying their entitlements and rights whilst at the hands of the police.

This section elaborates on such entitlements and rights whilst detained.  The other sections under Custody Procedures provide additional information on matters in custody.

Summary of rights in custody: (Click for more information)

  • Right to have free independent legal advice
  • Have someone informed of their arrest
  • Use the telephone
  • If less than 18 years old or an adult with specific needs around vulnerability, have the company of an adult in custody to assist and support (appropriate adult) when the police are progressing the investigation such as during an interview
  • Consult the Codes of Practice governing police powers and procedures
  • Medical assistance
  • To remain silent if questioned about a suspected offence
  • To know about the offence suspected, why a person is arrested and detained in custody
  • See records and documents relating to detention
  • Interpreter and translation service
  • How long the police can detain you for
  • If charged with an offence to see the prosecution evidence before the court hearing
  • Where applicable, to contact an Embassy or consulate
  • Accommodated in a clean, warm & let lit environment with access to toilet and washing facilities
  • Provided with substitute clothing if the police seize them as evidence
  • Provided with meals and drinks
  • Where possible, be allowed outside for fresh air and some exercise
  • For any prolonged period in custody, have at least 8 hours rest in any given 24 hour period.
  • Practice any religious activity whilst at the station - the police can provide religious books and other items as necessary
  • Provided with a written notice setting out these rights

Legal advice in police detention  (Click for more information)

People in custody are normally entitled to free legal advice and they are informed of this, as well as being given a document outlining this right. They will be asked if they want a solicitor when they first arrive, before they are interviewed and this remains a continuing right throughout the time at the police station - they will be reminded periodically, for example during a review of their detention.

Options include:

  • Duty solicitor available 24 hours a day - this will be a local solicitor
  • Speak to a solicitor via the Defence Solicitor Call Centre
  • A named solicitor of their own choice - this may be free if the solicitor does legal aid work

For some matters, for example where there will be no interview, legal advice may be over the phone instead of a duty solicitor attending the station. This advice is also free and independent of the police.

Additional legal advice and guidance is available through:

  • Civil Legal Advice: 0345 345 4345
  • Criminal Legal Aid: 0115 852 6000
  • Civil Legal Aid: 0300 200 2020

Before being asked questions about any offence, the police provide information about the matter investigated so that any solicitor can represent a person in custody, or the relevant detainee can be sufficiently aware of the allegation against them.

Legal advice delayed (Click for more information)

Access to a solicitor can be delayed in exceptional circumstances by a senior officer for a limited period as detailed under section 58 of the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984. An example is where contact with a solicitor would lead to alerting others who need to be arrested as well, risk of physical harm to people or interference with evidence.

Driving under the influence, breath tests and legal advice (Click for more information)

When a person has been arrested for a drink drive offence (including under the influence of drugs), rights and entitlements in custody cannot be used to delay procedures. For example, any request for breath, urine or blood samples cannot be refused or delayed to speak to a solicitor.

Interviewed without legal advice (Click for more information)

When a person has requested legal advice they will not be interviewed until they have spoken to a solicitor. This entitlement can be delayed in exceptional circumstances by a senior officer for a limited period. An example is where any delay in interview would lead to physical harm to others.

Not happy with a solicitor (Click for more information)

This is a matter that needs to be discussed with the relevant solicitor dealing with a case or the company or partnership they work for. Normally information is provided to a client providing details of what can be done if a person is not satisfied with the service.

Additionally there are avenues to take through the Legal Ombudsman or the Law Society on the following links:

Right to remain silent (formal caution) (Click for more information)

A person arrested will be told they do not have to say anything when questioned about their suspected involvement in the commission, preparation or instigation of any crime.

However, this doesn’t prevent the police from asking any questions as necessary and should they choose not to answer or mention anything, it may harm their defence in court if they didn’t mention it when questioned and anything said may be given in evidence. The wording of the caution is:

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.

Right to a phone call & informing others (Click for more information)

A person in police custody has the right to have someone informed where they are. Additionally they are entitled to make one telephone call for a reasonable amount of time and the police can monitor the call. This entitlement can be denied by an inspector for a limited period as detailed under section 56 of the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Interpreter & translation services

Where effective communication cannot be established due to language difficulties, the police will arrange for someone who speaks their language to assist. For anyone who is deaf or has difficulty speaking, the police will arrange for a British Sign Language Interpreter. These facilities are free.

Contact with Embassy or foreign Consulate (Click for more information)

People from other countries - whether an independent Commonwealth country or a national of a foreign country - also have the right to contact their High Commission, Embassy or Consulate, or have them informed of where they are and why they are in police detention. This includes having a visit from a consular officer or a nominated solicitor from the Embassy or Consulate.

People under 18 or vulnerable adults (Click for more information)

The police need to contact a parent, guardian or carer for anyone in custody under 18 or an adult who is considered vulnerable. Additionally, there’s a need for them to be present at the station to assist with procedures and support the person - for example during interview, to consider any consent that may be required or where forms or documents need to be signed.

This function is referred to as being an ‘appropriate adult’ which can include any of the following:

  • Parent
  • Family member
  • Guardian 
  • Carer
  • Social worker
  • Friend aged 18 or over
  • A representative from an approved volunteer service

Please see the Help & Support section for more information.

Interviewed without an appropriate adult present (Click for more information)

A juvenile or otherwise vulnerable adult may be interviewed without an appropriate adult present when it’s urgent and necessary, for example to prevent physical injury to someone, harm to property or loss of evidence. This requires the authority of a senior officer and such an interview will only be as long as it’s necessary to obtain sufficient information to prevent the initial concerns.

Medical care (Click for more information)

On arrival and during the period in police custody, staff will arrange appropriate medical attention if the person:

  • Appears to be suffering from an injury
  • Believed to be suffering from a physical or mental illness
  • Requires clinical attention
  • Needs medication
  • Requests to see a medical professional

This applies even if the person makes no request for clinical attention and whether or not they have already received clinical attention elsewhere.

Caring responsibilities (Click for more information)

Its recognised that people arrested may have caring responsibilities for others such as relatives or children whilst in police custody. Due consideration is made regarding the difficulties this may cause and steps can be made to contact relevant people to facilitate alternative arrangements e.g. use of the telephone or the police contacting people on their behalf.

Any prolonged period in custody will routinely be subject of a review by an inspector and caring responsibilities will be taking into consideration when this takes place.

Property (Click for more information)

All persons entering custody are likely to be searched. This forms part of risk management, duty of care for safety and accountability of what items people have in their possession. Items will be removed, recorded and kept pending return on leaving or seizure by police, for example if they are considered to be evidence. Items capable of being used to harm or cause damage will not be permitted in the cell, such as belts, shoelaces or metal objects.

Items of value such as jewellery, money and electronic equipment will not be permitted in the cells.

Please see the Records, Samples & Searches section for more information.

Supplying food, drinks or goods (Click for more information)

Drinks and meals are supplied by the police, providing a varied diet meeting any specific dietary needs or religious beliefs the person in custody may have. Where necessary, advice is available from a health care professional on medical and dietary matters e.g. gluten free.

A custody officer may allow professionally prepared and sealed food items supplied by friends or family in exceptional circumstances such as unique dietary or religious needs. The potential risks under food handling legislation or anything concealed in goods supplied means it is likely that any requests may potentially be denied.

The custody officer may accept goods provided to a person in custody subject to need, reasonableness and quantity. For example, money to utilise public transport home, reading material, clean clothing or cigarettes for when they leave custody. Items need to be documented and signed for and excessive quantities will not be accepted at the custody unit, for example if someone has numerous items of luggage - in this case other arrangements would have to be made.

Anyone attempting to supply a person in custody with anything illegal or potentially harmful to a person or any investigation will be held accountable and may be arrested.

Smoking & supplying cigarettes (Click for more information)

Neither people in custody nor visitors are not allowed to smoke in custody or on Police Premises under any circumstances, in accordance with the Health Act 2006 & The Smoke-free Premises (Wales) Regulations 2007.

People in custody may be provided with nicotine replacement therapy to alleviate the effects of acute nicotine withdrawal if necessary, subject to their anticipated duration in custody and approval by a medical health professional.