Help & Support

The nature of business in police custody requires appropriate help and support to be given to detainees. This combines a professional and ethical standard of dignity along with a legal duty of care to detainees. This is also important as part of providing a service to victims, witnesses and the community as any proceedings at court is less likely to attract potential failure from unfair treatment.

When a person is arrested it often represents a difficult time for several people, whether to the victim and their family or family members of the person arrested. For example, it may be the shock of what may have happened or the arrest may signify a prolonged period of deteriorating difficulties and quiet suffering.

In addition to outlining the type of support available to persons in custody, this section also contains details of additional support for people who may be having difficulties in their lives whether as someone associated with persons arrested or if you’re subject to an investigation.

Police Medical Health Professional (Click for more information)

A clinically qualified person working within practice of their professional body but also trained and specialised for work within the Police Service, consisting of medical doctors (referred to as Police Surgeons) and custody nurses. They are available to provide assessment, care, medication and treatment as appropriate. This may also involve referral to other specialists, such as recommending the person in custody is transferred to hospital.

Solicitor (Click for more information)

A solicitor who holds a current practising certificate or an accredited or probationary representative included on the register of representatives maintained by the Legal Aid Agency. They are available to provide legal advice and support to people in custody free of charge. Please see the Entitlements & Rights section for further details.

Visual, auditory or language difficulties (Click for more information)

Anyone who is visually impaired or unable to read will have assistance to understand, check and complete any written material as required. This will be someone independent to the police and not involved in the investigation such as a relative or appropriate adult.

If a person appears to be deaf or there is doubt about their ability to hear clearly or speak where effective communication cannot be established an interpreter will be contacted.

Likewise where effective communication cannot be established due to language difficulties communication will be facilitated through an interpreter.

Mental health or psychological conditions (Click for more information)

The police recognise that the experience of being in a custody unit may have an adverse effect on a person's situation if they are already suffering or managing a particular condition, whether in terms of mental illness or psychological difficulties. The custody officer will be aware of this, ensuring an appropriate level of care is put in place which may include keeping the person under regular observations or utilising a special room with a CCTV camera, whilst accommodating reasonable privacy and dignity.

When arranging the services of an appropriate adult, the preference will be for someone who is a carer or has training or experience with the individual's particular situation and independent of the police. Where appropriate, referral may be made to other agencies to provide support after leaving the custody unit.

Appropriate adults (Click for more information)

Some people in custody require additional support, such as a person under 18 or an adult who may be vulnerable due to conditions such as mental disorders or learning difficulties. Appropriate adults are called to the station as an important safeguard and support to assist the person - for example, to help them understand what is happening during the investigative stages such as interviews.

In addition to interviews, appropriate adults are required to countersign any formal documents such as bail, charges or consent forms.

The appropriate adult is not there to simply act as an observer. Their role is supportive - to help communication between the detainee, the police and others and to ensure the police act fairly respecting their rights.

They assist and advise but they do not provide legal advice. If the person in custody refuses to have legal advice, the appropriate adult has the right to request a solicitor be called.

An appropriate adult can be any of the following:

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

Females in custody (Click for more information)

Fair and equal outcomes require consideration with due sensitivity given the difference in people’s lives can have very different social and personal consequences. This does not mean one person is treated ‘better’ than another but individual circumstances are taken into account, in particular vulnerabilities and risks.

For example, there may be complex consequences with education, employment, income and family if imprisonment is a likely event to a person as a result of an investigation. This was highlighted as a particular area of concern regarding women in the Criminal Justice System by the Corston Report (2007) which stipulated the need for a different and distinct approach for females in custody.

Therefore, when females are in police custody particular consideration is given to:

  • Physical, medical and welfare needs
  • Access to a female member of staff
  • Conditions of privacy and dignity e.g. with any searches
  • Suitable clean replacement clothing
  • Child or dependent welfare issues especially lone parents or foreign nationals
  • The impact of separation from a baby or infant
  • Pregnancy whether known or potential requiring additional considerations
  • Psychological health
  • Risk of self-harm
  • Drug or alcohol problems
  • Any background of domestic violence or sexual abuse suffered
  • Potential exploitation by others where they are forced or influenced to do something for the benefit of someone else

In addition to the services available in custody such as contact with a medical professional, referral can be made to other agencies within and outside the police.

Caring responsibilities (Click for more information)

It is recognised that people arrested may have caring responsibilities for others such as relatives or children whilst they are held 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, such as 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.

People from another country (Click for more information)

A foreign national is a person who is not a citizen of the country in which they currently live, whether temporary or otherwise.

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.

Any difficulties in communication due to language are addressed through a professional translation service.

General helpline information

The following information may be beneficial not only for persons who have had contact with the police, but also family and friends.  Help, advice and support are available across a wide range of issues.

Alcoholics Anonymous – 0845 769 7555

Arch Initiatives - Supporting people whose lives and those of their families and friends are affected by drugs and alcohol 0800 028 1300

BAWSO – Specialist support and services to people from BME communities 01978 355 818

CAIS - A drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre based in North Wales
helping people with addictions, mental health, personal development and employment, as well as offering assistance and information to their families and friends. 0845 0612 112 enquiries@cais.org.uk

Change Step - Ex-Forces help – Support for problems as a result of military or operational duty. 0300 777 2259 quote ‘Change Step’ E-mail: ask@change-step.co.uk

Pdficon Small Ex-Forces Help Leaflet

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) 0808 802 5544

Choose 2 Change - A service that helps men who want to change the way they behave in their relationships and offers support to the partner during this time. 01745 345929 E-mail: choose2change@relatecymru.org.uk

Citizens Advice Bureau 03444 77 20 20

Civil Legal Advice 0345 345 4345

Civil Legal Aid 0300 200 2020

Criminal Legal Aid 0115 852 6000

Cruse Bereavement Service Wales 0844 477 9400 Email: helpline@cruse.org.uk

Dan 24/7 Wales drug and alcohol helpline 0808 808 2234 or text “DAN” to 81066

direct.gov.uk selecting Crime, justice and the law.

Domestic abuse – All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline 0808 80 10 800

Drinkline - Helpline for problems experienced with alcohol 0800 917 8282

DYN Project - Support for men who are experiencing domestic abuse from a partner. 0808 801 0321

Family Lives – Advice and support for families 0808 800 2222

Henna Foundation - Support for families within the Muslim Community 029 20 496 920

Legal advice & solicitors - To find your nearest defence solicitor call Community Legal Advice on 0845 345 4 345

MEWN Cymru - A strategic organisation working with women from minority communities across Wales. 029 20 464 445

Mind – Mental health charity 0300 123 3393

National Drug Helpline – 0800 77 6600

NHS Direct Wales 0845 46 47

Papyrus Hopeline UK – Prevention of young suicide 08000 684 141

Samaritans 0845 790 9090

SANEline 0845 767 800

Stepping Stones – For victims of sexual abuse 01978 352717

Stop It Now - Helpline regarding indecent images of children, available to anyone who has been arrested for accessing indecent images of children online, as well as their partners, relatives and friends. 0808 1000 900 E-mail: help@stopitnow.org.uk

All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline - 0808 80 10 800

Welsh Women's Aid – Providing appropriate services and support to women and children. Contact via All Wales Helpline on 0808 80 10 800