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Arrest and Detention: Your Rights in UK

civil liberty

Photo ReportingArrest and Detention: Your Rights in UK

1. When you're arrested

If you’re arrested, you’ll usually be taken to a police station, held in custody in a cell and then questioned.

After you have been taken to a police station, you may be released or charged with a crime. Your rights in custody

The custody officer at the police station must explain your rights. You have the right to:

get free legal advice

tell someone where you are

have medical help if you’re feeling ill

see the rules the police must follow (‘Codes of Practice’)

see a written notice telling you about your rights - eg regular breaks for food and to use the toilet (you can ask for a notice in your language

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You’ll be searched and your possessions will be kept by the police custody officer while you’re in the cell.

Young people under 17 vulnerable adults

If you’re under 17 or a vulnerable adult, the police must try to contact your parent, guardian or carer.

They must also find an ‘appropriate adult’ to come to the station to help you and be present during questioning and searching. An appropriate adult can be:

your parent, guardian or carer

a social worker

another family member or friend aged 18 or over

a volunteer aged 18 or over

The National Appropriate Adult Network provides appropriate adult services in England and Wales. Your rights when being questioned

The police may question you about the crime you’re suspected of - this will be recorded. You don’t have to answer the questions but there could be consequences if you don’t. The police must explain this to you by reading you the police caution:

“You do not have to say anything. However, 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.”

2. How long you can be held in custody

The police can hold you for up to 24 hours before they have to charge you with a crime or release you.

They can apply to hold you for up to 36 or 96 hours if you’re suspected of a serious crime, eg murder.

If you’re arrested under the Terrorism Act, you can be held without charge for up to 14 days. When you can be released on bail

If there’s not enough evidence to charge you, you can be released on police bail. You don’t have to pay to be released on police bail, but you’ll have to return to the station for further questioning when asked.

If you’re charged and the police think there’s a risk that you may commit another offence, fail to turn up at court, intimidate other witnesses or obstruct the course of justice, they can impose conditional bail. This means your freedom will be restricted in some way. For example, a curfew may be imposed on you if your offence was committed at night.

3. Giving fingerprints, photographs and samples

The police have the right to take photographs of you. They can also take fingerprints and a DNA sample (eg from a mouth swab or head hair root) from you as well as swab the skin surface of your hands and arms. They don’t need your permission to do this.

However, the police need both your permission and the authority of a senior police officer to take samples such as blood or urine, or to take dental impressions.

This doesn’t apply when they take a blood or urine sample in connection with drink or drug driving. 

Information from fingerprints and samples is stored in a police database.

You can find out if your information is stored on the police database by getting a copy of your police records from your local police station.

You have to write to your local police to have your personal information removed from the police database.

However, they’ll only do this if an offence no longer exists or if anything in the police process (eg how you were arrested or detained) was unlawful.

4. Legal advice at the police station

Your right to free legal advice

You have the right to free legal advice (legal aid) if you are questioned at a police station. If you turn down the free legal advice, you can change your mind later. How you can get free legal advice

If you have been arrested, you must be told about your right to free legal advice before you are questioned at a police station. You can:

ask for the police station’s ‘duty solicitor’ (they’re available 24 hours a day and independent of the police)

tell the police you would like legal advice - the police will contact the Defence Solicitor Call Centre (DSCC)

ask the police to contact a solicitor (eg your own one)

For less serious offences (eg being disorderly) you may be offered legal advice over the phone, instead of a duty solicitor. The advice is free and independent of the police.

Being questioned without legal advice

Once you’ve asked for legal advice, the police can’t question you until you’ve got it - with some exceptions.

The police can make you wait for legal advice in serious cases, but only if a senior officer agrees.

The longest you can be made to wait before getting legal advice is 36 hours after arriving at the police station (or 48 hours for suspected terrorism).

*If you’re questioned by the police you have the right to free legal advice.

5. Complaining about your treatment by the police

Contact police force you want to complain about or the Independent Police Complaints Commission if you’re unhappy about how the police have treated you.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/arrested-your-rights, date retrieved, 17/01/2014



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