Arrest is usually the first stage of the criminal justice process – it is when the Police carry out the initial questioning of someone suspected of a crime or an offence.

The arrest of a loved one can be a very traumatic and difficult time. Although each arrest has different circumstances, the reaction of family members and friends can be similar.

You may have been anticipating this moment or it may come as a complete shock. Either way you are likely to feel anxiety, sadness, worry and even possible anger. In some cases it may come as a relief.

You may not find out about the arrest immediately unless you receive a phone call or are told by someone who may have heard or witnessed it. Sometimes your loved one is arrested at the family home which can have a major impact on the family members, especially the children. If they witness the arrest, they may feel very anxious and distressed.

The information provided on this website aims to help you understand what will happen next and explain the terms and processes you may come across as your loved one goes through the process from arrest, conviction, prison to release.

If you would like any further information, need advice or would like to talk it through with someone please ring the freephone helpline on 0808 808 2003 or contact us via email on

To make it easy to print off the information provided in this section, either in Word or PDF format, we have created a library of Information Sheets which you can access by clicking here.

This page was updated on November 2018