After arrest the person arrested will usually be taken by the police to a police station for questioning.

The police follow set rules which govern the way they can question a person suspected of committing a crime.  On arrival the person who has been arrested should have their rights upon arrival at the police station explained to them by the custody officer.

People under the age of 18 or vulnerable adults should not be interviewed or searched without the presence of an ‘appropriate adult’. This can be a parent, family member, friend, social worker or teacher. If there is no suitable person available, the police may select an ‘appropriate adult’ from a list of volunteers to perform the task. The National Appropriate Adult Network provides appropriate adult services in England and Wales. An ‘appropriate adult’ cannot provide legal advice.

Once in custody the person arrested has the right to make a phone call to tell their family where they are and access to legal advice (see – Being arrested: your rights for more information or for Scotland). If they are from abroad they also have the right to tell the relevant embassy or high commission. However, in reality this phone call may not happen immediately and the phone call may also be monitored. The person being arrested will not be allowed to make a phone call to someone that could be connected with the offence.

The person arrested can be held for up to 24 hours before they have to charge with a crime or release the individual. They can apply to hold the person for up to 36 or 96 hours if they are suspected of a serious crime. Individuals can be held without charge for up to 14 days, if they are arrested under the Terrorism Act.

After being held for questioning the police may decide to release the person without charge, give them a caution or place them on police bail.  The police may decide not to grant bail meaning they have to remain in police custody for a short period of time whilst the police decide whether or not to bring charges. If charges are brought against a person they will then have to appear in court.

The time that your loved one is being held at the police station can be challenging as you may not know why they are being held. If your relative is an adult the police are not obliged to give you any information and this can be distressing for families.

Can they see a solicitor?
Anyone who is taken to a police station under arrest, or goes to the police station voluntarily is entitled to seek advice from a solicitor free of charge. If the person has been arrested for a serious offence or is unsure of their rights then they should not answer questions until they have spoken to a legal representative.

Will the interview be recorded?
The interview between the person arrested and the police is usually recorded. If the interview is not recorded then a police officer will make notes and the person being interviewed will be asked to sign them to confirm they are an accurate record of the interview. The interview will start with identifying questions, such as a name and address, and will then move on to more serious matters.

Will they have their fingerprints, photo and samples taken?
The police will take photographs of the person they have arrested. They can also take fingerprints and a DNA sample as well as swab the skin surface of hands and arms. They don’t need permission to do this. However, if they want to take blood or urine samples or dental impressions, they will need permission from the person they have arrested unless it is in connection with drink or drug driving.

The police have the right to keep copies of fingerprints and photographs even if the person is released without charge. Find out more about police records and how your information is stored.

This page was updated on January 2017