How long can someone be held by the police?
A person cannot normally be held by the police for more than 24 hours without being charged or released.

In the cases of more serious offences a further 12 hour detention can be granted by a senior police officer and police can apply to a Magistrates Court to hold the suspect for up to 96 hours. If arrested under suspicion of terrorism a judge can authorise the police to hold the person for up to 14 days.

If the police do not have enough evidence to charge someone they may only be detained if the police believe that further detention will allow them to obtain the evidence they need to bring charges. If an investigation is continuing, the police can bail someone without charge to return to the police station at a fixed time and date.

What rights does a person have when in police custody?
A person remanded into police custody has the right to the following and the custody officer must explain these:

  • Free legal representation (usually known as a duty solicitor). 
  • A phone call to inform someone that they’ve been arrested.
  • Medical help if they are feeling ill.
  • The right to read the Codes of Practice which explains what the police can and cannot do.
  • A written notice telling you about rights, such as, regular breaks, meals, use of toilet. (You can ask for interpreter to explain the notice or ask for it to be in your chosen language.

While someone is in custody, they can be searched and possessions will be kept by the police custody officer.

Legal advice 
A person in custody is entitled to legal advice and a duty solicitor can be allocated or the individual can call a solicitor of their preference. They are entitled to speak to their legal representative in private whether this is face to face or via the telephone and this can be at any time, day or night.

What if the person being detained needs help?
People under aged under 18, those with a learning disability of mental health issues 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 someone from a list of volunteers to perform the task. The appropriate adult should be there when the police read out the person’s rights, when they are interviewed and if they are cautioned or charged. An appropriate adult cannot provide legal advice.

If the person does not speak or understand English the police will arrange for someone who speaks the same language to help. The interpreter will record the police questions and any responses in the person’s own language. They will then be able to check and sign to confirm that it is an accurate record of the interview.

If the person is deaf then the police will arrange for a sign language interpreter to assist.

Custody facilities 
The cell and bedding should be clean and warm and there should be access to toilet facilities. If the police have taken clothes from the person in custody, they should give them individual something else to wear. The person in custody is entitled to 3 meals per day and drinks in between too. Resting time is at least 8 hours in any 24 hours whilst being held in police custody.

See – Being arrested: your rights for more information.

This page was updated on June 2020