What Rights Do People Have whilst in Police Custody?

Everyone should know their rights in the event that they are taken into custody. A person could be the most law-abiding citizen on the planet and still somehow get involved in a case of mistaken identity. Then, before they can blink, they find themselves in handcuffs in the back of a police vehicle. If an individual is in England and Wales, here is a breakdown of their rights if they are arrested and placed into police custody (it is worth noting that the law and proceedings following the arrest are slightly different in Scotland).

At the Moment of Arrest

When a person is arrested, there are a number of procedures the police must follow before they are able to take them to the station. The officers must always identify themselves as police and, if they are in plainclothes, they will need to show some identification to back this.

They are also required to tell the person they are arresting on what grounds they are being arrested. This includes telling them the crime they believe has been committed and why they cannot let the suspect go free.

Arriving at the Station

On arrival at the police station, an officer should explain to the suspect the rights they have while they are there. These include getting free legal advice from a solicitor, acquiring medical help if ill and the right to a translator if English is not the suspect’s native tongue. They must also let someone know where they are.

They should also have the police Code of Practice explained to them as well as a written notice about their rights to food and toilet breaks in the cell. This written notice can be supplied in their native language or explained by a translator if they would prefer.

While in Custody

The standard length of time a person can be held is 24 hours. After that, they either need to charge the suspect with a crime or release them. There are some exceptions to this rule. They can apply to increase the length of custody to either 36 or 96 hours if the suspect is being held on suspicion of a serious crime like murder.

The other exception to this is if the suspect is arrested under the Terrorist Act, meaning they can hold the suspect for up to 14 days without charge.

If the suspect is under 18, they will need to have an appropriate adult present during any searches or questioning the police want to undertake. A suitable appropriate adult might be a parent or guardian, a social worker, a volunteer or a family friend over the age of 18.

Making a Complaint

If a person feels they have been treated unfairly by police during their time in custody, or if they know they failed to act as they should have during their time with them, they may decide to make a complaint against the police. Relevant parties should speak to a solicitor that deals with police complaints to find out the best way to move forward and then prepare to open proceedings with the specific constabulary that has wronged them. Police officers are subject to laws and rules too and citizens should not be afraid to speak out if they are wrongly treated.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.