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The police are not allowed to inform anyone of the fact that a person has been detained without their express permission (unless the person in custody is a juvenile).

It is very unlikely that the custody staff will give you information about any person detained in the cells. The detained person does have the right to a phone call and the right to have someone told of his or her detention (except in specific circumstances).

For more information on a person's rights whilst under arrest see the links in Related Information.


When a child aged 17 or under has been arrested and the custody officer detains them, the custody officer must (where they are able) find out who is responsible for the welfare of the child and tell this person:

    • that the child has been arrested,
    • the reasons for the arrest of the child,
    • the details of the location where the child is being held

The custody officer must also appoint someone to act as an appropriate adult for the child. The police must inform this appropriate adult of the child's arrest and ask them to attend the police station as soon as possible.

An appropriate adult is someone who will be able to support, advise and assist the child. The appropriate adult will be with the child whilst the police carry out some of the procedures at the police station, such as, and not exclusively:

    • giving them their rights,
    • carrying out an interview,
    • charging them or bailing them.

The custody officer determines who the appropriate adult is to be for the child, and this depends on the circumstances. A person who a custody officer may appoint as an appropriate adult for the child:

    • a parent, guardian,
    • if the child is in the care of a local authority or voluntary organisation, a person representing that authority or organisation, a social worker of a local authority,
    • or failing these, some other responsible adult aged 18 or over, but who is not a police officer, or someone employed by the police.

A person who cannot be appointed by the custody officer to be an appropriate adult for a child:

    • a suspect in the offence,
    • a witness/victim in the offence,
    • a person who is in some way involved in the investigation of the offence,
    • if they received admissions prior to attending to act as the appropriate adult.

In circumstances where a child is estranged from their parent/guardian and the child tells the police they do not want this person to be their appropriate adult, then the custody officer would not ask this parent to act as their appropriate adult. They would find an alternative appropriate adult, such as another responsible adult over the age of 18 or a social worker etc. (someone who is not a police officer or police staff).

An appropriate adult for a child can ask the custody officer if they can talk to the child in private. In most cases, the custody officer will allow this. It is however, for them to decide, based on the circumstances of the case.

Should the police need to carry out urgent procedures before the appropriate adult arrives, they have to seek authorisation from a senior officer.

Please see the links in Related Information for further information.


The Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) were formerly known as lay visitors. To become an Independent Custody Visitor (ICV) you need to apply to your local Police and Crime Commissioner. You need to be aged over 18 and not working for the police service or in the criminal justice system or in any role where a conflict of interest may arise i.e., a solicitor. You also need a good command of the English language (all paperwork in cell areas is written in English). If you are successful, you will be given the relevant training for the role. ICVs are volunteers but do get reimbursed for their expenses.

The principal role of the ICVA is to visit detained persons in police custody and speak to them about the treatment they are receiving from the police and to check that they have had all their rights and entitlements. The detained person is under no obligation to speak to ICVs, it is purely a personal choice. The ICV can also check that person's custody record with their permission.

As they have a general responsibility to check the police are doing their work properly, they can do a check of all areas of the custody suite, ask questions and look at the records relating to the activities in the suite.

For more details on the role of the ICVA and how to apply please see the links in Related Information.


When the police release a person from custody (but they have not been charged and the investigation is still ongoing) that person may be released on bail. This means that they are under a legal duty to return to the police station at the date and time provided to them. Sometimes conditions are attached to the bail e.g. not to contact the victim. Bail gives the police time to gather necessary evidence such as statements, CCTV evidence and forensic evidence.

There is no presumption for or against bail; the police need to determine whether releasing the person on bail is necessary and proportionate. With the need to have regard to certain circumstances, such as the need to prevent further offending by the person and to safeguard victims of the crime and witnesses. There is also a duty to seek the views of the alleged victim regarding pre-charge bail conditions. 

There are time limits for how long someone can be on bail. Depending on the case the initial bail period is three or six months respectively; this can be extended further, in some cases up to 12 months, to investigate different types of complex cases.

Breaching bail (i.e. failing to report to the police station at the allocated time) is an offence. Breaching bail conditions (i.e. failing to comply with any conditions that are attached to the bail) is not an offence, but in such circumstances the police do have the power of arrest in order to bring the person back into police custody.


Detained persons are treated in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), and the PACE Codes of Practice. The police treat detained persons fairly and reasonably and will endeavour to deal with them expeditiously and to release them as soon as the need for person to be detained no longer applies.

The detained person has certain rights and entitlements whilst detained in custody, the basic versions of which are produced below. The rights are:

  • right to have someone informed of their arrest
  • right to consult in private with a solicitor and that free independent legal advice is available
  • right to consult the Codes of Practice.

Under certain limited circumstances any or all of these rights can be delayed but not denied.

The other entitlements that detained persons have, in brief are:

  • The detained person whilst in police custody shall be offered at least two light meals and one main meal in any 24 hour period (dietary requirements will be taken into consideration as far as is practicable).
  • Drinks will be provided at meal times and upon reasonable request between meal times.
  • Brief outdoor exercise will be offered daily if practicable.
  • medical attention can be either sought by the police or by request from the detained person.
  • At least an 8 hour uninterrupted rest period if person detained overnight.

To read the full Codes of Practice see website in related information.


The police cannot immediately attend your partner's residence and remove the child unless there is a specific power given to them within the order or they are satisfied that the child is, or will be, subject to significant harm.

A court can vary the conditions within a residence order provided they are satisfied with the existence of the order and that the other parent is in breach of the order.

There are other orders that you can obtain which may prevent a similar situation arising, such as a prohibited steps order. A solicitor will be able to give advice on this matter. Please also see the websites in Related Information.


A detained person has the right to have a person informed of their whereabouts, you can ask the police to contact someone who need to be made aware. The detained person shall also be allowed one telephone call for a reasonable amount of time. This is for non-terrorism related arrests.

However, both requests can be delayed or denied by an Inspector. For more information on treatment of persons in custody, see Related Information.

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