Arrests and Voluntary Interviews- What to expect?
How long will I be at the police station?
You can only be held in police custody for 24 hours from the point at which you arrive at a police station. However, on rare occasions this can be extended by a person of the rank of a Superintendent or above by a further 12 hours and in exceptional cases an application can be made to Magistrates court to extend detention to 96 hours. How long you are kept at a police station may depend on the time of day at which you were arrested (as if this is in the early hours of the morning you may be held in a cell in order to let you sleep before interview), whether you are considered fit to be interviewed in the initial hours after your arrest (considering any drugs/alcohol you may have consumed, the status of your mental health and if you have any urgent medical concerns that need attention.
What happens when I first arrive at the police station?
When you arrive at the Police station the facts of and reasons for your arrest will be relayed to the Custody Officer. If the Custody Officer is satisfied that your detention is necessary, they will authorise your detention and your personal details will be taken to enable the booking in process to take place. It is very important at this stage and throughout your time in custody to remain calm and to try and remain as alert as possible. Clients who unfortunately are angered through their situation or are under the influence of drink and drugs can often find themselves facing more charges than they were originally brought in for due to their behaviour towards officers and property in the police station during this initial stage.
There are a number of processes that you will be expected to go through in custody depending on the type of offence that you have been arrested for. You may be expected to provide your fingerprints, to allow photographs to be taken of you and for other varieties of DNA samples to be taken such as swabs, hair strands, nail clippings or urine samples. There may be a requirement to provide a specimen of breath for analysis if the allegation for which you have been brought into custody relates to a motoring offence. You may be searched to ensure that you do not possess anything of an illegal nature such as drugs or weapons, or that could be used to harm yourself or others during your time in custody.
Where will I be kept while I am at the police station?
Due to the nature of custody you are likely to be placed in a single occupancy cell which is ensuite. If you are a youth you will be kept in an appropriate adult room if there is an appropriate adult available to accompany you. If there not an appropriate adult available then youths can also be placed in cells, though this is treated as a last resort.
What is an “appropriate adult”?
If you are under 18 years of age or are classed as a vulnerable adult, then you will be entitled to an appropriate adult (AA). An AA must be aged 18 or over, must not be employed by the Police or be a witness to the alleged crime or involved in the investigation. This is a legal requirement and an AA cannot be denied access to the custody suite.
What are my rights during detention?
During your detention you are entitled to drinks at regular intervals, meals at recognised meal times, reading and writing materials and where possible outdoor exercise, a shower and if necessary the chance to discuss medical requirements with an approved healthcare professional.
You have three main rights and entitlements; these are: –
- The right to have someone informed of your arrest;
- The right to consult for free with a solicitor, in person in writing, on the telephone or in person;
- The right to read a copy of the codes of practice (the rules regulating how you are looked after).
You can exercise these rights at any time during your detention. Often our clients say ‘I didn’t ask for a solicitor because I have not done anything wrong’ or ‘I didn’t think I needed one’. There is never any harm in having a solicitor present even if it is just to ensure that your rights are protected during a police interview. It is ultimately your decision whether or not you follow the advice given to you by a solicitor, but utilising their knowledge of the law and the criminal justice system may assist you in negotiating an environment that often seems completely alien and frightening.
What happens in interview?
It is almost certain that you will be required to attend a PACE recorded interview under caution if you have been arrested. It is strongly advisable that you ask for a solicitor/police station accredited representative to represent you during this interview.
Before an interview commences a police station accredited representative will obtain disclosure from the officers in charge of your case about the reasons for and circumstances of your arrest and will then meet with you to explain your options in relation to interview. They will advise you based upon this disclosure and anything further you tell them about the points of law relevant to your case and what may be the best strategy to adopt in interview. This may involve them reading a prepared statement on your behalf, advising you to answer relevant questions or for you to offer no comment at that stage in the investigation. They will also liaise with officers with regard to whether bail is necessary in your case and if there should be any conditions attached to bail if it is appropriate.
Your interview will be recorded and you are entitled to ask for a copy of this recording if you are subsequently charged with an offence.
What happens in a voluntary interview?
With the necessities not being met for an arrest the Police may require you to attend an interview under caution at a Police station under voluntarily invite. If you fail to attend or refuse, this may give the Police grounds to arrest you. For voluntary interviews at a Police station you are still entitled to free and independent legal advice as if you were in custody.
The release procedure
At the end of your required detention in custody the Police have several options: –
- Released under investigation (RUI) – this means that you will be released without bail with no restrictions placed upon you. It may be that the Police have further enquiries to carry out or must consult with the CPS before they can take your case any further. However, it maybe that at some stage they may require you to attend a further interview. This would ordinarily be known as a voluntary interview. If this is the case, you are still entitled to legal representation with the original firm that assisted you on your first visit to the police station. If charges are brought at the end of the investigation you could expect to receive a postal summons which will notify you of the date and location of the court you must attend. If you receive a postal summons, please contact us as soon as possible.
- Released on bail with or without conditions – this means that further enquiries are necessary to make a decision as to whether or not to charge you but that the Police still want you to return to custody on a stated date. It may be that conditions are attached to your bail such as requirements to do with the address you reside at during this period, the people you are allowed to contact, any curfews that you must abide by and any reporting conditions. These conditions must be relevant and justified. Bail must initially be for a maximum of 28 days but can be extended if necessary at various stages. Bail can also be suspended if the case is taken to CPS for a charging decision. Bail can be a complex topic but our qualified staff are happy to talk you through this should you require any clarification.
- No further action – The Police may decide that it is appropriate to take no further action after conducting their investigation. This means that you will be released and will not be charged unless further information comes to light that requires the Police to re-investigate the crime.
References can be found on line in PACE and the codes of practice. All our solicitors and the crime team are experienced in this field and have extensive knowledge to help you through what is sometimes a complicated and daunting process.
- appointing a Solicitor in custody is free and independent;
- It will not delay your time in custody;
- It will afford you the best opportunity to receive the best outcome;
- We do not work for the Police;
- Everything you say to us is covered by legal privilege.
I do hope that you find this brief introduction to custody useful and if you ever find yourself in a situation where you are arrested or required to attend a voluntary interview then we are here to help you 24/7 365 days a year. Just ask for Jeary and Lewis Solicitors, Chippenham.
Written by Martin Alvis, edited by Sian Hukin.
Martin Alvis is a Police station representative and works for Jeary & Lewis in the Crime department. He has over 32 years working in criminal law and specialised for 5 years in the area of Police custody.