Arrested: What happens in custody?

If you know someone who has been arrested and taken into police custody you might want to speak to them or see them.

You may hold information about their health which is important to the custody staff looking after them, or know if someone else’s care may be affected by the fact that they are being detained.

Here you can find out what you can and can't do when someone is in custody.


I've found out someone I know has been arrested and is in a police custody suite. Can I see them?

No, visitors are not generally allowed into police custody suites. Custody suites do not work like prisons. We don't have the staff or the facilities of a prison and therefore it's exceptionally rare that we allow detainees to have visitors.

If the detainee is a child or a vulnerable adult, then an “Appropriate Adult” will be appointed in order to safeguard their rights, entitlements and welfare.  The Appropriate Adult will be entitled to visit the detainee for this purpose.

How can I check if someone has been arrested and how can I get a message to them? Can I speak to them on the phone?

We receive a number of calls from concerned relatives or friends or people wanting to find out if someone is in custody or even asking to speak to someone who has been arrested.

Please do not contact us in these circumstances.

The detainee is allowed to nominate one person known to them, or someone who is likely to have an interest in their welfare, to be notified at public expense of their arrest and to tell them they are in custody. This person is known as the notified person.  The detainee is also entitled to telephone one person for a reasonable time, although this privilege may be restricted.

Please be reassured that people held in custody are reminded of their legal rights and entitlements which include access to legal advice, the right to have somebody informed of their location and access to health care provisions if required.

Can I bring food to someone in custody?

Meals are provided to all detainees in custody. Only on certain grounds, primarily medical or religious, circumstances would custody officers allow professionally prepared and sealed food items to be taken in for a detainee, for example, a prepared meal from a supermarket that is unopened.

Home cooked meals or meals that have been opened are not allowed.

Custody suites have medical teams that can make recommendations around food for specific dietary requirements, for example, gluten free.

Can I take clean clothes to the Police Station for the person who is detained?

The custody staff will generally accept clean clothes which have been brought to the Police station for a detained person. This is subject of them being fully searched and checked to ensure they do not pose a risk to the detained person or anyone else.

The person detained is under 18. Will I be treated differently if I am arrested?

If you’re under 18 or a vulnerable adult, we must try to contact your parent, guardian or carer.

We must also find an ‘appropriate adult’ to come to the custody suite to help you and be present during questioning and searching. An appropriate adult can be your parent, guardian, carer, a social worker or a family member, friend or volunteer aged 18 or over providing they are not a suspect or witness in the investigation.  

Where is personal information you take from an arrested person kept?

Information from fingerprints and samples is stored in a police database. Individuals can find out if their information is stored on the police database by getting a copy of your police records from the force that arrested them.

If I am arrested, will I have my photograph and fingerprints taken?

Yes, we have the right to take photographs of persons arrested and in custody for a recordable offence.

We can also take fingerprints and a DNA sample if we don’t already have an up to date DNA sample on the national database (from a mouth swab or head hair root) from you as well as swab the skin surface of your hands and arms. We don’t need your permission to do this.

For more information relating to the deletion of images taken in custody click here.

Will the arrested person be allowed to take any of their property into the cell?

Generally detained persons possessions will be taken from them before they enter the cell, for safekeeping safety and security including mobile phones, bags and anything in in pockets. Individuals are also asked to remove any belts and shoelaces.

Everyone is searched to ensure their safety.

If someone is arrested and detained, can you take blood and urine samples from them?

We need an individuals permission to take samples such as blood or urine, or to take dental impressions.

Although an individual may refuse to give a sample, this may lead to the Court drawing an adverse inference at Court, or to the individual being prosecuted for a separate offence of failing to provide a specimen.

How will I know when someone who was in custody has been released?

As part of the pre-release process a detainee is allowed to phone a family member or friend to arrange to get home.

How will the detained person get home if released after being arrested?

The Custody Officer will conduct a pre-release risk assessment in order to determine whether the detained person is fit for release.

Once the detained person is deemed fit for release they will be allowed to use the phone to contact a family member or friend to arrange to get home. Depending upon the time, location and the circumstances they may be provided with assistance to get home or be issued with a travel warrant to get home by public transport.

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