In the custody suite: booking in, individual needs and legal rights

Detainees receive respectful treatment in the custody suite and their individual needs are met. Detainees are informed of their legal rights and can freely exercise these rights while in custody. All risks are identified at the earliest opportunity.


2.1 Detainees are treated with dignity and their individual needs, while in custody, are met.


  • Border Force officers and staff interact with detainees courteously and all detainees are treated with dignity from the first point of contact and throughout their detention in custody.
  • Detainees are able to disclose confidential information, and any situation or condition that makes them vulnerable, in private.
  • Border Force officers and staff listen to detainees and are alert to and understand the impact of detention in custody, particularly for those detainees identified as vulnerable. Effective support to cope with their detention in custody is provided.
  • Border Force officers and staff positively engage with detainees during their detention in custody and, in particular, with those who are vulnerable and high risk.
  • Border Force officers and staff explain to detainees that CCTV operates in the suites, and where this is in cells, how detainee privacy is ensured.

Meeting individual and diverse needs

2.2 Staff understand how to promote equality and diversity and recognise and respond to the specific needs of people with protected and other minority characteristics. All detainees are treated according to their individual and diverse needs.


  • Staff have a good understanding of and can meet the specific needs of diverse groups, including children, older people, women (including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding), detainees from all racial and ethnic groups, detainees with disabilities, detainees with learning difficulties, detainees of all religions and beliefs, detainees of all sexual orientations and transgender and intersex detainees.
  • There are sufficient female custody staff members and appropriate provision and facilities to respond to the welfare needs of detained women. Female detainees are routinely provided (without having to ask) with menstrual care products suitable to their needs.
  • Custody staff are equipped to recognise mental capacity and to identify detainees with intellectual impairments (learning disabilities) to ensure that effective safeguards are appropriately implemented.
  • There is an adequate range of facilities and adaptations for detainees with disabilities and staff know how to use them.
  • Staff show awareness of, for example: appropriately responding to detainees’ religious observations; searching detainees in a religiously and culturally sensitive manner and taking account of gender and gender identity; and recognising the distinct needs of older detainees, such as signs of mental and physical health problems and the onset of dementia and any safeguarding issues.
  • There are effective arrangements to raise the awareness of staff to positively respond to the needs of transgender people.
  • Inappropriate language and behaviour, if it occurs, is addressed by staff and there is strong leadership to enable a culture of challenge in relation to it. Homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist and other derogatory language and behaviour is not tolerated.
  • There is provision for detainees to access information in a language and format they can easily understand, for example, easy read format, Braille and DVD. Detainees are helped with clear explanations by staff when needed (see expectation 2.5).
  • Legal rights and entitlements and other relevant documents are provided in a range of formats, for example in Braille, and in languages which reflect the population in the relevant area.
  • Staff use accredited translation and interpreting services where that is needed and, in particular, wherever accuracy or confidentiality is important.
  • Telephone translation is conducted using equipment that enables effective communication in privacy.
  • Detainees are provided with information about the reason for their detention in custody and, where necessary, have their immigration status and procedures in relation to that status explained in a language/format they can understand.

Risk assessments

2.3 All detainees are held safely and any risk they pose to themselves and/or others is competently assessed and kept under review. Staff recognise they have a positive obligation to intervene to protect detainees from harm to themselves and from others.


  • Detainees are not made to wait outside the custody suite in vehicles. There is an ongoing risk assessment of all detainees where there is a delay in booking in.
  • Officers and staff know how to effectively assess and respond to any risk detainees pose to themselves and/or others.
  • Officers and staff use all existing up-to-date information about a detainee to complete any risk assessment.
  • Officers and staff make sufficient enquiries to ascertain whether there is any additional information about which they should be aware to reduce the risk of harm to the detainee or to others.
  • All officers and staff demonstrate awareness and understanding of the different ways in which detainees may present mental health problems and other vulnerabilities and respond appropriately.
  • Officers and staff have access to appropriate medical services, and make referrals as appropriate.
  • Care plans and observation levels reflect presenting risks, and assessments are ongoing and are reviewed throughout the period of detention in custody.
  • Officers and staff have knowledge and understanding of self-harm and how to support detainees at risk of harming themselves or others.
  • Staff explain to detainees how to use the cell call bell and activations are responded to promptly.
  • Removal of clothing to manage risks is only undertaken subject to an individual assessment, as a last resort, when other options have been considered.
  • Officers and staff understand the purpose and importance of regular monitoring and rousing, particularly for those under the influence of drugs or alcohol or who are believed to have concealed drugs internally.
  • Handovers involve all custody staff where possible. They are recorded and conducted in private, and result in the accurate sharing of relevant information.

Individual legal rights

2.4 Detention in custody is appropriate, authorised and lasts no longer than is necessary.


  • Grounds and necessity for detention are established and recorded, and detention in custody is appropriately authorised.
  • Alternatives to custody are considered to avoid unnecessary detention.
  • Information on vulnerability and associated risk factors is communicated between custody officers and staff, including investigation teams, to inform decisions on the prioritisation and progression of cases.
  • Cases are progressed to allow detainees to be released or transferred at the earliest opportunity.
  • PACE reviews are conducted in the best interests of the detainee to ensure that ongoing detention in custody is necessary. They are conducted in a timely fashion and focus on safeguarding the interests of the detainee and progression of the case. Detainees are reminded of the reasons for their arrest and continued detention in custody during the PACE review of the necessity to detain and this is clearly recorded. Border Force officers of an appropriate rank conduct reviews of detention of a person who is vulnerable, including children, in person unless this can be adequately justified.

2.5 Detainees understand and receive their rights while in Border Force custody.


  • Detainees are provided as soon as possible with sufficient information to understand the reason(s) and necessity for their arrest. This is clearly explained in the presence of the detainee and a written record of this maintained.
  • All detainees receive and are helped to understand their rights and entitlements. If there are any reasons to delay issuing a detainees’ rights and entitlements there is appropriate written justification and authorisation.
  • Detainees are told that they are entitled to have someone concerned for their welfare informed of their whereabouts and that someone can be contacted as soon as possible.
  • All detainees are advised that they are entitled to have legal representation of their choice or to have independent legal representation provided, and that they are able to speak with their legal representatives in private, free of charge and as soon as possible. If detainees decline the right to speak to a legal representative, the reasons for this are recorded.
  • Detainees or their legal representatives are able to obtain a copy of their custody record.
  • Staff explain to detainees, in a language they can understand, documents that have important consequences or that concern their rights.
  • Detainees are told that they can contact their relevant Consulate, Embassy or High Commission, and are enabled to consult with them on request.
  • Detainees are not interviewed while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or if medically unfit, unless exceptional circumstances prevail; in which case a record is made of those circumstances.


2.6 Detainees know how to make a complaint and are enabled to do so before they leave Border Force custody.


  • Detainees are told how to complain and are provided with relevant information.
  • Complaints are taken and recorded before detainees leave custody.
  • Detainees’ complaints are investigated fairly and swiftly and are monitored, with any significant concerns addressed and outcomes recorded.
  • Detainees are not discouraged or deterred in any way from complaining and are not subjected to any form of intimidation or disadvantaged in any way because they have made a complaint.
  • Detainees are not discouraged from or disadvantaged in any way as a result of speaking to HMICFRS or HMI Prisons inspectors or other independent visitors to custody. ICVs inform HMICFRS/HMI Prisons inspectors of any repercussions for detainees outside inspections.

Human rights standards
In relation to expectations 2.1 to 2.6: Human rights standards prescribe a range of measures which apply to safeguard the rights of detainees as they arrive in custody and in the early stages of detention. The measures aim to ensure that detainees are treated in a manner that respects and meets their individual needs, that their vulnerabilities (including from detention itself) are identified and met and that they are safe from harm (whether self-harm or from others) from the outset of detention. They also provide that detainees should be provided with and assisted to understand their rights, including: to contact those concerned for their welfare; to seek legal representation of their choice; to speak with their legal representative in private; to speak with other independent persons such as lay visitors; and to complain without fear of adverse consequences. Moreover, nothing should be done to infringe a detainee’s subsequent right to a fair trial. The standards also recognise that some people may be too vulnerable to be held in detention and that other lawful options should be explored. See ECHR 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14; ICCPR 6, 7, 9, 10(1), 14; ICESCR 12(1); CAT 2, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16; OPCAT 19, 20, 21, 22; CERD 2, 5; CEDAW 2, 12; DEDRB 2, 4; CRPD 14, 21, 22; BOP 1, 2, 5, 6, 9–18, 21, 24, 29, 33, 38, 39; PPMI 1, 2, 20; CCLEO 2, 4, 5, 6; DHRIN 5; BPRL 1, 5–8. In relation to children specifically see CRC 3, 37, 40 and HR 2, 17, 18(a), 75, 76.