In the custody suite: reception processes, individual needs and legal rights

Detainees receive respectful treatment in the custody suite and their individual needs are met. Detainees are held in court custody for no longer than necessary, are informed of their legal rights and can freely exercise these rights while in custody. All risks are identified at the earliest opportunity.


3.1 Detainees are treated with dignity while in custody.


  • Staff are easily identifiable and engage with detainees courteously. All detainees are treated with dignity from the first point of contact and throughout their detention.
  • Detainees can disclose confidential information, and any situation or condition that makes them vulnerable, in private.
  • Staff take into consideration the stress that detainees may be feeling when responding to and communicating with them.

Meeting individual and diverse needs

3.2 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 needs.


  • Staff have a good understanding of and can meet the specific individual needs of people from diverse groups, such as older people, women (including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding), detainees from all racial and ethnic groups, detainees with disabilities, (including non-physical disabilities), detainees of all religions and beliefs, detainees of all sexual orientations, and transgender and intersex detainees. Staff understand that individuals may have multiple needs.
  • There are sufficient female custody staff 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 for their needs. Women are held separately from men.
  • Reasonable adjustments are made for detainees with disabilities, including non- physical disabilities.
  • There is a range of religious observance materials, and detainees are searched in a religiously and culturally sensitive way.
  • Custody staff can identify and meet the distinct needs of older detainees, such as signs of mental and physical health problems, including the onset of dementia.
  • Custody staff understand that young adults may have distinct needs and respond appropriately to differing levels of maturity.
  • Custody staff identify and appropriately address the individual needs of transgender detainees.
  • Staff have access to accredited translation and interpreting services where needed to help detainees understand their rights and other custody processes, and whenever accuracy or confidentiality is important.
  • Telephone interpretation is conducted using equipment that enables effective communication in privacy and staff are confident in using it.
  • Legal rights and other documents are provided for detainees to access information in a language and format they can easily understand, for example, easy read format, Braille and in languages which reflect the population in the relevant area. Detainees who experience difficulties in reading or understanding are helped with clear explanations by staff when needed (see expectations on individual legal rights).

Risk assessments

3.3 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.


  • Staff know how to effectively assess and respond to any risk detainees pose to themselves and/or others.
  • Escort staff communicate all relevant information to custody staff to contribute to the risk assessment process.
  • A systematic risk assessment is carried out with all detainees on arrival into court custody.
  • Staff make sufficient enquiries to ascertain whether there is any additional information which they should be aware of to reduce the risk of harm to the detainee or to others.
  • Staff demonstrate awareness and understanding of the diverse ways in which detainees may present physical and mental health problems and other vulnerabilities, and respond appropriately.
  • Observation levels reflect presenting risk. Assessments are ongoing and are reviewed throughout the period of detention and responded to where necessary.
  • Levels of observation are conducted at the necessary frequency and custody staff engage proactively with detainees.
  • Custody and escort staff have knowledge and understanding of self-harm and support detainees at risk of harming themselves.
  • Staff explain to detainees how to use the cell call bell and activations are responded to promptly.
  • There is a confidential process in place to ensure all staff are aware of any risks associated with detainees.
  • Where there is a need for detainees to share cells, decisions are based on a systematic risk assessment that is undertaken before cells are shared.
  • Staff undertaking cell visits always carry anti-ligature knives.

Individual legal rights

3.4 Detention in court is only used where necessary and detainees are held for the shortest possible period.


  • Detainees are brought into court custody only when it is necessary to detain them.
  • Detainees are accepted into custody without undue delay.
  • Detainees held in court custody can inform someone of their whereabouts.
  • Court custody cases are prioritised and progressed effectively to allow detainees to be released or transferred at the earliest opportunity.
  • Information on vulnerability and associated risk factors is communicated between custody and court staff to inform decisions on the prioritisation and progression of cases. This ensures that children and vulnerable detainees spend as little time in custody as possible (see expectation on children).
  • There are no delays in transferring detainees from the custody suite to the court room.

3.5 Detainees understand and receive their rights while in court custody. Detainees are given sufficient time before and after a court appearance to obtain legal advice and can communicate with a legal representative in private.


  • All detainees receive and are helped to understand their rights.
  • Custody staff ensure that a detainee’s legal representative has been contacted prior to their appearance in court. Custody staff provide information about legal aid and how to contact lawyers to detainees without legal representation.
  • Detainees are given access to suitable consultation rooms to meet with their legal representatives in private.
  • Detainees can retain their legal documents and are offered and provided with writing materials.
  • Detainees who are foreign nationals can contact their relevant consulate, embassy or high commission, and are able to consult with them on request.


3.6 Detainees know how to make a complaint and are enabled to do before they leave court custody.


  • Complaints procedures are well promoted. On arrival detainees are told how to complain, including that someone may make a complaint on their behalf should they wish, and are provided with relevant information in a language and format that they understand.
  • All detainees are asked if they would like to make a complaint before they leave custody. Complaints are taken and recorded before detainees leave custody.
  • Detainees can make a confidential complaint and are able to request to make a complaint to a senior member of staff.
  • 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. They are not subjected to any form of intimidation or disadvantaged in any way because they have made a complaint.
  • Detainees are informed of the outcome of their complaint promptly.
  • Detainees are not discouraged from or disadvantaged in any way because of speaking to inspectors or lay observers while in custody.

Human rights standards
In relation to expectations 3.1 to 3.6: 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 require 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 right to a fair trial. See ECHR 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14; ICCPR 6(1), 7, 9, 10(1), 14, 17–19, 26; ICESCR 12(1); CAT 2, 10–13, 16; OPCAT 19–22; CERD 2, 5; CEDAW 2–4, 12; DEDRB 2, 4; CRPD 5–7, 13–15, 21, 22; BR 5, 25; BOP 1, 2, 5, 6, 11, 13, 14, 16–18, 24, 29, 33, 36–39; YP 7(b), 8; DHRIN 5; BPRL 1–3, 5–8. In relation to children specifically see CRC 3, 37, 40 and HR 2, 17, 18(a), 75–78, BeiR 7.1, 10, 13, 15. See also CPT/Inf(2004)28-part, Combating impunity; CPT/Inf(2018)4-part, Complaints mechanisms; and CPT/Inf(2000)13-part, Women deprived of their liberty.