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

Detainees receive respectful treatment in the custody suite and their individual needs are reflected in their care plan and risk assessment.  Detainees 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 and their diverse needs, while in custody, are met.

Indicators (what we expect to see)

  • All officers and staff interact with detainees courteously and all detainees are treated with dignity throughout.
  • Detainees are able to disclose, in a private setting, confidential information and explain any circumstance or condition that makes them vulnerable.
  • Custody officers and staff listen to detainees and are alert to and understand the impact of detention, particularly for those detainees identified as vulnerable and/or those held for extended periods of time. Effective support to enable detainees to cope with their detention is provided.
  • Custody officers and staff positively engage with detainees during their detention and, in particular, with those who are vulnerable and high risk.

3.2 Staff show an understanding of equality and diversity and know how to respond to the specific needs of:
- children
- women (including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding)
- different racial groups
- physical and mental disability and intellectual impairment (e.g. learning disabilities)
- different religious groups
- older people
- sexual orientation
- transgender and intersex identity.
There are arrangements that enable these detainees to be treated according to their individual needs.

Indicators (what we expect to see)

  • There is provision for detainees to have access to information in a language and format they can easily understand for example in an easy read format, Braille, or audio format and they are helped with clear explanations by staff when needed (see also section on Communication below).
  • There are sufficient female custody staff members with appropriate provision and facilities to respond to the welfare needs of female detainees; women are strip-searched only in the presence of two competent female staff.
  • Custody staff are equipped to assess 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 disabled detainees and staff know how to use them.
  • Staff show a good understanding of needs that can arise from diverse groups and 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.
    • 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.
    • appropriately identifying and responding to the particular needs of children, such as learning disabilities and signs of autism as well any safeguarding issues.
  • 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 are effective arrangements to raise the awareness of staff to positively respond to the needs of transgender people.

3.3 Detainees of all nationalities are treated according to their individual needs.

Indicators (what we expect to see)

  • Detainees are provided with information about the reason for their detention and, where necessary, have their immigration status and procedures in relation to that status explained in a language/format they can understand. 
  • Detainees are told that they can contact their relevant Consulate, Embassy or High Commission, and are enabled to consult with them on request.


3.4 The needs of detainees who experience difficulties communicating are met.

Indicators (what we expect to see)

  • Staff have access to 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.
  • 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.

Risk assessments

3.5 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 to or from others.

Indicators (what we expect to see)

  • Custody officers and staff know how to assess effectively and respond to any risk detainees pose to themselves and/or others.
  • Custody officers and staff are trained to apply de-escalation techniques, do not use force unless necessary and proportionate and are trained to identify the need for medical attention. 
  • Custody officers and staff use all existing, up-to-date information about a detainee to complete any risk assessment.
  • Custody 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.
  • Custody officers and staff have access to appropriate medical services and understand when referral is appropriate.
  • All staff demonstrate awareness and understanding of the different ways in which detainees may present mental health problems and other vulnerabilities and respond appropriately.
  • Care plans reflect risk and assessments are ongoing and reviewed throughout the period of detention.
  • Staff have knowledge and understanding of self-harm and how to support detainees at risk of harming themselves or others.
  • Staff understand the purpose and importance of regular monitoring and rousing, particularly for those under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Handovers involve all relevant staff, are recorded and conducted in private and result in the accurate sharing of relevant information.
  • Staff are aware of the risks of sleep deprivation for detainees’ well-being, particularly for those in extended detention, and take all necessary steps to mitigate such risks.

Individual and legal rights

3.6 Detention is authorised or reviewed in accordance with the relevant Code of Practice, lasts no longer than is necessary and extensions are appropriately authorised.

Indicators (what we expect to see)

  • Detention is appropriately authorised as soon as reasonably practicable after arrest by a review officer who is satisfied that continued detention is necessary.
  • The detainee is made fully aware of the grounds for continued detention.
  • Circumstances of detention are established, recorded and, where relevant (under Code C), the grounds are recorded and explained.
  • Information on vulnerability and associated risk factors is communicated between relevant 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.

3.7 Detainees understand and receive their rights while in police custody.

Indicators (what we expect to see)

  • All detainees receive and are helped to understand their rights and entitlements. Any delay in being able to exercise this entitlement is authorised according to law.
  • 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 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.
  • Detainees are informed of the reasons for their arrest (if applicable under Code C) and continued detention during the review of the necessity to detain. This is clearly recorded in the detainee’s presence.
  • Detainees, their legal representatives and/or appropriate adult are able to inspect the detainee’s custody record at any time while the person is detained.
  • Detainees, their legal representative and/or appropriate adult are able to obtain a copy of their custody record in accordance with the relevant Codes.
  • Staff explain to detainees, in a language they can understand, documents that have important consequences or that concern their rights.
  • Detainees are informed of the Force retention and disposal policy for biometric data, including fingerprints, photographs and DNA, and that these may be subject to relevant checks.
  • PACE Code C and Code H reviews are conducted on time and focus on safeguarding the interests of the detainee and progression of the case. Where held under a warrant (authorised by a court), a welfare review is conducted.
  • Reviews are carried out in person.

3.8 Detainees have access to swift justice. Where the investigation is being conducted under Code C, there are appropriate mechanisms for ensuring regular review of pre-charge bail.

Indicators (what we expect to see)

  • Forces finalise investigations during the first period of detention wherever possible. Bail is only used where it is necessary and proportionate. Where bail is used, forces have an investigation plan and management regime in place to monitor the progress of the investigation and the person on bail. This is documented.
  • In addition:
    • bail up to 28 days is inspector-approved
    • any single extension of up to three months is approved at the level of Superintendent or above          
    • bail beyond three months is approved by the Magistrates’ Courts.
  • There is a reviewing officer to provide oversight and establish the need for bail, whether enquiries have been conducted expeditiously, whether there is supervisory oversight, and to establish with the officer in charge the risk to witnesses and the community, for example.
  • The bail period is proportionate to the investigation still to be completed. It is realistic and in line with the lead time for other agencies and departments.


3.9 Detainees know how to make a complaint and are enabled to do so before they leave police custody.

Indicators (what we expect to see)

  • Detainees are told about how to complain and are provided with relevant information.
  • Complaints are taken and recorded before detainees leave custody.
  • Detainees’ complaints are investigated fully, fairly and swiftly and are monitored, with any concerns addressed appropriately and outcomes recorded. 
  • Detainees are not discouraged or deterred in any way from complaining. and are not subject 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/HMI Prisons inspectors, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation or custody visitors, and custody visitors inform HMICFRS/HMI Prisons inspectors of any repercussions against detainees outside inspections. Such reports are communicated to the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.

Human rights standards
In relation to expectations 3.1–3.9: Human rights standards prescribe a range of measures which apply to safeguard the rights of detainees as they arrive at the suite and in the early stages of detention. The measures aim to ensure that detainees are treated with dignity and in a manner that respects and meets their individual needs, that their vulnerabilities (including from detention itself) are identified and met, that they are safe from harm (whether self-harm or from others) and that they receive the medical attention (for both physical and mental ill-health) required. They also provide that detainees should be provided with and assisted to understand if necessary their legal 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 relevant 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 such detention and other lawful options should be explored. The standards apply as soon as a detainee is deprived of his or her liberty and throughout detention. See ECHR 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14; ICCPR 6, 7, 9, 10(1), 14; ICESCR 12; CAT 10, 11, 12, 13, 16; OPCAT 19, 20, 21, 22; CERD 2, 5, 6; DEDRB 2, 4; CRPD 14; BOP 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 24, 29, 33, 38, 39; PPMI 1, 2, 20; BPUFF 4, 5, 6, 15, 16; DRM 4; UNHR 17, 18; CCLEO 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; DHRIN 5; BPRL 1, 5, 6, 7, 8. In relation to children specifically see CRC 3, 37, 40 and HR 17, 18.