If you are arrested

What happens when you arrive at the police station?

When you arrive at the police station you should be told what your rights are (these will be written on a piece of paper but if you don’t understand what it means you should ask questions).

You have the right to:

  • Have someone told that you have been arrested (for example, you might ask a police officer to call your parent/s or guardian/s
  • Have a solicitor and talk to them on your own/in private.
  • Have medical help if you are feeling ill
  • See the rules the police must follow (Code of Practice)
  • If you are under 17 years old, you also have the right to have an appropriate adult with you at the police station and to talk to them in private if you want to. If you are under 18 the police must try to contact your parents, guardian or carers.

Can you have someone with you when you are interviewed by the police?

Yes, if you are under 18 years old then the custody officer must find out who is responsible for your welfare. This may be your parent or guardian, or you may have an appropriate adult appointed by a Local Authority or organisation or another adult that you trust.

The appropriate adult can be with you during the interview to comfort and explain legal terms to you, ensure that you understand the questions being asked and that your rights and interests are being protected.

You are also entitled to have a duty solicitor with you when you are being interviewed.

An appropriate adult can be a parent, guardian, carer, social worker, another family member or friend aged 18 or over, or a volunteer aged 18 or over.

Do you have a right to silence?

No, not really. When the police arrest you they will caution you, this is when they say ‘You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court…’.

This means that if you remain silent in your interview with the police and then later explain your actions when you are in court, the judge and jury might wonder why you didn’t say that to the police from the start. They might then decide not to believe what you have said in court.

How long can the police hold you at the police station for?

There are limits on how long the police can hold you at the police station before they charge you. You can be held for 24 hours if the police think that you have committed an offence. Another 12 hours can be added onto this if the offence they think that you have committed is serious.

Sometimes, but not often, the police will ask the court whether you can be held for longer. The court can only allow the police to hold you for an extra 96 hours (4 days) before you are charged. You can be held for up to 14 days if you are arrested under a Terrorism Act.

When can the police search you at the police station?

The police can search you when you arrive at the police station and at any time while you are held in custody.

If the police think that you might have something hidden on or in your body they can do a strip search. This is an intimate search and you will need to remove more than just your outer clothing. Such a search must be carried out by an officer of the same sex as you, in place where you cannot be seen by anyone who does not need to be there and no-one of the opposite sex is allowed to be there.

If you are under 17 years old, you should have an adult that you know and trust with you (your parent or guardian for example) although you don’t have to have them there if you don’t want to. As soon as the search is over you should be allowed to get dressed.

Can the police take photographs, fingerprints or other samples?

If you are 14 years old or younger, your parent(s) or guardian(s) have to agree before the police take your photograph or your fingerprints.

If you are aged 15 or 16 both you and your parent or guardian have to agree before the police can take your photograph or fingerprints.

If you are older than 16 the police can take your photograph even if you don’t agree. The police can also take your fingerprints even if you don’t agree to this if they need this information as part of their investigation.

As part of their investigation, the police might also want to take samples of your hair, nails, saliva and other things that can easily be removed from your body. If you haven’t been charged, the police need both you and an adult that you trust to agree before they can take these samples, but there are times when they can take these samples even if you don’t agree. If you have been charged, the police can take such samples even if you don’t agree.

The police need both you and an adult that you trust to agree that it is OK before they take more intimate samples such as blood and urine. You can’t be forced to give a sample like this even if you have been charged.

What happens with your fingerprints and other samples?

Your fingerprints or other samples can be kept by the police (even if you are not charged), please see table below for timescales of keeping your data.

You are entitled to a copy of your own police records.

Convictions
SituationHow long can they keep the Fingerprints and DNA for?
If you are convicted at any age or given a youth caution for any recordable offenceThere is no limit
If you are convicted under 18 for a minor offenceIf it is your first conviction they can keep it for 5 years plus the length of any prison sentence you get
If your prison sentence is for 5 years or more there is no limit
If it is your second conviction there is no limit to how long they can keep your fingerprints and DNA
Non-convictions
SituationHow long can they keep the Fingerprints and DNA for?
If you are charged at any age with recordable offence but not convicted3 years plus a 2 year extension if a District Judge says so
If you have a previous conviction which is not excluded from the case then there is no limit to how long they can keep your fingerprints and DNA
If you are arrested at any age with a qualifying offence but not charged3 years if the Biometrics Commissioner says so, plus a 2 year extension if a District Judge says so
If you have a previous conviction which is not excluded from the case then there is no limit to how long they can keep your fingerprints and DNA
If you are arrested or charged for a minor offence at any ageUnless you have a previous conviction they cannot keep your fingerprints or DNA

What happens if you are given a reprimand or a final warning?

The police might decide to give you a reprimand or final warning instead of charging you. A reprimand will be given if this is your first minor offence. Therefore, if you have already been convicted of an offence this is not a possibility. A final warning will be given if it is your first offence but it is a serious offence or if you have received a reprimand before. A final warning will be referred to the Youth Offending Team.

Before the police can give you a reprimand or final warning they must have enough evidence to prove that you committed an offence and you must admit that you committed the offence.

Reprimands and final warnings go on your record and can be used against you if you have more trouble with the police so only accept one if you are guilty of an offence, and after speaking to a lawyer. Any individual cannot receive more than two warnings. If you do receive a reprimand or a final warning it will not mean you have a criminal record, however it will result in a police record.

How can you complain about police treatment?

You can complain about how you were treated by any member of police staff. The best way to start is to complain to the custody officer before you leave the police station. There are many services that you can contact who will help you to make a claim. For example, you can contact Citizen’s Advice and they will explain what your rights are and help you to make a complaint. You can also contact the Independent Police Complaints Commission and make a complaint online.

What if the police charge you with a crime?

You can be charged if the police have enough evidence against you and will be given a charge sheet. The police then have to decide whether to let you out on bail until the time of your trial (this means that you can go home until you go to court) or whether you will need to be detained until your trial. Usually, where you are allowed to go home you will have to agree to certain conditions. If you do not stick to these conditions you can be arrested again.

Between the age of 12-16 you can be kept at the police station if they think you are a danger to the public. Usually, children and young people are released on bail unless the custody officer has a good reason to believe that you should not be. The police can decide to detain you before trial if they think that you will not show up for court, you might commit more crimes or if it would not be safe for you to go home. If aged 17 you must be held in Local Authority Accommodation before court.

The police will refer you to a Youth Offending Team, and they will work with you before and after your trial to try to work out why you have committed an offence and make sure that you don’t do it again.

Useful organisations

Just for Kids Law

Independent Police Complaints Commission