Are You Being Held in Police Custody? Your Legal Rights Under UK Law


When you have been arrested for an alleged criminal offence, it can be a very unnerving and unsettling time. While you are likely to feel scared and unsure of what to do while you are detained at the police station, it is vital that you remain as calm as possible and know that under the UK legal system, you have rights.

Indeed, one of the responsibilities of the police officers on duty at the police station is to inform you of your rights once there and if you are not told of your rights, you may actually be entitled to submit a complaint about your time in police custody.

But, back to the initial point; many people are aware of their right to remain silent while detained by the police, but are you aware of the other rights that you have while awaiting your charge? A criminal solicitor explains them in jargon-free language below.

Right to free legal advice

When you are arrested, you are entitled to receive free legal advice from a trained solicitor; in this instance, you will be sent a criminal solicitor to represent you. They will assess your case, sit in on police interviews and offer you accurate advice about the most likely outcome for your circumstances. A criminal solicitor will liaise with police officers on your behalf, and work to get any charges against you dropped, and if necessary, they will interview any witnesses and analyse CCTV footage.

Informing friends or family

Obviously, when you are being held in a police cell, your mind will probably wander to your family; they don’t know where you are and this can cause extreme distress depending on how long you are going to be detained for. Either yourself or a police officer is legally required to contact a family member of your choosing, to inform them of where you are, what you have been arrested for and what the likely outcome of your arrest will be.

Medical treatment

medical consultation

It is understandable that when many people are arrested, they start to feel ill. While you obviously have the right to food and water while you are detained, you also have the right to receive medical treatment or medication if required.

For instance, if you need an asthma inhaler or need to inject insulin before consuming food, it is your legal right to have these things provided to you.

A written notice

While you will have been told your rights by a police officer when you were arrested, it is also your right to be provided with a written notice, highlighting your rights while you are detained.

If you find it hard to read small print or have poor eyesight, the police have to supply you with the same document in a large print format.

An interpreter

If English isn’t your first language, if you are deaf or have another impairment that hinders your communication skills, you are legally entitled to an interpreter or translator while held in police custody.