Consideration has been given for the editing and publishing of this post
The police forces of any country have both rights and obligations when coming into contact with individuals. The same principle is available for individuals accused of various offences or stopped on the street for a routine check. While routine checks usually imply a verification of the identification papers, the suspicion of someone committing a more or less serious offence implies being escorted to the police station.
For individuals taken into police custody in the UK, the Prison Act of 1952 establishes the rights of detainees from the moment they enter the police station and up to the end of the detention period. These rights also cover the questioning sessions at the police station. Also, some of the rights enumerated in the Prison Act cover the families of those detained.
An individual’s rights when arriving at the police station
Contrary to many believes, once arrived at the police station, an individual must first be processed by the officers. In the UK, this procedure is referred to as allocation. This means having an interview with one of the police officers where the rules, procedures and the rights of the detained person are explained. The police must also notify the offender about their right to receiving legal assistance. However, this process is not part of the questioning process.
During the allocation process, the detainee will be searched for any dangerous products and their personal belongings will be confiscated and assigned to a special box, called account. These items will remain here until the detainee is released.
Among the first rights one is entitled to when arriving at the police station are calling a defence lawyer and announcing one’s family.
What happens after being allocated?
After being processed, the detainee will be taken to a cell where he or she will await being questioned. This is called being held into custody and it also comes with certain rights. Among these rights, the most important ones refer to benefiting from free legal advice if one cannot afford a lawyer and receiving medical assistance, if needed. These rights must also be explained in writing. Usually, a notice will be handed to the offender.
The UK is also known for having its share of troubled young individuals committing less serious offences. By young we mean individuals under the age of 18. In their case, the police must notify the parent or the legal guardians about the children being held into police custody.
Soliciting legal advice while in prison in the UK
Individuals detained in a UK police station have three possibilities of obtaining legal advice while in custody and before being questioned. These are:
- requesting assistance from the police station’s solicitor who is available 24 hours a day;
- asking for free legal advice, case in which the police must contact Defence Solicitor Call Centre;
- calling one’s own lawyer.
The longest period one can stay without receiving legal assistance is 36 hours.
The questioning session
The first thing to know when taken for questioning is that once the detainee has asked for legal advice, the police cannot question him/her in the absence of a criminal lawyer in London. Even in the presence of the solicitor, the offender will have the right to not say anything about the charges being brought to him/her, however, he/she may face certain consequences.
The police must explain them this right, however, they must also warn the detainee of the fact that not saying anything will harm their case when questioned during a trial. Also, the questioning must be recorded.
An important aspect to keep in mind is that during questioning, witnesses will benefit from the same rights without the part of being held into custody.
So, when held for questioning, no one says cooperation with the police staff is not a good thing, however, the presence of a defence lawyer is always the best course to follow.