Help and support


The nature of business in police custody requires appropriate help and support to be given to detainees. This combines a professional and ethical standard of dignity along with a legal duty of care to detainees. This is also important as part of providing a service to victims, witnesses and the community as any proceedings at court is less likely to attract potential failure from unfair treatment.

When a person is arrested it often represents a difficult time for several people, whether to the victim and their family or family members of the person arrested. For example, it may be the shock of what may have happened or the arrest may signify a prolonged period of deteriorating difficulties and quiet suffering.

In addition to outlining the type of support available to persons in custody, this section also contains details of additional support for people who may be having difficulties in their lives whether as someone associated with persons arrested or if you’re subject to an investigation.

Help & Support

The information within the safe guarding section provides help, advice and support across a wide range of issues.

Additional information

Police Medical Health Professional

A clinically qualified person working within practice of their professional body but also trained and specialised for work within the Police Service, consisting of medical doctors (referred to as Police Surgeons) and custody nurses. They are available to provide assessment, care, medication and treatment as appropriate. This may also involve referral to other specialists, such as recommending the person in custody is transferred to hospital.

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Solicitor

A solicitor who holds a current practising certificate or an accredited or probationary representative included on the register of representatives maintained by the Legal Aid Agency. They are available to provide legal advice and support to people in custody free of charge.

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Visual, auditory or language difficulties

Anyone who is visually impaired or unable to read will have assistance to understand, check and complete any written material as required. This will be someone independent to the police and not involved in the investigation such as a relative or appropriate adult.

If a person appears to be deaf or there is doubt about their ability to hear clearly or speak where effective communication cannot be established an interpreter will be contacted.

Likewise where effective communication cannot be established due to language difficulties communication will be facilitated through an interpreter.

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Mental health or psychological conditions

The police recognise that the experience of being in a custody unit may have an adverse effect on a person's situation if they are already suffering or managing a particular condition, whether in terms of mental illness or psychological difficulties. The custody officer will be aware of this, ensuring an appropriate level of care is put in place which may include keeping the person under regular observations or utilising a special room with a CCTV camera, whilst accommodating reasonable privacy and dignity.

When arranging the services of an appropriate adult, the preference will be for someone who is a carer or has training or experience with the individual's particular situation and independent of the police. Where appropriate, referral may be made to other agencies to provide support after leaving the custody unit.

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Appropriate adults

Some people in custody require additional support, such as a person under 18 or an adult who may be vulnerable due to conditions such as mental disorders or learning difficulties. Appropriate adults are called to the station as an important safeguard and support to assist the person - for example, to help them understand what is happening during the investigative stages such as interviews.

In addition to interviews, appropriate adults are required to countersign any formal documents such as bail, charges or consent forms.

The appropriate adult is not there to simply act as an observer. Their role is supportive - to help communication between the detainee, the police and others and to ensure the police act fairly respecting their rights.

They assist and advise but they do not provide legal advice. If the person in custody refuses to have legal advice, the appropriate adult has the right to request a solicitor be called.

An appropriate adult can be any of the following:

  • Parent
  • Family member
  • Guardian
  • Carer
  • Social worker
  • Friend aged 18 or over
  • A representative from an approved volunteer service

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Females in custody

Fair and equal outcomes require consideration with due sensitivity given the difference in people’s lives can have very different social and personal consequences. This does not mean one person is treated ‘better’ than another but individual circumstances are taken into account, in particular vulnerabilities and risks.

For example, there may be complex consequences with education, employment, income and family if imprisonment is a likely event to a person as a result of an investigation. This was highlighted as a particular area of concern regarding women in the Criminal Justice System by the Corston Report (2007) which stipulated the need for a different and distinct approach for females in custody.

Therefore, when females are in police custody particular consideration is given to:

  • Physical, medical and welfare needs
  • Access to a female member of staff
  • Conditions of privacy and dignity e.g. with any searches
  • Suitable clean replacement clothing
  • Child or dependent welfare issues especially lone parents or foreign nationals
  • The impact of separation from a baby or infant
  • Pregnancy whether known or potential requiring additional considerations
  • Psychological health
  • Risk of self-harm
  • Drug or alcohol problems
  • Any background of domestic violence or sexual abuse suffered
  • Potential exploitation by others where they are forced or influenced to do something for the benefit of someone else

In addition to the services available in custody such as contact with a medical professional, referral can be made to other agencies within and outside the police.

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Caring responsibilities

It is recognised that people arrested may have caring responsibilities for others such as relatives or children whilst they are held in police custody. Due consideration is made regarding the difficulties this may cause and steps can be made to contact relevant people to facilitate alternative arrangements, such as use of the telephone or the police contacting people on their behalf.

Any prolonged period in custody will routinely be subject of a review by an inspector and caring responsibilities will be taking into consideration when this takes place.

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People from another country

A foreign national is a person who is not a citizen of the country in which they currently live, whether temporary or otherwise.

People from other countries - whether an independent Commonwealth country or a national of a foreign country - also have the right to contact their High Commission, Embassy or Consulate, or have them informed of where they are and why they are in police detention. This includes having a visit from a consular officer or a nominated solicitor from the Embassy or Consulate.

Any difficulties in communication due to language are addressed through a professional translation service.

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Source: North Wales Police

Non Emergency Directory (NED)

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