This is the first in a new series of 5 facts for crime writers. During the course of the series, I’ll be covering a number of different areas of police investigation and procedure to help writers to make sure that their portrayal is accurate. I’m going to start with police detention, the time spent at a police station following arrest.

  • The maximum amount of time that a person can be detained by police without charge (excluding terrorism cases) is 96 hours. A lot of people who are arrested tend to be released from custody within 24 hours but the police can detain you for longer, providing it is justified and authorised. A senior police officer (Superintendent or above) can authorise your continued detention from 24 hours up to a maximum of 36 hours. A Magistrates court can authorise a warrant of further detention and an extension to that warrant for an additional period of time, beyond 36 hours up to a maximum total of 96 hours.
  • You don’t have the right to make a phone call from the police station. One of your rights following arrest is to have someone informed of your arrest but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be allowed to make the call yourself. The custody officer may agree to let you make that call if you want to but often the call is made by a member of custody detention staff on your behalf.
  • The police can’t take a blood sample from you without your consent. A blood sample is classed as an ‘intimate sample’ and can only be taken from you with your written consent and the authority of a senior police officer (Inspector or above).
  • The ‘detention clock’ stops if you go to hospital. Your time in police detention is calculated by what is known as the ‘detention clock’. If you have to go to hospital during your detention for any reason, the ‘clock’ will stop when you leave the police station and only start again when you return there. Any period spent away from the station won’t count towards your total detention time.
  • The police can search your address without a search warrant. If you’ve been arrested and are in police detention in relation to an indictable offence (an offence which is triable at Crown Court) then the police have the power (Section 18 Police and Criminal Evidence Act) to search premises which are occupied or controlled by you. The written authority of a senior police officer (Inspector or above) must be obtained.

You can find lots more information about police detention in ‘A Comprehensive Guide to Arrest and Detention’ publishing 25th November 2020

A Comprehensive Guide to Arrest and Detention – Stephen Wade and Stuart Gibbon

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