Locked Up #4

You have had your fingerprints done and photograph taken. You’ve been in custody for 90 mins and so far nothing else has happened.

The detention officers have provided you with a hot drink. It’s not the best quality but it’s hot. They have also offered you food. You asked what was on offer and they reeled off a list of microwave ready meals. You declined as none of them sounded very appealing.

Individual forces operate in different ways. My force provide microwave meals. Don’t be fooled into thinking about those you would see in a supermarket. They are, in my view, somewhere below the “budget” range and rather unpleasant.20130817-100028.jpg They have an intergalactic shelf life and anything that can resist time that much cannot be good for you. That said, a nutritionist somewhere must have said it was ok. I know of another force who provide boxed sandwiches and savoury products by a well known local manufacturer. The sort of stuff on sale at motorway services.

* The all day breakfast looks nothing like the image depicted and is used for illustration purpose only. It is no reflection on the brand disguised. I’m sure theirs does look like that and is delicious?

The arresting officer has driven the 25 minutes back to the supermarket to meet security. On arrival the witness was busy on another matter so he had to wait 15 minutes. The witness finally arrives and offers the officer a cup of tea which is gratefully accepted. It takes 5 minutes to brew up. He then walks to the CCTV office and they spend 15 minutes showing the officer your actions in the store from several cameras.

The officer is pleased with the footage and asks for a copy to burnt to CD for him. This is often not as simple as you would think. In this case it takes 30 minutes. In many cases there are staff who can review 20130817-100404.jpgfootage but don’t know how to burn footage or are not allowed to. “Only the manager can do that and she’s not in until tomorrow” is a regular occurrence. Whilst the footage is being compiled the officer takes a statement from the witness. The whole process takes about an hour.

Satisfied that all the necessary evidence is obtained the officer returns to his local station and conducts some enquiries on the computers. Do any other officers have an interest in you? Are there matters you are a suspect for but not yet formally circulated nationally as wanted? He can also log into the custody system and check that there are no complications with you in custody that may affect processing.

It seems you are ok and fit to be interviewed. You want a solicitor. The officer looks at the time. It’s 2 hours before the end of his shift. With the best will in the world, turning out a solicitor, getting an interview done, a charge decision and a prosecution file in that time is slim. He speaks to his Sgt who agrees. He therefore puts all the evidence together and completes a “handover” package. The case will be handed to one of the new staff coming on duty in 2 hours.

In the meantime you are still waiting.

Two hours later the outgoing and incoming Sgt meet and debrief on the days incidents, what is still ongoing and that you are in custody and need dealing with. The late Sgt then parades her team on duty. She has very few staff. She is losing one to a high risk missing from home and two others to a road closure at a serious accident. If she sends somebody to custody to deal with you she will have one officer to cover the whole area.

She gets her staff sorted and then looks at her options. This takes 45 minutes. She decides she cannot release an officer to custody. However, there is a team of officers/staff based in custody who process the less complex cases. She approaches their supervisor, outlines her predicament and asks if they can help. They only have two staff on and both are dealing with other matters. One case though should be completed within the hour. They therefore agree to take this case on.

The handover file can be electronically scanned onto the computer to avoid a drive to custody. However the CCTV footage cannot and this will need to be shown to you and your solicitor. The Sgt consequently has to get the file to custody. She manages to locate a PCSO and they do this errand for her.

You have now been in custody nearly 5 hours. The custody team are picking up your case. 20130817-100648.jpgThe officer who was going to interview you has now finished their last job. It took 30 minutes longer than expected but is now reading through the evidence for your case and trying to view the CCTV on a laptop. They contact your solicitor. They are tied up at another custody suite but can be there in an hour.

It is looking like you will be in custody for about 6.5-7 hours before being interviewed.

The custody suite has a dedicated Duty Inspector. Some forces use the Inspector who is out on the streets. Whichever is used though your custody needs to be reviewed.

Your time in custody is subject to periodic review by the nominated PACE Inspector. The first review has to be completed before your first 6 hours in custody. It can be done at any time before then but in normal practice falls within hours 5 & 6. The purpose of the review is for the Inspector to be satisfied that your detention is still lawful and that the investigation is progressing as quickly as possible. It is also necessary for you to be reminded of your right to free, independent legal advice and an opportunity for you to raise any complaints about your care/treatment whilst in custody.

A cordless phone is brought to the cell and a detention officer tells you it’s the Duty Inspector. He goes through all the above and listens as you complain that you’ve been in custody nearly 6 hours for a minor offence and there has been no progress. He explains why this has happened and goes on to tell you an officer is now allocated to your case and your solicitor is 45 minutes away.

You accept his conclusions and hand the phone back to the detention officer. The Inspector will now record this “review” on the custody record. This resets a timer and the next review must be done within the next 9 hours.

It is important to note that whilst this action is by the Inspector, the Custody Sgt will be regularly reviewing your time in custody and chasing officers for updates on progress too.

50 minutes later having been in custody for 7 hours your solicitor arrives. The officer is ready and meets with your solicitor and gives them disclosure about the case.

Disclosure is a complicated area. The police essentially tell the solicitor about the case and the evidence. This allows them to advise you on your options. Disclosure can be full.. meaning we tell the solicitor everything. On other occasions it can be partial or “staged disclosure”. Both have there place and uses. Staged is simply not showing all our cards at once. We may, for example, withhold fingerprint or forensic evidence initially to see what you have to say first and raise it later. This may happen by the officers terminating the interview and giving further disclosure. Alternatively it may come as a blind side in interview. The latter will normally make the solicitor call for a pause in the interview to consult with their client and officers.

There is nothing complicated about your case. The officer gives full disclosure to your solicitor. You are now brought out of your cell and taken to your solicitor. Depending on suite facilities and layout you may both be in a small 20130817-102152.jpgconsultation room or you may be placed in a secure interview room. This is where you sit face to face with your solicitor but there is a wall and glass screen between you.

You meet in a small room together. This consultation is private. Whilst I know what the solicitors role is in consultation I am not permitted to be present. The disclosure and consultation process is best described by my twitter friend @lifeincustody in her blog here: Chat – or Interview

Your consultation is now complete. The solicitor indicates to the officer you are both ready for interview. The officer therefore books you out to interview with the Custody Sgt and walks you down to an interview room with your solicitor.


9 thoughts on “Locked Up #4”

  1. This is great Sarge; I’m sure most families with either no police or criminal connection shave no idea what happens in the custody suite, or, possibly more importantly, why it happens as it does. your account of the proceedings, (from the coal face, so to speak) is well written, with no ‘police speak’, or acronyms. You do a difficult job Sarge; many Officers would do anything rather than work in Custody, yet your tweets are always positive – even if you’ve had a rubbish day – and you obviously enjoy your work. Long may you continue; your blogs are always entertaining and informative.

    1. Very kind of you to say so. Thank you. It’s a rubbish job at times. Other times it can be massively rewarding. Peaks and troughs of working life really.. just like everyone else 🙂

  2. Hel man! We had the Bridewell, and a key. That was about all.

    “You want a solicitor? NOT on Saturday night, pal, he is out playing golf, or something. Wait till Monday. You want something to eat? Here, a dodgy half pizza from greasy Joes, on the corner.”

    Since WHEN were prisoner scum to be treated like humans???

      1. That is how it was.

        And see my reply; “AND, if that “goes against your principals”, YOU are part of the problem!”

        I will always accept the results of what I believe to be right.

        THAT is why I served 4 years in the army, because I believe in National service. (Signed for 22, but got diagnosed with diabetes. Lifes a Bitch!)

        You can not demand it, if you are not prepered to DO it!

      2. Comments from the ‘Füror’ should be taken with large pinches of salt. The former Aberdeen fish gutter and Merseyside probationer, aka Von Spreuth, unwittingly compromises the reputation of UK police.

    1. I have been a police officer for 26 years, a Sgt for 18, a custody officer for the last 11 in a large metropolitan force. It is not the role of the police, be that investigators or custody, to ‘punish’ suspects. How do you expect suspects to give you a decent interview if they have been treated as ‘scum’? Through fear and intimidation? That may have been the way in your day my friend but that is why we find ourselves in the position we are today where everything I say and do for every second of my working day subject to video and audio recording and scrutiny because those that have gone before believe it’s right to hold thoughts such as yours. So you ask since when were prisoners to be treated like humans? Well, it should be EVERY time. I suspect, sir, you are nothing more than a troll…

  3. The block by my workplace has Frosties cereal bars amongst others in the mix of prepackaged meals and while the tea is nothing to write home about the coffee and hot chocolate max-packs get abstracted for witness (and occasionally staff – those working in unheated filing archives) uses so they can’t be that bad. At present many custody suites are attached to large stations but there are plans afoot to change to ‘superblocks’ which will obviously from the above add more time to the wait you describe…

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