Being at the Police Station

  • If you’re taken to a police station, you have to be treated in accordance with your rights
  • There are rules about how long you can be kept at a police station and about how you must be treated while you are there
  • Your children’s rights mean that you have to be treated appropriately for your age when you are at the police station

As long as you’re under 18, you will be treated as a child/young person by the police. This means that alongside the rules about how you should be treated if you are in trouble with the police, your UNCRC rights as a child apply. You can’t be treated differently and unfairly compared to anyone else because of things like your race or your sex or because you have a disability. The police also have to consider your best interests (even though you might have broken the law), to give you enough information so that you know what is happening to you, and to listen to you.

When will I be taken to the police station?

The police might ask you to go to the police station to answer questions about what has happened, or they may already think they have enough evidence to arrest you for breaking the law. If they arrest you, then you have to go with them. If they just want to ask you questions about what happened, you don’t have to go.

What does ‘being arrested’ mean?

If you are arrested it means that the police think you were involved in breaking the law and want to ask you more questions about it. If you are arrested, the police can keep you at the police station to ask you questions. You can only be asked questions if there is an ‘appropriate adult’ with you who can help you understand what is going on, and a solicitor to give you legal advice.

 

Will anyone know that I’ve been taken to a police station?

You are allowed to ask the police to let a relative or a friend know what has happened to you.

As well as your right to ask the police to let someone know where you are, the police have to find out who is responsible for looking after you, and then they have to tell them what has happened. They must tell them that you’ve been arrested, why you’ve been arrested and where you are.

Will I be put in a cell?

The police might put you in a cell in the police station while they are trying to make arrangements before they ask you questions. They have to try and tell your parents or carer what has happened and make arrangements for an appropriate adult to be with you before they can ask you questions.

You shouldn’t be kept in a cell with an adult who is also being kept at the police station because they might have broken the law, unless it’s a relative, or someone who the police think has been involved in the same thing as you.

If you’re a girl, the police should make sure there’s a woman to look after you.

What about going to the toilet, and food and drinks?

You can’t be treated cruelly while you’re at the police station. You should be able to go to the toilet, to have food and something to drink. When you are first taken to the police station, you should be told about your rights while you’re there by a policeman called the Custody Officer, and there should be a written notice about your rights to go to the toilet and to have food. The notice will be in Welsh and in English. If you need to see this notice in a different language, the police should provide it for you.

How long can the police keep me at the police station?

The police can keep you at the police station for 24 hours, and they can ask a court to keep you there for longer if they think they need more time to ask you questions.

What can the police do while I am at the police station?

The police’s job is to ask you questions and find out what has happened. They are trying to work out if you did break the law or not. To do this, they are allowed to

  • Ask you questions
  • Take your photograph
  • Take your fingerprints
  • Search you
  • Take samples of your DNA,
  • Take samples of your hair and your saliva if you (and your parents or guardian) agree, unless you have been charged, when they can take the samples without your permission
  • Take samples of your blood and urine, if you (and your parents if you are aged 14-17, or your parents if you are under 14) agree – even if you have not been charged.

There are rules about how the police must treat you if they do any of these things, all of which have to respect your rights. The appropriate adult who is with you at the police station should make sure that the police follow the rules.

Can I have someone with me?

You can have a solicitor with you who will give you legal advice about what’s happening and about what could happen to you. You must also have an ‘appropriate adult’ with you who will make sure you are properly looked after and understand what is going on at the police station.

What is a solicitor?

A solicitor is someone who understands what the law is and will be able to give you advice about whether you have broken the law and how to talk to the police. If you don’t have a solicitor or know where to get one, you can ask the police to see the duty solicitor.

Your solicitor will work for you, and not for the police.

You don’t have to pay for a solicitor to give you advice at the police station.

What is an ‘appropriate adult’?

However old you are, being at a police station because you might have done something wrong can be frightening and confusing.  An ‘appropriate adult’ is someone who can be with you at the police station to make sure you understand what is happening while you are there. It’s their job to make sure that the police act fairly and respect your rights. Your appropriate adult should help you to talk to the police and anyone else who might be involved.

You can also have an appropriate adult with you if you are 18 or older, but have learning needs that mean you need extra support to understand what is happening.

Who can be an ‘appropriate adult’?

Your appropriate adult could be your parent or carer, a social worker or someone from a Youth Offending Team, but if none of these people are available, it could be any responsible person over 18 years old. It can’t be anyone else who might be involved in what’s happened.

It can’t be someone in the police or who works for the police, so if the police say they can’t find anyone else and it will have to be someone from the police station, this is wrong.

If you’ve already told someone, like your mum or dad or social worker, that you have done what the police say you’ve done, that person can’t be your appropriate adult.

If you don’t get on with your parents, and say that you don’t want them to be your appropriate adult, the police must find someone else, even if your mum or dad wants to be your appropriate adult. It’s your decision.

When can I have an appropriate adult with me?

You should have an appropriate adult with you even if you haven’t been arrested but have been asked by the police to answer questions about something that has happened.

If you’ve been arrested on the street and taken to the police station, you should have an appropriate adult to be with you as soon as possible. The police shouldn’t talk to you about what has happened and ask you questions unless you have an appropriate adult with you.

You can speak to your appropriate adult in private at any time – and you should be told this by the police who are holding you.

What about if I don’t speak English or Welsh?

You should be able to answer questions in English or Welsh. If you speak a different language, the police should make sure you have an interpreter available so you can communicate properly with the police.

What does being ‘charged’ mean?

If you are ‘charged’ with an offence it means that the police think they have enough evidence to go to court and prove that you have broken the law.

What happens if I am charged?

If you are charged with an offence, the police can decide whether you can go home or not. In most cases, you should be able to go home and live there before your court case, or any other action is taken. This is called ‘bail’. If you are on bail, you may have to follow certain rules, like not go out after a certain time at night, and report regularly to a police station or somewhere else.

Can I be kept in a police cell overnight?

If the police decide that you can’t have bail, a court needs to decide what happens, and sometimes this won’t happen till the next day. You shouldn’t be kept in a prison cell, and the police should make arrangements with the local authority for you to stay somewhere that is suitable, or make arrangements for you to go to Youth Detention Accommodation

If you are arrested and are still being asked questions, you could be kept in a police cell overnight, but this should only happen if  there is no where else for you to go.

If the police think I broke the law will I always end up in court?

If you are arrested, the police don’t have to charge you, even if you have told them that you did break the law. You might be given a youth caution, or if you have admitted to the police that you did break the law, the police will talk to the Youth Offending Team in your area to discuss whether ‘Triage’ is appropriate. You can find out more about this in the section ‘What Might Happen to Me’.

In Wales, some areas have a system called Bureau. If you have been arrested by the police and released on bail, you don’t have to go back to the police station but you will have to meet with a panel of 3 people including someone from the police and someone from the Youth Offending team and they will decide what will happen.