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What are your rights on arrest?

This article appeared in the Mercury newspaper on 17th November 2010.

Solicitor David Staniforth explains what your rights are if you are arrested by the Police.


What are my rights if I am arrested?

  • You can, in most cases have someone informed of your arrest.
  • You have a right to legal advice either over the phone or by a lawyer in person, free of charge. This right is regardless of your ability to pay.
  • You have a right to a solicitor of your choice. Tyour legal rights on arresthe police can provide a solicitor through the Duty Solicitor scheme but this doesn’t affect your right to the solicitor of your choice. You can request your own solicitor or one you would like to represent you, the police are under a duty to provide that solicitor if they are available.
  • You have the right to know the reason for your arrest and that reason should be recorded on your custody record.
  • You are entitled to be provided with food and drink whilst in custody at no cost.

Am I entitled to a phone call while in custody?

There are various myths about what you are entitled to whilst in custody. You are not entitled to:

  • A phone call, as you often see in American films.
  • Visits from friends and family, there are exceptions to this for minors.
  • Smoke. Police stations like all public buildings are non smoking by law.

What if I initially refused a solicitor but later changed my mind?

The right to a solicitor is an ongoing right and can be exercised at any time. This means that if you initially said you didn’t want a solicitor, then during the interview changed your mind, you can say at that time “I want a solicitor”. The police would have to stop the interview and get you a solicitor. 

What if I want a particular solicitor but can’t afford to pay?

Police station advice, unlike most other areas of legal aid, is not means tested. This means that you are free to request the solicitor of your choice with no worry of the cost to you. When the new Duty Solicitor scheme started there were instances of the police saying to detainees that they had to have the duty solicitor or pay your own solicitor. This is not the case and that should not now be said by the police.

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