Police stations - Roles
Who might be involved?
If the police think you have committed a crime and keep you at the police station, you might come across a few different people. Below are some people you may hear about or meet.
Police officers have different ranks depending on how much experience they have. You may come across police constables, sergeants, inspectors or superintendents at the police station.
Each officer will wear a badge on the shoulder of their uniform that shows their rank. They all have a unique number, for example, PC 1234 (police constable), PS 1234 (police sergeant). It can help to know which police officers have been involved in your case if you need to contact them in the future. If the officer does not wear a uniform you can ask to see their warrant card for their details.
The custody sergeant allows someone to be held at the police station. They will tell you why you have been arrested and are being held at the station. They will:
- check you understand the caution,
- tell you your rights,
- decide if you are vulnerable because of your mental health, or
- need an appropriate adult.
The custody sergeant is responsible for all of the people in the cells of the police station.
The legal representative
This is someone who is legally trained to advise you if the police think you have committed a crime. Some of them can prepare your case if you have to go to court.
If the police arrest you because they think you have committed a crime you have the right to speak to a legal representative. You can use the police station duty solicitor scheme if you can’t arrange your own legal representative. You can speak to a legal representative in person or on the telephone.
You can ask to see a specific solicitor. This might be one you have met before. A legal representative in the police station is free. They may be a qualified solicitor or someone who is trained to carry out police station work. They will work for a law firm who can take over your case if you have to go to court.
A family member, friend or more often a volunteer or care worker can be an appropriate adult. Most police stations will have professional appropriate adults that work with people who are arrested there. They are not part of the police. People with mental health problems should have an appropriate adult present when arrested. The police should call an appropriate adult who can look after your interests. This might be someone to help you understand what is happening.
Appropriate Health Care Professional (AHCP)
This is a medical practitioner like a doctor, nurse or paramedic. The police can ask this person to see you if you need medical care. This person may be called a Forensic Physician. In London, you might hear Forensic Medical Examiner (FME) instead.
The AHCP can decide if you well enough for the police to interview you or keep you at the station. It they think you need a Mental Health Act assessment, they can arrange this.
If your legal representative is worried about your mental health, they can ask the AHCP about a mental health assessment. You need to give your legal representative permission to do this.
Social worker or community psychiatric nurse
The police may know you if you have been in contact with them before. They may know about your mental illness. If so, they could contact your social worker, community psychiatric nurse or care co-ordinator. You might tell the police about your mental health professional and ask the police to contact them. They can be your appropriate adult if you feel comfortable with them.
Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
The CPS is a government department that go to court with criminal cases the police investigate. If you have to go to court, the CPS will decide on the charge, prepare the case and bring the case to court.
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