Custody suite

Custody suite

A Custody Suite is the area used by United Kingdom Police to process and detain persons who have been arrested, otherwise detained or who are there for purposes such as answering bail.

Historically, all police stations had a small number of cells where offenders could be detained. However in recent years most of these small groups of cells have become obsolete, and custody suites at a smaller number of stations but with a greater number of cells were built as a replacement.


There are numerous facilities contained within the custody suite, which most commonly include:

  • A holding cell, where officers wait with prisoners before being allowed entry to the suite.
  • A number of cells for detaining prisoners, often split into male, female and juvenile groups of cells.
  • A prisoner processing area, where Custody officers (most commonly police sergeants) process the prisoners presented to them by police officers.
  • Interview rooms, with equipment used to conduct and record interviews with suspects for use as evidence.
  • A medical room, for use by the Force Medical Examiner or 'FME'.
  • Consultation rooms, where detained persons can consult with their legal representatives.
  • Rooms used for video identification parades or similar.
  • A room or rooms where officers can complete the necessary arrest documentation after lodging their prisoner.


Upon arrival at the suite, the detained person will be presented at a desk before the custody officer and the arresting officer will explain the offence they have been arrested for and explain the circumstances of the arrest. If the custody officer is satisfied with the circumstances of the arrest they will authorise the further detention of the person, who will then be asked numerous questions regarding their personal details and will be informed of their rights whilst they are being held, before being put into a cell. Also the offender is searched and every item removed even simple things such as car keys to prevent the person harming themselves or others. All the items are kept in a locked safe for the offenders departure, if they are considered a threat to themselves they could be stripped of clothes with prior permission from a superior officer and given disposable prisoner over-alls. If drugs are believed to be hidden on the person a strip search could take place if it is believed that it is secreted in the body and not in the clothes.

The arresting officer will then complete the necessary documentation for the arrest and may conduct brief further enquiries (including a tape recorded interview with the suspect) before the suspect is brought before the custody officer again for disposal. This disposal could take numerous forms, the most common being that the person is charged with an offence, given police bail in order for further investigation to be carried out, or released without any charge.

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