Detainee's behaviour in custody

03 February 2021

Not reviewed after the date of publication


Which offences best suit a person who is behaving in an abusive and disorderly way within the custody block?


The powers available under PACE in terms of treatment of detained persons are usually sufficient to protect that person and others around them from harm which may be caused by the person's behaviour. For example the powers of search under section 54 of PACE the clothes and personal effects of a detainee may be seized if the custody officer believes that the person from whom they are seized may use them -

(i) to cause physical injury to himself or any other person;
(ii) to damage property;
(iii) to interfere with evidence; or
(iv) to assist him to escape;

Another example is section 37(6) of PACE whereby the duty of the custody officer to make a written record of the grounds for the detention in the presence of the person arrested shall not apply where the person arrested is, at the time when the written record is made -

(a) incapable of understanding what is said to him;
(b) violent or likely to become violent; or
(c) in urgent need of medical attention.

Notwithstanding any of the above measures; if a person is in police detention within a custody suite then there is nothing to prevent them with being charged for a further offence due to their behaviour whilst detained.

In such cases, offences that may be appropriate could be:

Obstruction of a constable in the exercise of duty under Section 89 of the Police Act 1996 (also see D175 on PNLD for more discussion on the meaning of execution of duty).

Assault on emergency workers under section 1 of the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018.

Causing fear or provocation of violence under section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 which may be committed in a public or a private place.

If 3 or more persons are involved then the offence of violent disorder may be appropriate under section 2 of the Public Order Act 1986 which can also be committed in a private as well as public place.

Breach of the peace may also be considered.

Violent or indecent behaviour in any police office or any police-station house may be captured by section 29 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 but this will depend on the exact circumstances, and the requirements of the legislation will need to be satisfied.

In such cases the provisions of section 31 PACE will apply regarding arrest for a further offence. Please also see documents D20012, D17296 and D17294 for further discussion on the effects of arresting for further offences whilst in police detention.

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