Overruling decision of the custody officer

01 February 2021

Not reviewed after the date of publication


My query relates to custody and custody officers being overruled by officers Supt and above. Can an officer higher than a rank of inspector overrule the decision of a custody officer on detention, bail and remand?


The concern of the custody officer is whether it is 'necessary to detain' in light of the information they have received from the arresting officer. The authorisations or lack of authorisations made by a custody officer are independent decisions made in the capacity of their specialised role. There is however a general process under section 39(6) of PACE which outlines how disagreements with decisions of the custody officer by an officer of a higher rank, may be dealt with. The section states:

'39(6) Where -

(a) an officer of higher rank than the custody officer gives directions relating to a person in police detention; and
(b) the directions are at variance -

(i) with any decision made or action taken by the custody officer in the performance of a duty imposed on him under this Part of this Act; or
(ii) with any decision or action which would but for the directions have been made or taken by him in the performance of such a duty,

the custody officer shall refer the matter at once to an officer of the rank of superintendent or above who is responsible for the police station for which the custody officer is acting as custody officer.'

Therefore, we are of the opinion that only an officer of the rank of superintendent or above can overrule a decision made by a custody sergeant.

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