Power to search after arrest in order to transfer to a designated police station

26 August 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication


A suspect was arrested in the front office of a designated police station after handing himself in. The police station has no custody suite and in order to transfer him to custody we require the power to search due to the potential risk.

Please can you confirm if there is a power to do so? Section 32 cannot be used in a police station and Section 54 refers to the male being within a custody suite.


Where a person is arrested at a designated or a non-designated police station, section 36 of PACE makes provisions regarding the appointment of an officer of any rank to act as custody officer until the arrested person leaves that police station and arrives at the station with custody suite/custody officer.

Section 36(8) provides that that nominated/appointed officer shall then have the powers of a custody officer, which will include the search, seizure and retain powers under section 54 of PACE.

'36(4) An officer of any rank may perform the functions of a custody officer at a designated police station if a custody officer is not readily available to perform them.

36(7) Where an arrested person is taken to a police station which is not a designated police station, the functions in relation to him which at a designated police station would be the functions of a custody officer shall be performed -

(a) by an officer who is not involved in the investigation of an offence for which he is in police detention, if such an officer is readily available; and
(b) if no such officer is readily available, by the officer who took him to the station or any other officer.

36(8) References to a custody officer in section 34 above or in the following provisions of this Act include references to an officer other than a custody officer who is performing the functions of a custody officer by virtue of subsection (4) or (7) above.'

Section 54 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 provides a custody officer with a power to search, seize and retain items which have been found during the search of detained persons.

'54(1) The custody officer at a police station shall ascertain everything which a person has with him when he is -

(a) brought to the station after being arrested elsewhere or after being committed to custody by an order or sentence of a court; or
(b) arrested at the station or detained there as a person falling within section 34(7), under section 37 above or as a person to whom section 46ZA(4) or (5) applies.'

54(6) Subject to subsection (7) below, a person may be searched if the custody officer considers it necessary to enable him to carry out his duty under subsection (1) above and to the extent that the custody officer considers necessary for that purpose.'

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