Your stories

The night I spent in a cell

Claire blogs about why a police cell was the last place she needed to be during a mental health crisis.

Posted on 27/11/2014

Mental illness and violence

Marion Janner on substance abuse, stigma and sense of self.

Posted on 01/03/2010

Crisis care in Wales

Sara blogs about the changes to crisis care in Wales resulting from the Crisis Care Concordat.

Sara Moseley
Posted on 17/05/2017

Terms you need to know



Appropriate adult

An appropriate adult will protect your welfare and rights and make sure that you understand the information at the police station if you are a child or vulnerable adult. They can help you communicate with the police and your legal adviser.

Some people are not allowed to be an appropriate adult:

  • anyone under the age of 18
  • anyone you have told that you are guilty or were involved in the incident
  • anyone who might be a suspect, victim, witness or otherwise involved in the investigation
  • solicitors and independent custody visitors at the police station in those capacities
  • police and their employees.

Appropriate healthcare practitioner

This is the term used for the medical professional who is called to the police station if you need medical assessment or treatment.


The police will stop you and detain you if they are investigating or preventing a crime and think that you are involved.


Release from custody, possibly with certain conditions attached (for example to return to the police station or to go to court at a certain time).


This could be two different things:

  • A formal warning given by a senior police officer, usually in a police station, after a person has committed an offence. This is used instead of charging and potentially prosecuting someone.
  • A statement read to you when you are arrested, interviewed and charged.


This means that you have been formally accused of committing a crime. You will be given a paper called the charge sheet which will have details of the allegations and the date you have to go to court, as well as any conditions of bail.

DBS check

A check of your criminal record carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service. This used to be called a 'CRB check'.

Custody officer

This is the police officer who is in charge of running the police custody area. They are responsible for your care and welfare whilst in the station.

Duty solicitor



This is the solicitor or specialist legal adviser who will be available to give you advice at the time that you are taken to the police station. They are completely independent of the police and you do not have to pay for them to attend the police station. You are allowed to choose your own if you prefer.

Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)

The IPCC oversees the police complaints system in England and Wales.

You can contact them through their website: ipcc.gov.uk

Legal aid

Legal aid can help meet the costs of legal advice, family mediation and representation in a court or tribunal. It is given to people who cannot otherwise afford legal representation. Your solicitor will fill in the form with you as you’ll usually need to show that:

  • your case is eligible for legal aid
  • the problem is serious
  • you can’t afford to pay for legal costs.

However, legal advice at a police station is free and not dependent on your finances.

Liaison and Diversion

Liaison and Diversion services identify people who have mental health problems, a learning disability, substance misuse or other vulnerabilities when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system as suspects, defendants or offenders.

You should be assessed by someone from this service, who will:

  • provide an immediate recommendation on your needs
  • produce an assessment report that can be made available to criminal justice professionals
  • contact a broad range of services to try to put treatment for your other needs in place.

Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA)

This is a law that applies to England and Wales which allows people to be detained in hospital (sectioned) if they have a mental illness and need treatment. You can only be kept in hospital if certain conditions are met.

See our pages on the Mental Health Act for more information.

Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE 1984)

This is the law that sets out the rules that the police must follow when you are arrested about how they treat you.

PACE codes of practice


This is practical guidance about how the police should use their powers and follow the rules in Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE 1984).

Place of safety

A locally agreed place where the police may take you to be assessed. It's usually a hospital but can be your home. A police station should only be used in an emergency.



Instead of releasing you on bail a court can decide that you will stay in prison until your next court appearance. Sometimes you can be remanded to hospital instead of prison.

Released under investigation

After arrest, instead of releasing you on bail with conditions, the police can decide to release you under investigation (often referred to as 'RUI'). This is not the same as being released on bail, as you do not have any conditions and there is no date upon which you must return to the police station. 

Being released under investigation does not mean that the police have decided to take no further action against you. It simply means that they are continuing their investigation.


In this guide, being 'sectioned' means that you are kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act. There are different types of sections, each with different rules to keep you in hospital. The length of time that you can be kept in hospital depends on which section you are detained under.

See our pages on sectioning for more information.


If you have been to court and they have found you guilty or you have pleaded guilty you will be given a sentence by the judge. This could be a range of sentences including a community sentence such as doing unpaid work, going to prison or going to hospital.


This information was published in November 2017. We will revise it in 2019.

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