The Custody Unit

December 10th 2014 | Inspector Sarah Henderson

To be spat at, physically or verbally abused for most people would constitute the worst day's work of their life. For staff working in custody that is what they deal with on a daily basis.

11Custody Desk 2

Custody staff are the legal and physical guardians of society’s and can often be found rolling around on the ground to keep people from hurting themselves through self-harm and disturbed behaviour.


Police custody is a hidden corner of policing that goes largely unnoticed by the public but it's the gateway everyone must go through if and when they enter the criminal justice system.

Inside these miniature prisons, the role of the police is unlike any other. The custody team are not interested in whether detainees are innocent or guilty. Their role is solely to ensure the welfare of detainees.

14 In Custody

It's not hard to be sympathetic. Detainees are often suffering with alcohol and drug addiction. Some have complex mental issues and often have some of the most tragic stories to tell.

A number of our regulars are on first-name terms with the custody staff, others are in a state of shock, angry or frightened and it's a daily battle for staff to keep the custody suite on an even keel.

It may only take a smile or joke to pacify an inmate. Other times, if they turn up spitting, kicking and screaming, a prisoner may need to be taken to the cells to prevent injury to themselves or to those around them.

13 Cell Door With Officer

There is no such thing as a typical day in custody; a lot depends on how many prisoners there are. We regularly deal with cases involving domestic violence, drug dealing and alcohol-related crimes; and those struggling with mental health issues and addictions

Some of the prisoners may be detained overnight and will need checking every 30 minutes. The day shifts also revolve around the prisoners – they may need to have legal advice arranged, be interviewed, charged or fingerprinted.

18Witness Statement Anon

In my view policing custody is the most difficult and challenging area of policing. Despite the constant threat of injury and abuse, the custody staff’s main concern is always the safety of the very people who often try to harm them.




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