Searches at the police station

Personal Searches at the Police Station

The custody officer is under a duty to ascertain all property that you have with you on arrest. The custody officer may make a record of all or any of the items he finds and this may be in the custody records. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 has changed the law on this point very recently and the current version of Code C is not quite accurate. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 will presumably prevail, pending an update to Code C. A police officer of the same sex may search you, using reasonable force if necessary if you refuse to co-operate. The same issues as apply to the use of reasonable force when making an arrest apply here. You should be told the reasons for the search. Under Code C, if a list of property has been made, you are allowed to check it. You should only sign the list if you are sure it is correct.

Clothes and personal effects, not including cash, may be seized only if the custody officer believes you may use them to cause physical injury to yourself or to somebody else, to damage property, to interfere with evidence, to assist an escape, or if he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that they may be evidence relating to an offence. You should be given the reasons for the seizure.

If you refuse to identify yourself, or an officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that you are not who you say you are, an officer of the rank of inspector or above may authorise that you are searched or examined, or both, for any mark, including features and injuries that would identify you as a person involved in the commission of an offence. The mark can be photographed and used for any purpose related to the prevention or detection of crime, the investigation of crime or the conduct of a prosecution and afterwards it can be retained. This relates to offences in this country or abroad.

No searches under these provisions should be made by anyone of the opposite sex to you and intimate searches are prohibited.

Strip Searches

A strip search is a search involving the removal of more than outer clothing. A strip search may only take place if the custody officer considers it necessary to remove an article that you would not be allowed to keep. They should not be authorised routinely. The courts have recognised that strip searches may be deeply humiliating and that the removal of a brassiere, for instance, would require considerable justification. No person of the opposite sex except for an appropriate adult who has been specifically requested by the person being searched may be present at such a search, nor anyone whose presence is unnecessary. Except in cases of urgency there must be two people present other than the person being searched, when the search involves exposure of intimate parts of the body. One of these may be the appropriate adult, if relevant. Reasons for a strip search and the results of the search must be recorded on the custody record.

Intimate Body Searches

An intimate body search consists of the physical examination of any one or more of a person's bodily orifices, including the anus, vagina, ears and nose but not the mouth. The police can only carry out an intimate body search in limited circumstances. They can search you if a police officer of at least the rank of inspector has reasonable grounds for believing that:

  • You may have concealed on you something that you could use to cause physical injury to yourself or to others, and that you might use it while you are in police detention or in the custody of a court.
  • You have concealed Class A drugs - such as heroin and cocaine, but not cannabis or amphetamines - on yourself and that you are in possession of the drugs either with intent to supply them to somebody else or with a view to committing a customs offence.
  • You must have the reasons explained to you before the search is carried out and every reasonable effort must be made to persuade you to handover the article(s) rather than be searched.
A search for drugs - Class A drugs only - may only be carried out by a registered medical practitioner or a registered nurse. It should only be carried out at a hospital, at a registered medical practitioner's surgery or at some other place used for medical purposes. An intimate search for potentially harmful items should also be carrie
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