PACE For Beginners – Part 4

Two vignettes to supplement the previous narratives in a series of BLOGS on PACE For Beginners – both hypothetical and based around parts of various incidents from my own experience. In essence, this tries to outline what will be going through the custody officer’s mind for each person in their custody. There are often a dozen or more people detained at a given point in time! —


1000hrs on Day One

  • Suspect arrested on suspicion of shoplifting £25 worth of things from a major supermarket.
  • 1020hrs – arrives in custody and detention is authorised at 1030hrs by the custody officer: there is insufficient evidence to charge because officers will need to take witness statements and secure CCTV from the store and they will need to return there in order to do so, once the suspect is safely in a cell.
  • 1020hrs is therefore the ‘Relevant Time’ and detention on the custody officer’s authority lasts for 6hrs until 1620hrs.
  • Upon arrival in custody, the arresting officers flagged their own concerns about serious mental health problems to the custody officer based on their own observations of the suspect’s behaviour following arrest. The custody officer authorises detention at 1030hrs (which means the ‘relevant time’ is 1020hrs and the first review must no later than 1630hrs, six hours after detention authorised).
  • Grounds for detention are s37(2) of PACE: insufficient evidence to charge but detention is necessary to secure and preserve evidence and to obtain evidence by questioning the suspect.
  • Rights and entitlements under ss56 and 58 are explained to the detainee and the custody officer initiates enquiries to identify an appropriate adult because of police concerns that the suspect is ‘mentally disordered or otherwise mentally vulnerable’.
  • 1145hrs – Force Medical Examiner sees the detainee and agrees the suspect has potentially serious mental health problems that may require hospital admission. Formal assessment under the MHA is requested via local mental health services and the suspect is declared unfit for interview.
  • 1200hrs – arresting officers complete the initial inquiries by securing two witness statements, CCTV from the shop and photographs of the stolen goods, which have been returned to the shop for sale, as they are undamaged.
  • Background checks on the suspect have also been completed and they have given the investigation package to officers from the investigation team who now wish to interview the suspect concerning the allegation of theft.
  • 1300hrs – the suspect’s brother arrives in custody to act as appropriate adult. Rights and entitlements are repeated in the presence of the AA and the grounds for detention explained. It is outlined that MHA assessment has been requested and officers are awaiting the arrival of colleague from the NHS.
  • 1530hrs – mental health professionals from local services arrive in police custody to conduct an assessment under the MHA, they inform the custody officer that the suspect is known to mental health services and was discharged from detention under the Act approximately three weeks prior to his arrest. He is currently subject to a Community Treatment Order under s17A of the Mental Health Act.

1605hrs on Day One –

  • The duty inspector arrives in custody to conduct the first review of detention under s40 of PACE. He has been briefed by the investigating officers on the current position and discusses the options that will exist, depending upon the outcome of MHA assessment.
  • 1610hrs – assessment is concluded and the AMHP informs the custody officer that it is proposed to recall the suspect from his CTO in order to take him to hospital for treatment.
  • 1615hrs – duty inspector undertakes a review of detention and reminds the suspect of his rights in the presence of his appropriate adult. It is concluded that there is sufficient evidence to charge the suspect with theft, but that it is not in the public interest to do so because the goods were recovered undamanged and returned to the shop and because the suspect is seriously mentally ill and in need to compulsory admission to hospital. The duty inspector therefore determines under s34 of PACE that the suspect will be released without bail.
  • 1620hrs – a recall notice under the MHA is served upon the detainee and because it takes immediate effect, he is now AWOL under the Mental Health Act. He is therefore detained under s18 MHA for return to hospital and the custody officer requests an ambulance.
  • 1730hrs – the detainee is released from police custody with paramedics and police officers to travel to the hospital where upon admission he reverts to being a MHA inpatient.

Variations on a theme

  • Consider again the position at 1615hrs, above – if there was sufficient evidence to charge (more witnesses, CCTV or a combination) it would remain lawful to charge the suspect with the offence(s) concerned notwithstanding that theshold for admission has been reached.
  • This is only typically relevant where the offence is serious, or where the background of the patient-offender is such that Part III of the Mental Health Act would be useful in balancing the patient’s right to treatment with the public’s right to be protected from harm.
  • Imagine that the patient was not a CTO patient who can be recalled, but a patient who would need to be made subject of a new application for admission.
  • If the application can occur almost as quickly as the CTO was recalled, there is no problem and instead of s18, the police would rely upon s6 MHA after the AMHP has made an application for admission under either s2 or s3 MHA.


1435hrs on Day One –

  • Routine enquiries in a missing person case lead police officers to an address where a body is found and two men are in the premises at that time.
  • Both men are arrested on suspicion of murder and taken to two separate custody suites.
  • 1505hrs – suspect one arrives in custody and is detained there at 1515hrs: insufficient evidence to charge with murder, but detention necessary to secure and preserve evidence and to obtain evidence by questioning. Rights and entitlements are explained.
  • The relevant time for suspect one is 1505hrs and the first review must occur no later than 2115hrs.
  • An FME is immediately requested for suspect one for forensic examination and samples. Suspect’s clothing is all seized as evidence for forensic examination.
  • Suspect one is placed on one-to-one observations in a dry cell until forensic examination is complete.
  • 1510hrs – suspect two arrives in custody and is detained there at 1530hrs: the grounds are the same as for suspect one and his rights and entitlements are explained. An FME also requested and clothing is seized.
  • The relevant time for suspect two is 1510hrs and the first review must occur no later than 2130hrs.
  • Uniformed officers are preserving the scene of the arrests pending further decisions.
  • 1525hrs – custody officer for suspect one documents concerns about the detainee’s mental health, asks for enquiries to identify an appropriate adult and requests the FME to consider mental health concerns. Informs the duty Detective Sergeant.
  • Police commence a thorough forensic search of the house, including body recovery and a full scale murder inquiry is launched under a Detective Chief Inspector as a Senior Investigating Officer.
  • 1550hrs – suspect one’s mother agrees to attend custody to act as appropriate adult.
  • 1630hrs – FME attends as the appropriate adults arrives and reasons for detention as well as rights and entitlements are repeated.
  • 1640hrs – the duty inspector authorises a request for intimate samples; and requests for both intimate and non-intimate samples are made. Suspect with appropriate adult agree to provide samples after telephone discussion with legal representative.
  • 1650hrs – the FME and one police officer secure intimate and non-intimate samples.
  • 1705hrs – Appropriate adults has disclosed a significant history of mental health problems to the custody officer and the FME agrees there are grounds for seeking a Mental Health Act assessment. Detainee declared unfit for interview and request made for MHAA.
  • Similar FME assessment and forensic recovery from suspect two has led to him being declared fit for interview. SIO plans to interview him later in the evening, when more is known from the scene of arrest and from a post-mortem examination of the victim.
  • 2000hrs – MHA assessment on suspect one in custody with appropriate adult present. AMHP and DRs suggest patient meets the threshold for admission, but because of the seriousness of the alleged offence, they would want forensic assessment of the detainee for admission to a secure unit.

2050hrs on Day One –

  • Because officers are ready to interview suspect two and a review of detention will become due at 2130hrs, the review officer conducts the first review early (which the inspector is allowed to do for their operational convenience or to assist the investigation being handled efficiently). A further 9hrs of detention is authorised and this is calculated from when the review is done, not when it was due. Next s40 review time will be due no later than 0550hrs on Day Two.
  • 2100hrs – initial interview with suspect two in custody. He gives an account of his movements and whereabouts in the days leading up to his arrest; he denies any knowledge of the body being in the house, states he had only been at the hours for twenty minutes before the the police arrived and particular denies any involvement in the death of the victim, or in assisting anyone else in killing her or hiding the body. Remains in custody overnight whislt enquiries continue.
  • 2105hrs – first review of suspect one’s detention under s40. The review officer further authorises detention without charge for the same reasons as originally given. Next review is due no later than 0605hrs on Day Two.
  • 2130hrs – forensic assessment of suspect one is arranged for 1000hrs the following morning. Remains in custody overnight, still unfit to be interviewed and on one-to-one observations with a police officer.
  • In any 24hrs period in custody, detainees are entitled to at least 8hrs of uninterrupted rest. It is decided to this will run from 2200hrs until 0600hrs and the custody officers explain this to each suspect.

0500hrs on Day Two

  • Review officer conducts a ‘sleeping review’ on suspect two, so as not to interrupt the rest period, further detention authorised on similar grounds until 1400hrs on Day Two – a sleeping review means that the suspect is not spoken to, because they are within a rest period and this is normally done where little, if anything, has changed since their rest period, legally speaking.
  • 0545hrs – review officer conducts a ‘sleeping review’ on suspect one, so as not to interrupt the rest period, further detention authorised on similar grounds until 1445hrs on Day Two.
  • 0700hrs – each suspect is reminded by the EARLIES custody officer of the basis for their detention: this is not legally required, but often done by a new custody officer coming on shift who checks each detainee personally by visiting them in their cell.
  • 1000hrs – contact is made with the duty superintendent by the Deputy SIO to request consideration of an extention to the 24hrs maximum detention period: there are still enquiries ongoing and insufficient evidence to charge, not least because suspect one remains unfit for interview.
  • 1100hrs – a forensic psychiatrist and forensic mental health nurse arrive in police custody to undertake a forensic assessment. It is agreed that admission to a secure unit is appropriate under the Mental Health Act.
  • 1200hrs – superintendent attends custody block where suspect one is detained and authorises a further 12hrs in custody to secure and preserve evidence. Relevant time of 1505hrs on Day Two is now extended to 0305hrs on Day Three.
  • 1230hrs – SIO decides to bail suspect two from custody for further inquiries because detention in custody is no longer necessary. Bailed for 48hrs to return to the same police station.

1400hrs on Day Two –

  • Review officer conducts third review of detention under s40 of PACE on suspect one. SIO in discussion with forensic services about the best way to proceed. As suspect two’s interview account cannot (yet) be used in evidence, and other enquiries are ongoing, including forensic tests, there is still insufficient evidence to charge suspect one with any offence and a formal interview is not yet possible.
  • 1700hrs – effort is made to arrange a bed in a secure mental health unit, but to no avail at the end of normal daily business.
  • 1701hrs – NHS staff inform the custody officer that they will contact custody the following morning at 0900hrs on Day Three and continue their effort to identify a secure placement.
  • 1702hrs – custody sergeant reminds them that the relevant time expires for suspect one at 0305hrs on Day Three and that if the situation is left now without resolution, then detention of a murder suspect would become illegal because there is still insufficient evidence to charge.
  • 1703hrs – NHS state there is nothing more they can do until the morning.
  • 1704hrs – Custody sergeant informs the SIO and duty inspector of the likely course of events without further intervention.
  • 1800hrs – Duty inspector contacts the AMHP and DR who led the MHAA and again outlines the situation asking for escalation to senior NHS managers to resolve the situation otherwise a resort may be made to legal action because it is suggested that the MHA is being breached and that this will compromise the admissibility of evidence in a serious criminal investigation.
  • 1815hrs – further discussion amongst agencies about the ‘no bed’ situation.
  • 1830hrs – medical director alerted by the police to the situation, agrees to intervene.
  • 1900hrs – bed identified, MHA application complete.
  • 2030hrs – offender-patient bailed from police custody to re-appear in 30 days’ time and transported to hospital by police officers under s2 MHA.

If anyone has further questions or other aspects of PACE that they feel need clarifying, please flag in the comments section and I’ll pick up on them.

Winner of the President’s Medal,
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award


All opinions expressed are my own – they do not represent the views of any organisation.
(c) Michael Brown, 2019

I try to keep this blog up to date, but inevitably over time, amendments to the law as well as court rulings and other findings from inquests and complaints processes mean it is difficult to ensure all the articles and pages remain current.  Please ensure you check all legal issues in particular and take appropriate professional advice where necessary.

Government legislation website –

One thought on “PACE For Beginners – Part 4

  1. As a trainee AMHP I decided to use the subject of PACE as one of my competences. I soon realised it’s as clear as mud! I must admit that your blog makes it much clearer now….Thankyou!.

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