PACE For Beginners

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 is the corner-stone of policing: it is the law that governs important state invasions into our civil liberties through stop and search; search and seizure; and arrest and detention without charge. It can seem overwhelmingly complex stuff and I admit that as a PC, I was often confused as to what was going on some of the time!

I remember as a probationary constable watching a group of sergeants scrumming down with a copy of PACE to work out what on earth was going on with a prisoner who had been arrested in another force area and then transferred to the West Midlands. This was all before we had IT to do half the work for you and when calculating legal detention timescales could get very complicated indeed, even to those familiar with PACE!

So here is a series of BLOG posts, not covering the extreme complexities but the various common topics that I hope amounts to a brief but reasonable understanding of what is going on in police custody, for those of you who need to understand it just a little better. It was motivated by a request from an AMHP who found it confusing to consider how PACE affects the MHA assessments and decisions that she was obviously familiar with – I hope this hits the mark Aisling!

  • Part One – general grounds for detention; timescales on detention; medical assessment and vulnerable adults.
  • Part Two – rights and entitlements; searches; samples, reviews of detention and charging procedures.
  • Part Three – how the first two installments on PACE relate to MHA processes in custody.
  • Part Four – some detailed vignettes on how PACE unfolds for those who are also subject to the MHA.

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

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award


All views 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 –