Custody: communication and contact


When a person has been detained, it is understandable that others may be eager to have any news on the investigation whether as friends, family, witnesses or the victim(s). However, the police are restricted in what information can be provided due to legal responsibilities e.g. the Data Protection Act 1998.

Additionally, during the early stages of an investigation it can be difficult to forecast when a particular stage of an enquiry will be completed and the outcome. The investigating officer(s) will contact the relevant people entitled to know when they are in a position to give an update.

Contact numbers

Custody officer contact numbers
StationTelephone Number
Barnstaple 01271 335274
Camborne 01209 611238
Charles Cross 01752 720440
Exeter 01392 451545
Newquay 01637 854560
Torquay 01803 218907

There are six main custody units in Devon and Cornwall, located at Plymouth, Exeter, Torquay, Barnstaple, Newquay and Camborne. If you have any questions regarding custody procedures or in connection with any ongoing investigation please visit the Custody Procedures section of this site or contact the relevant officer dealing with your matter.

The custody units can be very busy, therefore contact may involve having to leave a message on our answering service and a member of staff will return your call if it’s a matter they are in a position to assist with. Staff will not reveal any information if it’s likely to breach policy, privacy or legislation, therefore please be specific in your enquiry when you leave a message - otherwise we may not be able to reply.

If you wish to report an incident (non-emergency) or wish to locate an officer and send a message, please email our control room 101. The custody unit will not be in a position to take details of any incident or update you on the progress of any investigation.

Frequent concerns

Right to contact others or make a telephone call

A person in police custody has the right to have someone informed where they are. Additionally they are entitled to make one telephone call for a reasonable amount of time and the police can monitor the call. This entitlement can be denied by an inspector for a limited period as detailed under section 56 of the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

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Establishing if someone is in custody

When a person is arrested they are entitled to have someone informed where they are but may choose not to. Because the person in police detention is equally entitled to privacy, this restricts the information available to persons making enquiries.

Unless the individual detained is a juvenile or vulnerable adult, the police will not discuss or reveal information about a person in custody without their permission. Sometimes people are reluctant to inform friends or family for many reasons, for example they prefer to explain matters themselves later after release.

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I want to see someone in police custody

A custody unit is normally an exceptionally busy environment. Priorities include progressing the investigation unhindered, prisoner welfare, working to tight timescales and risk management. Such demands on available staff mean that the scope for visits is very limited and only at the discretion of the custody officer. It’s highly likely that requests for visits will be refused.

The exception are juveniles under the age of 18 or vulnerable adults who require an ‘appropriate adult’ at the station.

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Smoking and supplying cigarettes

Detainees and visitors are not allowed to smoke in custody or on Police Premises under any circumstances, in accordance with the Health Act 2006.

People in custody may be provided with nicotine replacement therapy to alleviate the effects of acute nicotine withdrawal if necessary, subject to their anticipated duration in custody and approval by a medical health professional.

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Finding out when someone is released

A person released from custody will be permitted to use the phone to contact family or friends. They may also choose to leave and make their own arrangements such as getting the bus or a taxi without letting anyone know.

If there are any concerns regarding the release of a person, for example concerning victims or witnesses, where appropriate the police officers involved in the investigation would update people combined with any necessary risk management strategy. Therefore any risk or concerns need to be made to the investigating officer dealing or their supervisors through the police control room on 101.

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Contacting an Embassy or foreign Consulate

People from other countries whether an independent Commonwealth country or a national of a foreign country also have the right to have their High Commission, Embassy or Consulate informed of where they are and why they are in police detention.

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