What are the powers and duties of the custody officer?

The custody officer 

If a person is arrested, subsequently he or she will be brought to the police station. On arrival at the police station the arrested person will be introduced to the custody officer. Custody officer is a designated police officer who must exercise duties and powers of a custody officer. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act gives guidelines and imposes rules on the procedure which should be followed after the arrested person is brought to the police station.

Powers and Duties of the custody officer

As in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, the custody officer must first of all determine whether there is sufficient evidence so that he can charge the arrested person with an offence. If the custody officer is unable to determine that there was such sufficient evidence, the arrested person must be released. The custody officer may not be willing to release the arrested person if he believes that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the detention of the arrested person is absolutely necessary. Such reasonable grounds are for instance the need to secure the evidence, or the need to obtain the evidence by the questioning of the arrested person. In case such grounds are found, the custody officer must then authorise the detention of the suspected person. Following the authorisation, the custody record must be open for the suspect, the suspect must also be informed of the reasons for his detention, and the suspect must be also advised of his rights. The custody officer has the power to arrange for the detainee to be searched and certain items can be seized. As in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, the items which can be seized include clothing or anything which could help the detainee damage himself, others or the police property, or which could help him escape or interfere with evidence which relates to the offence. 

The rights of a detained person

It is the custody officer’s responsibility to make sure that the detainee is informed of his rights while he is detained. Again as in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act the detained person has the right not to be held incommunicado which in other words means that he has the right to inform a member of his family or some other person of his detention. Such right can be delayed in some circumstances. Some examples of those circumstances include the situation where such notification of his detention would interfere with destruction of the evidence relating to the offence for which he was charge or if such action caused harm to some other persons, or the arrested would notify another suspect or it would assist in hindering the recovery of property which was obtained as a result of committing that offence.

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For more information on:

  • Conditions of detention
  • Detention clock