If you have been arrested and taken into custody or asked to attend a police station interview as a suspect, you may have concerns about the process and your legal rights. In this guide, we look at what you should expect from a police station interview.

If you need immediate advice or representation concerning a police station interview, get in touch with our experienced criminal lawyers today. You can call us on 0131 341 2729 or complete our online enquiry form, and we will be in touch right away.

What are my rights in custody?

When you are taken into custody, a custody officer must fully explain your rights to you. Under the law, you have the right to know why you are being held at the police station. You are allowed to inform someone about your whereabouts and, if you are under 18 or considered a vulnerable person, your rights are extended so your chosen adult can visit you at the police station or be in the room during questioning. 

Where applicable, you can have access to medical help, assistance with communication, and an interpreter if you do not understand or speak English. You can also receive a notice that explains your rights in custody, called a letter of rights. This will include what your rights are to breaks, food and use of toilet facilities.

REMEMBER: One of the most important rights you have in custody is to have a consultation with a lawyer at any time. You are not expected to go through this process alone. Having a qualified criminal solicitor by your side can ensure you are protected and fully aware of what you must comply with. For robust representation while in custody, contact Thorley Stephenson’s team today.

What are my rights when being questioned by the police in Scotland?

If you are held in custody, the police may question you about the crime you are suspected of committing. Any answers, comments or other communication can be written down or recorded. Anything you say can be used as evidence at trial if your case is prosecuted.

When the police are questioning you, you have the right to say nothing, also known as 'the right to remain silent'. Aside from confirming your name, address, date and place of birth, and nationality, you do not have to answer any questions the police ask you.

What happens if I’m not from the UK?

If you are not a British citizen, the police will contact your High Commission, Embassy or Consulate. The police will explain where you are and why you are being held at the police station. You may have someone visit you in private, and they can arrange for a solicitor to visit you.

The right to legal advice in police custody

Regardless of why you are being held in custody, you have the right to speak to a solicitor - either in person or over the phone. Even if you initially turn down the option to consult with a lawyer, you can change your mind at any time.

Can the police question me without legal advice?

If you have requested legal representation, the police must wait for your solicitor to arrive before they begin questioning you - unless there are rare circumstances which mean you need to be questioned right away. Such cases may include stopping a crime from happening or to protect someone from danger.

If you choose not to speak to a lawyer or have a solicitor with you during a police interview, the police can question you without having any legal advice. When you consent to be interviewed without a lawyer, the time and any reason offered must be recorded.

Under current law, there are certain categories of people who must have a lawyer and therefore cannot be questioned until their legal representative is present:

  • Anyone under the age of 16
  • A person who is 16 or 17 years old and subject to a compulsory supervision order
  • Vulnerable people

Providing evidence in custody

The police can take photographs of you and gather forensic evidence - such as fingerprints and DNA samples - if you are held in custody. DNA samples are typically a swab inside your mouth or head hair root. The police do not need your permission to take DNA samples and may use force if you refuse to comply.

Samples and searches – do the police need my consent?

The police require a warrant to take blood or urine samples from you, except in suspected drink or drug driving cases. A warrant is also needed to conduct an intimate body search, sometimes referred to as a 'strip search', or an invasive search which will involve internal examination of your body. If such examinations are to take place, or blood or urine samples are to be made, a medical professional will attend.

Recording of interviews in custody

When conducting questioning in custody, the police will record the interviews. The reason these are recorded is to ensure there is an accurate record of the interview, and that proper procedure has been followed. Any recording – whether it’s audio, video or written down in a police notebook – can be used as evidence in subsequent court proceedings.

What happens if I am questioned voluntarily as a suspect?

If the police suspect you of a crime and you choose to go to the police station voluntarily, you are free to leave at any time. The exception to this is where the police arrest you to allow for more questioning.

Similar to when you are taken into custody, you have the right to have a lawyer present and the right to remain silent during voluntary questioning.

Your statement will be recorded and can be used as evidence if the case proceeds to trial.


Thorley Stephenson SSC's criminal lawyers based in Edinburgh strive to provide clients with a professional and comprehensive service. We offer the best possible legal advice and representation for all criminal law matters and can provide our services at the police station.

Thorley Stephenson SSC's offices are located close to Edinburgh Sheriff Court and The Court of Session and are easily accessible for all forms of transport. Please contact us today on 0131 341 2729 to speak to one of our solicitors about your case, or complete our online enquiry form, and we will get back to you right away.

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