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Detention flyer
Legal Resources Foundation (LRF)

This is a document in the Know Your Rights series

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Detention refers to being held in temporary custody at the police station while awaiting trial. Detention, like an arrest, is an interference with a person's fundamental right of personal liberty. To detain any person is therefore a drastic step and should not be resorted to unless it is justified. The power to detain should be exercised sparingly, reasonably and responsibly.

An accused person or suspect is to be detained pending his appearance in court only when this is necessary to prevent him from committing further crimes, or interfering with evidence, witnesses or police investigations.

Where an accused's attendance in court can be secured by other means, e.g. summons, then such accused should not be detained. The purpose of detention is to secure the accused's presence at court and not to punish him.

Period of detention

  • An accused arrested without a warrant must not be detained for a period which exceeds 48 hours unless a warrant for his further detention has been issued.
  • Even though an accused or suspect may be detained for a period of up to 48 hours before being taken to court, effort should be made to bring him to court as soon as possible. A warrant for further detention should only be sought when this is absolutely necessary. Notwithstanding the existence of a warrant for further detention accused persons should be taken to court as soon as possible.

Interviews with prisoners

  • It is a prisoner's right to communicate with his or her friends, relatives or legal representatives provided it can be done without any prejudice to any pending prosecution.
  • Interviews with friends and relatives must be done within sight, but out of hearing of a police officer.
  • Interviews with a legal practitioner must be done within sight, but out of hearing of a police officer.
  • If a prisoner falls sick or requests medical attention, it is the responsibility of the police officer on duty to allow him to be treated or receive medical attention. This should also be recorded in the charge office diary.
  • Where an accused has been hospitalised, a guard must be placed at his bedside.

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