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 A night in the life of a custody sergeant


It’s 6.30pm in Darlington custody suite and the start of another nightshift for Sergeants Shaz Sadiq and Andy Mullier, and detention officers Tess Moore and Anne Whitelaw.

It’s time for handover so the team congregate around the charge desk. Sergeant Dave Smith updates the team on who we have in the cells, their medical conditions, warning markers and risk factors before officially handing over.

We all grab a cuppa before commencing the first job of the day which is the release of a man who was arrested on suspicion of rape. The male is brought to the desk by DO Moore - she hands over the man’s property and medication before Sgt Sadiq refers to the custody support and disposal guidance to make his decision. He completes an exit risk assessment before providing information leaflets and releasing the man under investigation.

It’s now just after 8pm and a 36-year-old woman is also due for release - she arrived at around 6am the previous day. This woman was arrested on suspicion of intent to supply, drink driving, taking without consent, driving without a licence or insurance and careless driving. Sgt Sadiq makes the decision to release her under investigation pending results from blood analysis. Both Sgt Sadiq and Tess encourage the woman to begin a programme with the treatment centre and provide leaflets to help her to start this process. She agrees and PC Jamie Pitt, the arresting officer, offers to get the lady on her way and takes her to the train station.

Sgt Sadiq then carries out a review of the current detainees, he makes his way around the cells checking detainees’ welfare and offers them refreshments. He then reminds the detainees of their right s and speaks to two of them in Urdu.

At 9.35pm our first detainee arrives, a search is conducted by the arresting officers before Tess and Anne tag the man’s property and place in a locker. Sgt Sadiq then asks the officers to go through the time of arrest and the circumstances. A Polish interpreter is requested by the man who has been arrested on suspicion of breaching his restraining order. He is swiftly booked into custody and taken to cell six.

Meanwhile, the detention officers respond to various alarm activation's, often the detainees ring for food, water or even a phone call.

We then head into the break out room where homemade onion bhajis are on the menu. A quick bite and we are back on the desk ready for our next detainee who arrives at 11pm.

The 19-year-old male was arrested in Darlington town centre on suspicion of resisting arrest, possession of a controlled substance and being drunk and disorderly. The man is searched, property is removed and he is formally booked into custody. He requests to speak to his mother before his fingerprints and photo are taken by Tess who then leads him to his cell.

It’s now midnight and immigration officers have arrived to remove two men from their cells, Sgt Mullier assists immigration in detaining them for overstaying under the Immigration Act.

Another bite to eat and we’re onto the mains, curry! Delicious.

Sgt Mullier is then informed a man is on route who has been arrested on suspicion of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Sgt Mullier, assisted by DO Whitelaw, carry out the booking in process and throughout the male denies the offence but is reminded of his rights.

The last detainee of the night arrives, this time a woman who was wanted by officers for failing to appear at court. She is searched and is again booked into custody. Tess asks the woman if she would like to be woken up for a full English breakfast but the woman politely declines and is taken to her cell for the night.

The birds are now tweeting and eyes are looking heavy but we have reached the end of our shift and it’s finally time to handover.