Andy Coulson “Detained” By Strathclyde Police – A Quick Guide to Detention

Andy Coulson, former “spin doctor” to Prime Minister David Cameron, and former Editor of the News of the World has been detained by officers from Strathclyde Police investigation allegations arising from evidence given at the trial of Tommy Sheridan in 2010 at Glasgow High Court.

Mr Coulson has not been arrested, despite reports stating that he has been.

What is “detention”?

Under Section 14 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, which was amended by the Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Detention and Appeals) (Scotland) Act 2010, police in Scotland have the opower to detain a suspect for questioning.

The 1995 Act states at Section 14 (1) that:-

Where a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a person has committed or is committing an offence punishable by imprisonment, the constable may, for the purpose of facilitating the carrying out of investigations

(a) into the offence; and

(b) as to whether criminal proceedings should be instigated against the person,

detain that person and take him as quickly as is reasonably practicable to a police station or other premises and may thereafter for that purpose take him to any other place and, subject to the following provisions of this section, the detention may continue at the police station or, as the case may be, the other premises or place.” (Emphases added).

The power is therefore open to a constable (which includes higher-ranking officers too) to detain a suspect where the offence being investigated is one punishable by imprisonment.

How Long Does Detention Last?

Section 14 (2) states:-

Subject to section 14A, detention under subsection (1) above shall be terminated not more than 12 hours after it begins or (if earlier)—

(a) when the person is arrested;

(b) when he is detained in pursuance of any other enactment; or

(c) where there are no longer such grounds as are mentioned in the said subsection (1),

and when a person has been detained under subsection (1) above, he shall be informed immediately upon the termination of his detention in accordance with this subsection that his detention has been terminated.”

So Mr Coulson and indeed any suspect can be detained by police for up to twelve hours. It was formerly six hours during which the suspect cold be questioned but had no right to a lawyer being present or to advice from a lawyer prior to questioning. The “Cadder” case saw an end to that and, to ensure that legal advice could always be obtained, the Scottish Government sought successfully to extend the period of detention to 12 hours.

Detention MUST end, subject to Section 14A referred to below, after 12 hours, or when the suspect is arrested, detained under another piece of legislation, or where he need no longer needs detained for purposes of facilitating the investigation.

Subsections 9 and 10 detail the only information the suspect is required to provide.

“(9)A person detained under subsection (1) above shall be under no obligation to answer any question other than to give the information mentioned in subsection (10) below , and a constable shall so inform him both on so detaining him and on arrival at the police station or other premises.

(10)That information is—

(a) the person’s name;

(b) the person’s address;

(c) the person’s date of birth;

(d) the person’s place of birth (in such detail as a constable considers necessary or expedient for the purpose of establishing the person’s identity); and

(e) the person’s nationality.

Can Detention be Extended?

An innovation of the 2010 Act was that the period of detention could be extended. This is covered in Section 14A of the 1995 Act.

“(2) Before the expiry of the period of 12 hours mentioned in section 14(2), a custody review officer may, subject to subsection (4), authorise that period to be extended in relation to the detained person by a further period of 12 hours.

(3)The further period of 12 hours starts from the time when the period of detention would have expired but for the authorisation.

(4)A custody review officer may authorise the extension under subsection (2) in relation to the detained person only if the officer is satisfied that

(a) the continued detention of the detained person is necessary to secure, obtain or preserve evidence (whether by questioning the person or otherwise) relating to an offence in connection with which the person is being detained,

(b) an offence in connection with which the detained person is being detained is one that is an indictable offence, and

(c) the investigation is being conducted diligently and expeditiously.

(7)In this section and section 14B, “custody review officer” means a constable—

(a) of the rank of inspector or above, and

(b) who has not been involved in the investigation in connection with which the person is detained.”

Therefore, where it is considered necessary by an officer of the rank of Inspector or above, and who has not been involved in the investigation regarding the suspect, to detain further than the original 12 hours, he can so order if continued detention is necessary to secure, obtain or preserve evidence AND the offence is indictable (IE can be tried before a jury in solemn proceedings) AND the investigation must be being conducted diligently and expeditiously.

Before arriving at a decision to extend detention, the custody review officer is obliged to hear representations from the suspect or his solicitor, in terms of Section 14B (2).

Can a Detained Person Have Legal Advice?

Previously there was no right to legal advice during detention. Now the right to a private consultation with a solicitor, which may be carried out by telephone, is contained in Section 15A (3) and the suspect has this right prior to any questioning and at any other time during such questioning.


Bearing in mind that one of the purposes of detention is to use the time to see if the person detained should be subject to criminal proceedings, this might be a step which results in Mr Coulson being released without charge. Alternatively he can be arrested and charged.  As he was detained in England and is being taken to Scotland for questioning, much of the initial twelve hours will be taken up with his travelling. Therefore it would not be a surprise of his detention was extended. This should not be taken as indicative of anything negative towards Mr Coulson. The police quite legitimately are entitled to maximise use of the detention period, as long as they are carrying out the investigation diligently and expeditiously.

Unlike in England, where after arrest “police bail” is often granted and the suspect released to return to the police station on another date, there is only one shot at detention. Therefore, the outcome would either be that Mr Coulson is released without charge, or he will be charged. If charged, he would either be held in custody to appear at court on the next suitable court date, or released to appear at court on a later date. If arrested and held in custody, his appearance at court would be in private before a Sheriff.

Under the old procedures, where a custody court did not sit on Saturdays or public holidays, if Mr Coulson was to be arrested and held for custody after midnight tonight, he would have remained in custody until Wednesday next week (as Monday and Tuesday are holidays). However I expect Glasgow Sheriff Court will have a custody court on Saturday, should it be decided that there is a sufficiency of evidence to arrest and charge Mr Coulson and hold him in custody for court.

Mr Coulson has previously denied any offence on connection with the matter under investigation and remains an innocent man.


Posted by Paul McConville



Filed under Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Tommy Sheridan

8 responses to “Andy Coulson “Detained” By Strathclyde Police – A Quick Guide to Detention

  1. Chris

    I assume he can still be released from detention and arrested & charged at a later date.

  2. John Burns

    The last thing we need is a ‘dredging-up’ of more stuff regarding Sheridan.

    He lied to everyone, wife, friends and former colleagues – he is a proven liar.

    The “working-class hero” who has never done a working-class job in his ‘puff’

    This guy is a humbug, a well-known humbug all over the West of Scotland, save for his ‘blinkered’ cabal. I went to Lourdes Secondary with him, he was an a*** then, and is still one now.

  3. Ian =B=


    Is this the same set of powers that allow the police to “kettle” (detain) protestors or football fans on their way to a match? Also,
    I thought that we all had the right not to identify ourselves to the police and so I am surprised that this is in fact not the case.

    Also, as you have written before a case against Coulson for actions during the Tommy Sheridan trial does not invalidate that verdict unless Coulson’s evidence was directly used to convict. My recollection is that it was the fellow SSP member’s meeting that did for TS.

  4. Une Blague

    I’m confused… did Andy Coulson receive money from an EBT?

  5. ian lewis

    According to the BBC it took seven officers to arrest him-someboy tis Coulson.

  6. energyzone

    When someone is detained Sec 14 in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, traveling time is not deducted from the initial 12 hour detention period. The 12 hours commences from the time of arrival at the police station, in this case Helen Street office. Journey times are scrutinized to ensure direct routes etc are taken.

    In relation to the number of officers sent to Coulson’s house, we don’t know if his house was searched under warrant, or what other enquiries, if any, they were carrying out when down there.

  7. perthlurker

    Hi Paul

    Fantastic work and have been following u from Perth in Oz for over a year. U, phil and RTC so congrats.

    Also interested me was Tommy had form for lying before official committees investigating him. I grew up in Pollok and was in the anti trot faction, i collected and gave evidence against Militant or RSL entryists.

    I was in Keir Hardie House for the full day when Tommy lied about his membership of both Militant and the RSL, he got expelled because the evidence showed his involvement and senoirity within the trots.

    Was this ever used the trial to illustrate pattern of behaviour?

    Tommy was always about Tommy! Pity he hurt and killed so many ideals of others on the way using his greasy pole!

  8. The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 c.46 provides the law governing the Police Functions of suspect detention and questioning.

    As an addendum to the quick guide on detention and in the context of Mr Coulson’s detention; persons who commit or who are suspected of committing crimes in Scotland may not be in Scotland when the Police arrive at the point in an investigation where they wish to detain the suspect for interview under caution or arrest the suspect. The same situation may arise in the English, Welsh and Northern Irish contexts. In these circumstances the Police in pursuit of their suspect and seeking to use their s14 powers of detention will rely upon the “cross border powers” found within s137 – s140 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 c.33 – Part X Cross – Border Enforcement.

    s137. — Cross-border powers of arrest etc.
    (2) If the condition applicable to this subsection is satisfied, any constable of a Police Force in Scotland who has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed or attempted in Scotland and that the suspected person is in England or Wales or in Northern Ireland may, as respects the suspected person, wherever he is in England or Wales or in Northern Ireland, exercise the same powers of arrest or detention as it would be competent for him to exercise were the person in Scotland.

    (5) The condition applicable to subsection (2) above is that it appears to the constable that it would have been lawful for him to have exercised the powers had the suspected person been in Scotland.

    (7) It shall be the duty of a constable who has arrested or, as the case may be detained, a person under this section—
    (b) if he arrested him in England or Wales, to take the person arrested to the nearest convenient police station in Scotland or to a police station within a sheriffdom in which the offence is being investigated or to the nearest convenient designated police station in Northern Ireland or to a designated police station in Northern Ireland in which the offence is being investigated;
    (c) if he detained him in England or Wales, to take the person detained to either such police station in Scotland as is mentioned in paragraph (b) above, or to the nearest convenient designated police station in England or Wales;

    s138(7) In section 14 (a) the reference in subsection (2) to detention being terminated not more than 12 hours after it begins is to be read as a reference to its being terminated not more than 12 hours after the person’s arrival at the police station to which the person is taken under subsection (7)(c) or (e) of the principal section;

    The amended 1994 Act confirms that the police of detention is a choice for police within the Act s137(7)(c) and that the period of detention will terminate not more than 12 hours after it begins on arrival at that police station (s138(7)).

    Therefore when Strathclyde Police detained Andrew COULSON under the terms of the 1995 Act in England they did so by virtue of the exercise of s137(7)(c) 1994 Act powers and in taking Mr Coulson to Glasgow they did so by exercising their option of taking the suspect to the most convenient police station in Scotland – Glasgow being the operating base of Op Rubicon and presumed therefore to be the most convenient.

    I do however submit that the travel time between the location of the detention in England and the arrival at the Police station in Glasgow would not reduce the available detention period as s137(7)(b) of the 1994 Act further provides that the police will take their suspect to the police station “….as soon as reasonably practicable” and that the detention clock doesn’t start until arrival at the Police station as confirmed by s138(7) of the 1994 Act. Therefore the full 12hrs detention period and optional approved 12hr period would have been available to the Strathclyde Police officers for interview purposes and not reduced by the travelling time from England.

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