Arrested Suspected Drug Dealers Held Until They’ve Defecated Three Times

Police Car
Cambridgeshire Police Attended the South Area Committee in a Marked Police Car
Cambridge’s East Area Committee on the 25th of July 2013 was told that Cambridgeshire Police have adopted a policy of keeping arrested suspected drug dealers in custody until they have defecated three times so the police can recover any swallowed drugs.

Two days earlier the city’s Community Safety Partnership had also been briefed on the new policy, they, like the East Area Committee, were told the procedure was very expensive in terms of man-power as each individual was monitored on an one-to-one basis round the clock. The Community Safety Partnership was told that some of those arrested were held, and monitored, in custody for a week.

Sergeant Colin Norden told the East Area Committee that the policy of waiting for three defections had resulted in some of the individuals subject to the new policy being held for three weeks.

Presumably the long period of time is due to arrestees trying to retain incriminating evidence inside them.

Sgt Norden told the East Area Committee that to-date all those subject to the new policy had passed drugs.

Sgt Norden said that the new policy which exists in Cambridge was becoming known to drug dealers who had been coming in to the city from elsewhere and it was deterring them from operating in the city.

Cllr Moghadas thanked Sgt Norden for what he had gone through.

Other East Cambridge Drugs Notes

On the issue of drugs Sgt Norden told the meeting that a dealer had been arrested in the Tiverton Way area after a resident took a “long distance photograph”; and an arrest in Riverside in which a tennis ball sized bag of hard drugs was recovered from the subject’s underpants followed an email from a local resident.

Sgt Norden told councillors that court action was being delayed due to the slow speed of lab tests, which he said were required in relation to all drugs finds other than cannabis. (I don’t know if officers are permitted to ID cannabis by smell, or if they have test kits they trust for that drug).

My Views

  • ACPO guidance on dealing with those suspected, or known, to have swallowed drugs packages is to call an ambulance and take them to hospital. I would like to be assured that the new policy being followed in Cambridge is not putting the drug dealer’s lives at greater risk and I would hope the policy has been developed, and is being practiced, in close collaboration with medical experts, including accident and emergency doctors at Addenbrookes
  • I think deterring drug dealers from coming to Cambridge from London and other places is a good thing. It is excellent that our police have adopted a policy aimed at ensuring drug dealers are not given the impression the city takes a light touch approach to policing.

15 responses to “Arrested Suspected Drug Dealers Held Until They’ve Defecated Three Times”

  1. Have they been charged by this point? Otherwise how do they get round the limits for pre-charge detention (3 or 4 days I think)?

  2. In response to a FOI request I made for The Police and Crime Commissioner’s Custody Visitors’ Panel I was sent the minutes of a meeting of the panel held on the 7th of August 2013 which state:

    The first use of a Cambridge cell for a detainee suspected of holding drugs internally identified a lack of process for staff to follow and hygiene issues for the detainee and staff. The local custody manager is in the process of working up briefing material for all staff involved in this type of scenario.

  3. The mother of someone currently held in Cambridge’s Parkside police station phoned me earlier today; concerned about the length of time her son is being held, and the manner in which he is being detained, without having been charged. He is apparantly being held under the newly adopted police policy described in the article above, though I do not know exactly what grounds justified this individual’s arrest and detention.

    The detainees’ mother told me her son’s solicitors had never before come across the use of the powers being deployed by Cambridge police other than in the context of people being held at borders and were shocked. She told me her understanding was the detention being justified under “section 152” of the Misuse of Drugs Act but I can’t find any such provision (presumably there’s an error in that citation). I was told justification for the detention was provided by North Cambridge’s Neighbourhood Sergeant, Sgt Jason Wragg.

    As the individual has been arrested and is being held in custody my understanding is his case is considered “active” and reporting and commenting on the case is restricted under the Contempt of Court Act 1981. I will therefore not say anything which could interfere with the course of justice; and urge others not do to do so when commenting themselves.

    (Discussion of public affairs is explicitly permitted; but I’d rather not rely on that, and just avoid commenting on the circumstances of the case.)

    I do though want to comment on the operation of the new police policy; with a view to informing public debate on its appropriateness and if it is lawful or not.

    During the phone call I was told the individual is being monitored constantly by police officers (as mentioned in general terms in the article above). He was initially held for 36 hours before appearing in the Magistrates Court; who then authorised his detention for an 8 eight days, and he has I was told, been threatened by the police that they could end up holding him for 20 days.

    In terms of process this sounds fine; the court has authorised the detention, so one might imagine this is a robust safeguard. However the concern raised by the individual who called me was that this process did not amount to more than the police being asked to present their reasons. Detention for a further period is authorised by a process which is far, far, less than a trial.

    I was told the individual had not defecated the requisite three times during his initial period of detention. His mother shared concerns about the quality of food provided in custody and said he had been asking for a take-away to be brought in.

    To me this raises questions of if PACE Code C (PDF) is being followed which requires detainees are provided with:

    adequate food and drink;

    At least two light meals and one main meal should be offered in any 24-hour period. See Note 8B. Drinks should be provided at meal times and upon reasonable request between meals.

    and in section 8.6:

    The detainee may, at the custody officer’s discretion, have meals supplied by their family or friends at their expense. See Note 8A

    The note 8A states:

    The provisions in paragraph 8.3 and 8.6 respectively are of particular importance in the case of a person likely to be detained for an extended period. In deciding whether to allow meals to be supplied by family or friends, the custody officer is entitled to take account of the risk of items being concealed in any food or package and the officer’s duties and responsibilities under food handling legislation

    If I was in a position of being required to defecate three times within 36 hours to secure my release from detention (that’s my current interpretation of the policy) I would want some decent food too.

    I was told three police officers accompanied the individual to court, apparantly to continue the close monitoring, this shows how expensive the operation of the new policy is in terms of manpower.

    Health care for detainees held under such provisions is a key concern; I was told the individual has attended the hospital for an X-Ray; though this sounded more like co-operation with police investigation than for the purposes of providing healthcare.

    I would like to see more details of Cambridge police’s policy made public; and for statistics on how it is being used released so the public, including elected reps, can scrutinise it and wider society in the city can determine if its what we want to have being done by the police on our behalf..

    I have the name of the individual, and the scheduled day of their next court appearance, which I am happy to share privately with anyone (for example members of the professional media, or elected representatives) who wish to observe, or send someone to observe, the next hearing. Published court lists would help people find out when cases of interest are to be heard in court; that is something I have been lobbying for.

    I discussed publication of this comment with the person who phoned me. I agreed not to publish the name, but encouraged to draw attention to the operation of the policy.

    • Just to add – facilities at Parkside are not suited to long term detention (considering eg. access to exercise); I don’t think we should be holding anyone in such a facility for long periods be it 8 days, three weeks or longer; the effects spending those periods under constant observation too worries me – how does that affect people?

      Perhaps the next report of the Custody Visitors Panel; or the next policing item at the North Area Committee will provide more information on exactly what is happening in these cases; and if people are being held without charge for up to three weeks in Parkside.

  4. The relevant law appears to be Section 152 of the Criminal Justice Act as amended by Section 8 of the Drugs Act 2005. The law as amended states:

    152 Remands of suspected drug offenders to F1. . . detention.

    (a)to subsection (2) below; and
    (b)to section 4 of the Bail Act 1976,where—
    (i)a person is brought before a magistrates’ court on a charge of an offence against section 5(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or a drug trafficking offence; and
    (ii)the court has power to remand him,it shall have power, if it considers it appropriate to do so, to remand him to customs detention, that is to say, commit him to the custody of a customs officer for a period not exceeding 192 hours.
    [F2(1A)In subsection (1) the power of a magistrates’ court to remand a person to customs detention for a period not exceeding 192 hours includes power to commit the person to the custody of a constable to be detained for such a period.]
    (2)This section does not apply where a charge is brought against a person under the age of 17.
    [… further provisions relate to Northern Ireland only]

    192 hours is eight days.

    PACE Code C (the document which would be available to detainees to explain the powers under which they are held) does not directly address detention under this power; it mentions the power in the context of detention under it being exempt from the requirement for statutory reviews [of the lawfulness of continued detention] and in relation to regularly visiting and rousing those detained.

    Neither 192 hours nor 8 days is mentioned in PACE Code C; I think it would be useful if it was mentioned there along with other limits on police detention without charge. Lots of written advice available on detention in custody doesn’t mention the power of magistrates to direct people be held in police custody for eight days.

    It’s not clear to me from the law that the 192 hours ought be taken to be in addition to the 36 (+6) the individual could have spent in custody before being put in front of the Magistrates court.

    I can’t see any law permitting detention beyond the 192 hours; if Cambridge police are threatening detention of 20 days, and openly reporting to councillors and the public they holding people for three weeks presumably there must be some basis for them thinking they have the power to do so.

  5. The policing report to Cambridge’s North Area Committee on Thursday the 6th of February states:

    …catching the dealers from London has been relatively easy. Often, they are quite young in age and look out of place or even appear lost in Cambridge. They tend to secrete the drugs by swallowing them or by placing them into a body cavity in the hope of preventing arrest and prosecution. The North team have arrested six of these offenders during the last reporting period. Two of them were detained in police detention under the authority provided by section 152 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Individuals detained under such an authority are subject to regular medical checks and constant supervision. In both the instances mentioned the individuals ‘produced’ the drugs through natural bodily processes. This is a considered and proportionate tactic used only in very specific circumstances to combat determined drug dealers. It sends out a clear message that Cambridge is no light touch when it comes to drug dealing.

    This suggests, but doesn’t quite state unambiguously, that both of those held under the powers having been arrested in North Cambridge have eventually produced drugs.

    The total length of detention is notably omitted from the report. I would like to know how long people were detained for, and if our courts are giving the police repeated permission to hold individuals for multiple, consecutive, periods of up to eight days.

  6. The North Area Committee heard on the 8th of May 2014 that an arrested suspect on charges of dealing class A drugs faced with the prospect of being monitored for a long period decided to just “pop them out” saving the police the need to go to the magistrates and seek extra time to hold him:

  7. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has investigated a complaint about Cambridgeshire Police’s policy of holding those suspected of swallowing drugs until they have defecated three times.

    The IPCC have made three recommendations:

    • a) Cambridgeshire constabulary should finalise their draft protocol agreement with hospital and ambulance staff, on managing detainees who have swallowed drugs, as soon as practicable.
    • b) The force should take immediate steps to ensure that all operational police officers – not just custody staff – are made aware of the force’s April 2014 guidance about the treatment of detainees who are suspected of swallowing drugs.
    • c) The force’s Learning and Development Department should ensure that appropriate training on the April 2014 policy – and the protocol when it has been signed off – is rolled out to all operational officers (not just to custody staff, as at present).

    Cambridgeshire Police have accepted the recommendations and have stated:

    • a) Protocol has been finalised and introduced. The protocol has been circulated to operational officers via our Intranet.
    • b) Protocol has been finalised and introduced. The protocol has been circulated to operational officers via our Intranet.
    • c) Protocol has been finalised and introduced. The protocol has been circulated to operational officers via our Intranet and introduction of the protocol has been placed into the training programme for initial recruits.

    The police response appears to conflate the “protocol” with the NHS; and their policy/guidance.

    While it is positive that the police have eventually taken action; and are now working with the health services to manage detainees who are suspected of swallowing drugs, it has taken almost two years since the police first admitted to their policy at public meetings in Cambridge.

  8. I have submitted a FOI request:

    Dear Cambridgeshire Constabulary,

    Could you please release:

    1. The force’s policy and guidance on the subject of managing detainees suspected of swallowing drugs.

    2. The force’s protocol agreement with hospital and ambulance staff, on managing detainees suspected of swallowing drugs.

    3. Any reports / statistical information prepared on the operation of the force’s policies on managing detainees suspected of swallowing drugs, from 2013, 2014 and 2015. I suspect such information may have been prepared for internal committees, the IPCC or the Police and Crime Commissioner.

    4. For each of those detained for an extended period as a result of being suspected of swallowing drugs during 2013, 2014 and 2015: the date of detention (year and month is sufficient), total length of detention, location(s) of the detention, and brief details of the relevant powers, court appearances, court orders under which the detention was, or was thought to be, authorised.

    In the event part 4 cannot be answered within the cost limit please provide advice and assistance on narrowing the request down; and provide a response to the other elements.


    Richard Taylor

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