Arrest or detention

Handcuffed businessman.  © Photodisc/Getty Images

If a relative of friend tells you have they been arrested abroad you should contact us on 020 7008 1500.

British nationals arrested abroad should contact the relevant British embassy, high commission or consulate.  You're entitled to do this whichever country you are in.

If a relative or friend has been arrested abroad we will tell you as soon as we can unless they specifically asked us not to.

We can't provide details of the arrest without the detained person’s permission.

We'll contact the detained person within twenty four hours of being told of their arrest and if they want, we'll visit them as soon as we can.

Our staff are there to support arrested British nationals. We aim to be sensitive and non-judgemental. We treat all prisoners the same regardless of what crime they are being held for.

What we can do to help:

  • provide general information about the relevant country, prison conditions and the local legal system, including whether local legal aid is available
  • provide a list of lawyers and interpreters make sure any medical or dental problems are brought to the attention of the police or prison doctor
  • take up any justified complaints about ill treatment, personal safety or discrimination with the police of prison authorities
  • send money to prisoners from their families - in some countries we can also help British prisoners buy prison ‘comforts’ with money sent by their family and friends
  • we can also send messages between prisoners and their families
  • put prisoners in touch with the prisoners’ welfare charity, Prisoners Abroad
  • if it is possible, provide information on how British prisoners may apply for transfers to a UK prisons.

We'll consider approaching the local authorities if we feel that a British national is not being treated in line with internationally-accepted standards regarding fair trials and prisoners’ rights.  

We'll visit prisoners in European Union countries or in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, Canada, the USA and New Zealand once after sentencing and then only if there is a real need. In other countries we aim to visit once a year, or more if necessary.

But we can't:

  • get a British national out of prison or detention, or get them special attention because they are British
  • offer legal advice, start legal proceedings or investigate a crime
  • pay for any costs incurred as a result of being arrested
  • forward prisoners parcels sent by family and friends
  • prevent the local authorities from deporting a British national upon release.

Dual Nationals

Please be aware that we cannot always formally assist dual nationals if they are arrested in the country of their other nationality, unless they are facing the death penalty. Scope to help may be limited because of the laws of that country. We will however, aim to provide protection for all British passport holders who normally live in the UK.

Useful contacts

Consular Assistance:
020 7008 1500

Heathrow/ Gatwick Travel Care:
provide a social care role at each airport including assisting prisoners arriving back in the UK
Heathrow: 0208 745 7495

Gatwick: 01293 504283

Useful Links

Fair Trails International:assists those who have suffered a miscarriage of justice outside their home countires

Prisoners Abroad: helps British prisoners abroad

Reprive: campaigns on behalf of those unjustly imprisoned around the world

Related Documents

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