NCFP FAQ | What should I do if I am arrested while abroad?

NCFP FAQToday I am adding an article about what to do if you are arrested while abroad and are a British National. The full version of this is found on the FCO website.

“If your relative or friend has asked us to, we will tell you as soon as we can, that they have been detained or held in prison. However, to protect their confidentiality, we will not normally provide any details of the detention or arrest, or tell you how to contact them, unless they have given us permission.

We’ll aim to contact the detained person within 24 hours of being told of their arrest and if they want, we’ll aim to visit them as soon as possible.

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 local lawyers and local 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 (external site)
  • 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 aim to visit prisoners in European Union countries or in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand once after sentencing and then after that only if there is a real need. In other countries we aim to visit at least once a year, although we may visit more often if necessary.

But we cannot:

  • get a British national out of prison or detention, or get them special treatment 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

If you are a dual British national in a third country (that is, a country of which you are not a national) and hold a valid British passport, we will offer you our full support.

If you are a dual British national in the country of your other nationality (for example, a dual US-British national in the US), we would not normally offer you support or get involved in dealings between you and the authorities of that state. We may make an exception to this rule if, having looked at the circumstances of the case, we consider that there is a special humanitarian reason to do so.

The article got me to thinking of the morning I was summoned to the police station over my article covering one of the Geoff Day Hearings. God help me if I had ended up incarcerated.

The fact is, that whichever side of Cyprus you happen to be, there is little help available. You could argue that you would have more ‘rights’ on the South side because they are EU members and therefore more sympathetic to their fellow Europeans. I think you might find Conor O’Dwyer has a differing opinion on that one. Certainly the 40,000 plus purchasers still awaiting their title deeds would have something to say too.


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