Few life events are more terrifying that being arrested by the police, especially if you have never been in trouble with the law before. Imagine you are out one night, having fun with your friends when the police raid the club you are in and find you have drugs in your pocket. Suddenly, you are in handcuffs and being taken to the police station to be charged with possession with intent to supply, a serious offence which could see you go to prison. If this imaginary scenario has recently played out for you in real life (albeit with a different offence perhaps) then the actions, you take immediately following your arrest can have a substantial impact on the outcome of your overall case. Understanding the process of arrest and what follows will help you make smart decisions and mitigate the chances of criminal charges being laid against you.
When can the police arrest you?
For an arrest to be valid and not potentially breach Article 5 of the European Convention on
Human Rights (ECHR) there must be:
a) A power of arrest, and
b) The arrest must be carried out lawfully.
The power to make an arrest is derived from section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence
Act (PACE) 1984, which provides:
24 Arrest without warrant: constables
(1) A constable may arrest without a warrant—
(a) anyone who is about to commit an offence.
(b) anyone who is in the act of committing an offence.
(c) anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be about to
commit an offence.
(d) anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be
committing an offence.
If a police officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been
committed, they may also arrest without a warrant anyone whom they have reasonable
grounds to suspect of being guilty of that offence.
In addition, under section 24 (4) of PACE, the police can only arrest someone if they have
reasonable grounds for believing that for any of the reasons mentioned in section 24 (5) it is
necessary to arrest the person in question. The reasons include:
To find out the person’s name and address if this cannot be readily discovered or the arresting officer believes the person has provided a false name and address.
To prevent the person in question—
causing physical injury to themselves or any other person.
suffering physical injury.
causing loss of or damage to property.
committing an offence against public decency (subject to certain conditions);
causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway.
To protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question (for
example, in a domestic abuse incident).
To allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the
person in question.
To prevent the person disappearing.
One of the first things a Pre-Charge Criminal Law Solicitor will do is challenge the police as
to whether it was necessary to arrest you.
What happens after arrest?
Once they have arrested you, the police must take you to the police station as quickly as
possible and you cannot be held for any longer than necessary. A custody officer will see
you when you arrive at the police station, and they will be responsible for looking after your
welfare whilst you are being held in custody. A custody record will be opened by the custody
officer and then they will read you your rights, including your right to have a Solicitor present.
They will then determine whether there is enough evidence to charge you with the offence
that led to your arrest. If you are charged, you may be released on bail to appear before the
Magistrates' Court or remanded in police custody until you can be brought before the
Magistrates' Court. If the police do not have sufficient evidence to charge you but want to
continue their investigations, you may be released on police bail.
What can a Pre-charge Solicitor do to help if I am arrested?
If you have been arrested, you must contact an experienced Criminal Defence Solicitor as
soon as you reach the police station. Upon arrival, your Solicitor will speak to the custody
officer and review the custody record. They will investigate the reason and circumstances of
your arrest to understand if your arrest was lawful. If you have been detained for six hours or
more, your Solicitor will examine the detention reviews (if available) and challenge the
custody officer as to why you are still being held in custody.
One of the most important roles your Criminal Defence Solicitor will undertake is to advise
and represent you if you are interviewed under caution at the police station. Without sound
legal advice, it is exceptionally easy for a person to unintentionally incriminate themselves.
Remember, there is no such thing as an ‘informal chat’ with the police.
Having an experienced Criminal Law Solicitor by your side following your arrest is the most
important factor in getting a positive outcome to your case. Without the benefit of their
experience and knowledge of the legal system and police procedures, there is a high chance
that you may be charged and have to go to Court.
If you have been arrested or asked to come to the police station to answer questions,
please email me immediately on firstname.lastname@example.org