Being arrested following a domestic abuse incident is highly stressful and frightening. To ensure your interests are protected and you have the best chance of being released without charge, or have any charges laid dropped before your Court appearance, it is essential to instruct an experienced Criminal Defence Solicitor to advise and represent you and deal with the police on your behalf. Before we discuss what happens upon arrest, it is important to point out the statutory definition of domestic abuse.
What is domestic abuse? The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (the Act) provides a statutory definition of domestic abuse: "Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance, and escape, and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim."
What happens if I am arrested for a domestic abuse incident? If you are arrested following a domestic incident such as having an intense verbal or physical fight with your partner, the police officer attending the scene will tell you that you are being arrested and the reasons for your arrest. For an arrest to be valid, two factors must be present at the time of the arrest:
There must be a power of arrest, and
The arrest must have been made in a lawful manner.
You cannot be arrested for no reason. The police officer/s attending the scene must suspect you of committing a crime or have grounds for believing that you will commit a crime if they do not remove you from the vicinity. One of the first things a Domestic Violence Defence Solicitor will do is examine the circumstances of your arrest and establish whether the arrest was lawful.
Once at the police station, you will be handed over to the custody officer, who will decide whether the police can detain you. If your detention is approved, you will be searched, your possessions will be kept by the police, and your photograph and fingerprints will be taken.
Do I have the right to call a Solicitor? Absolutely. The police must inform you of your right to contact a Solicitor as soon as practicable after you reach the police station.
You also have the right to use the toilet, receive food and drink, and get medical help if you feel unwell as well as receive any necessary medication.
What is a caution plus three interview? Also known as an interview under caution, a caution plus three interview is where the police will ask you questions about your involvement in the domestic abuse incident. Before the interview starts, they need to give you the following caution: ‘You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence’. The interview will be recorded. What you say in the police interview is likely to have a significant impact on the outcome of your arrest. You are entitled to free legal advice via the Duty Solicitor. However, it is always best to contact an experienced Criminal Defence Solicitor because, as with everything, you get what you pay for. By instructing a Solicitor, you can choose who represents you and can be confident in their expertise and experience. How long can I be held at the police station? The police can hold you for up to 24 hours before they must charge you with a crime or release you. They can apply to hold you for up to 36 or 96 hours if they need more time to investigate the domestic abuse incident. After being held for the requisite amount of time, the police must either charge you with a crime or let you go. If they need to further investigate the domestic abuse incident, they may release you on pre-charge bail which is likely to have conditions attached. How can a Solicitor help me if I am arrested for domestic abuse? An experienced Criminal Law Solicitor can provide the following assistance if you have been arrested in relation to a domestic abuse incident:
Provide legal advice about your rights and how you should answer police questions. This advice is crucial in ensuring you do not inadvertently incriminate yourself.
Understand the legal processes involved in your arrest and what you can expect next. They can explain complex legal jargon and make sure you are aware of the proceedings.
Be present during the caution plus three interview, ensuring that all questions are fair and within legal guidelines.
Review the charge sheet and any evidence the police have against you, offering insight into the strength of the case and possible defences.
Communicate with the custody officer and investigating officer on your behalf, ensuring that the correct processes are being followed and your rights are respected.
Negotiate pre-charge bail, focusing on whether it is necessary and proportionate and any bail conditions the police plan to attach.
Explain the charges (if laid), potential penalties, and next steps.
Help prepare your defence, gather evidence, find witnesses, and represent you in court (should the case reach this stage)
Concluding comments Having an experienced Criminal Law Solicitor by your side following an arrest for domestic abuse is the most important factor in getting a positive outcome to your case. With the benefit of their experience and knowledge of the legal system and police procedures, you can trust that your best interests will be protected and everything possible is being done to avert criminal charges, prosecution, and conviction. If you have been arrested following a domestic abuse incident, please email me immediately on email@example.com