The Ultimate Guide to being Arrested in England and Wales


The Ultimate Guide To Being Arrested In England and Wales

Being arrested is a terrifying experience for most people because they usually have no idea what to expect. If you do find yourself facing arrest, knowledge of the process and the powers of the police can alleviate some of the worry and anxiety. However, the most important step to take is to instruct an experienced Criminal Defence Solicitor who can advise and represent you during the pre-charge stage of a criminal investigation.

What powers do the police have to arrest someone?

The power of the State to deny a person of their liberty is extremely potent. Therefore, the police must abide by strict policies and procedures when making an arrest. For an arrest to be valid, there must be a power of arrest and the arrest must be carried out in a lawful manner. If either of these conditions are not present at the time of the arrest, the arrest may be in breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

What happens after I am arrested?

The police must take you to the nearest police station as soon as possible. Paragraph 1.1 of the Code of Practice for the Detention, Treatment and Questioning of Persons by Police Officers (Code C) provides that:

"All persons in custody must be dealt with expeditiously and be released as soon as the need for detention no longer arises."

The first person you are likely to deal with at the police station is the Custody Officer. They are responsible for not only authorising your detention but also safeguarding your wellbeing whilst you are being held. The Custody Officer will open a custody record and keep detailed notes of the reason/s for your arrest and the actions constables have taken whilst you are at the police station. Your Solicitor will examine the custody record meticulously when they arrive at the station to determine whether correct procedures were undertaken at the time of your arrest and whilst you are being held in custody.

How long can the police keep me at the police station?

The police can hold you for up to 24 hours before they have to charge you with an offence or release you. If you are suspected on an extremely serious crime, a police officer with the rank of Superintendent or above can authorise for you to be held without charge for up to 36 hours. If the police want to hold you for longer, they can apply to the Court, which can authorise detention without charge for up to 96 hours maximum.

You can be held without charge for up to 14 days If you are arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000.

What are my legal rights at the police station following arrest?

The Custody Officer must inform you of your legal rights when you arrive at the station. You have the right to:

• Contact and speak privately with your Solicitor;

• Tell another person that you have been arrested;

• Consult the Codes of Practice for police officers;

• Have access to an interpreter if required; and

• Receive medical assistance if you feel unwell.

What is pre-charge bail?

If the police do not have enough evidence to charge you but plan to continue their investigations with the view that criminal charges may be brought later, they may release you on pre-charge bail. Pre-charge bail can only be used if the police can show it is reasonable and proportionate to do so.

The initial pre-charge bail period is for three months. This can be extended twice, each time by an additional three months. To impose pre-charge bail for longer than nine months, the police must apply to the Magistrates’ Court.

In most cases, pre-charge bail will come with conditions attached, for example, you may be required to report to the police station once per week.

What is a police interview under caution?

A police interview under caution is conducted by a Constable at the police station. Before beginning the interview, the officer must deliver 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."

This is the same caution you would have received at the time of your arrest.

It is crucial that you have an experienced Criminal Defence Solicitor by your side before and during the interview. They will provide the advice you need regarding how much information to give and protect you from inadvertently incriminating yourself by saying too much or too little.

How can a Solicitor help at the police station?

An experienced Criminal Defence Solicitor can take the following actions on your behalf:

• Consult directly with the Custody Officer, examine the custody record, and establish the reasons for your arrest and the possible charges which may be brought against you.

• Check that the police followed the correct processes and procedures when making the arrest.

• Advise you before, during, and after a police interview under caution.

• Negotiate with the police to have you released with no bail or conditions.

• If the police want to release you under pre-charge bail, examine the evidence being relied on that makes pre-charge bail necessary and proportionate.

• Continue working on your case with the aim of having any further investigations against you dropped.

Concluding comments

If you have been arrested, you do not have to face the situation alone. Having an experienced Criminal Law Solicitor by your side will ensure your best interests are protected and increase the chances of you being released without charge or having the charges against you dropped before the court date.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please call us on 0300 3732424. If you have been arrested and require police station representation, please call our emergency number 0300 373399.