By: Victoria L
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Police and their powers
The police can stop you in the street and ask you to go to the station with them. You can refuse. You don’t have to help them with their enquiries, but most people do. They do not tend to ask unless they have a reason.
However, the police can make you go with them if they arrest you. In addition, the police can stop and search you if they have reasonable grounds to believe that you’re carrying certain items, such as knives or other types of weapons that can be used to commit an offence under the UK law.
The police can arrest you with a warrant signed by a Magistrate, but they have wide powers of arrest in serious cases so they often don’t need warrants. They can arrest you without a warrant if you have committed an arrestable offence, are in the act of committing an arrestable offence, or are suspected of committing an arrestable offence. An arrestable offence is one that can result in a prison sentence of five years or more such as arson, burglary, death by reckless driving, manslaughter, murder, or rape.
The police can also arrest you without a warrant in all sorts of circumstances relating to breaches of the peace and drunkenness as you will be breaching the public order. If you’re arrested, the police have powers to search you. You do have to be told that you’re being arrested and why. If you’re held at a police station, you have to be allowed to see a solicitor. You also have the right to have someone told that you’ve been arrested, and you can look at the codes of practice the police have to follow. The custody officer has to give you a written notice of those rights and should also caution you that ‘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.
You can’t be made to answer police questions, and they can’t use force to get the answers out of you. You can’t be forced to give a statement. You can answer ‘No comment’ on all questions if you wish to do so.
A duty solicitor is on duty 24 hours a day to help anyone who is detained at a police station. Before you decide whether to answer a question or give a statement, make sure that you see that solicitor for advice. However, in serious cases, the police can delay your interview with a solicitor if they think it will interfere with the evidence, alert other suspects, or make recovering stolen property more difficult.
You have to be charged or released within 24 hours of your arrest. In serious cases, you can be held for up to 36 hours, and the police can ask Magistrates for an extension for up to 96 hours. The police have a wide range of powers to take fingerprints, photographs, and DNA samples. Records of fingerprints and photographs don’t have to be destroyed if you’re acquitted and can be placed in a database to be used in crime investigations.
If you’re arrested and charged, you can be kept in custody or allowed out on bail. In legal jargon, you’re remanded in custody or remanded on bail. The police can grant you bail, or, if they refuse, you can apply to a Magistrate for bail. You shouldn’t be refused bail unnecessarily. If the Magistrate does refuse, you have to be given the reasons in writing, and you go to prison as a remand prisoner. The time spent in prison on remand counts toward any eventual prison sentence the court passes.