What powers do the police have to arrest and detain me?

Police powers of arrest

The police have the authority to make an arrest with or without a warrant.

An arrest with a warrant

Under s 1 of the Magistrates Court Act 1980, if someone has, or is suspected of having, committed an offence, a magistrate may issue: a summons requiring them to appear before a magistrates’ court; or a warrant to arrest that person and bring them before a magistrates’ court.

The application for the warrant must include, in writing, details of the person to be arrested along with the particulars of the offence they have allegedly committed. A warrant will only be issued if the offence is an indictable one or is punishable with imprisonment, or the person’s address is not sufficiently established for a summons to be served on them.

If the magistrates’ court grants the warrant, the police have permission from the court to enter and search premises to make that arrest, with, under s 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, the use of reasonable force if necessary.

An arrest without a warrant

The Serious Organised Crime Act 2005 gave the police greater powers to make an arrest without an arrest warrant. A police officer now has the power to arrest anyone they reasonably believe has committed an offence, is in the process of committing an offence or is about to commit an offence.

The police have grounds for making an arrest to:

  • ascertain a suspect’s name or address (ie, if the police officer doesn’t know the person’s name/ address; can’t readily find out their name/ address, or reasonably believes that they have given a false name/ address);
  • prevent the suspect:
    • causing physical injury to himself/ herself or any other person;

    • suffering physical injury;
    • causing loss of or damage to property;
    • committing an offence against public decency; or
    • causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway.
  • prevent any prosecution for the offence from being hindered by the disappearance of the person in question;
  • protect a child or other vulnerable person from the suspect;
  • allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the suspect.

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For more information on:

  • What is a citizen’s arrest?
  • The police power to detain a suspect