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

Police powers of arrest

The police only have the power of arrest if the arrest is made in accordance with the law. The police have the authority to make an arrest with or without a warrant.

An arrest with a warrant

Section 1 of the Magistrates court Act 1980, states that criminal proceedings may be initiated either with the issue of a summons requiring the defendant to go to court on the specified date in the summons or ,by the Magistrates issuing a warrant for the defendants arrest, usually used in the more serious of cases.  

For the police to obtain a warrant they must write to the Magistrates court for permission. The application for the warrant must include the person details of the person to be arrested along with the particulars of the offence he has allegedly committed.  

If the Magistrates court grants the warrant, then the police have permission from the court to enter and search premises in order to make that arrest, with the use of reasonable force if necessary. 

Making an arrest without a warrant

After the introduction of the serious organised crime Act 2005, the police have been given greater powers to make an arrest without the requirement of an arrest warrant.  

From this extension, a police officer now has the power to arrest any person that has committed an offence. The police office must have reasonable grounds for believing that the person they are arresting has committed the offence, is in the process of committing the offence or is about to commit the offence, and that it is therefore necessary to arrest them.

The police have justified grounds for making a necessary arrest in the following situations: 

  • If the person in question will not give the police officer their name or address, or the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the information the suspect did provide was false or inaccurate.  
  • To protect a child or vulnerable person from potential danger 
  • To keep the suspect from disappearing  
  • The arrest is a measure needed to ensure that the suspect will not harm themselves, or any
  • Other individual,
  • To ensure the suspect does not cause any criminal damage to near property or commit a crime of public indecency   
  • To ensure prompt and efficient investigation of the alleged crime

What is a citizen’s arrest

A citizen’s arrest is where a member of the public arrests another member of the public. This is possible in certain situations. The power of a citizen’s arrest is detailed in section 24A of PACE (police and criminal evidence act) 1984.  

A citizen’s arrest is limited to indictable offences. The person making the citizen’s arrest must have reasonable grounds to believe an arrest is necessary and that it would not be practical for a police officer to make the arrest instead.  

If a person makes a citizen’s arrest, where no crime has been committed, they may be liable to pay damages for the mistake.

The police power to detain a suspect

PACE provides that once a person is arrested, they must be brought to a police station at soonest time possible, unless they are needed elsewhere to benefit and help an investigation.  

When a person arrives at a police station, they will be taken to a custody officer who will decide whether there is necessary evidence to proceed with a charge and what next steps to take.  

If, when the police officer makes the arrest, there is sufficient evidence to charge the suspect, this must be the course of action and then either remanded in custody or released on bail depending on the circumstances.  

If a person is charged and remanded in custody, they must be placed before a magistrate’s court at the earliest time possible. This is usually the first sitting available after the charge. 

If there is not enough evidence to charge the suspect, the person may be detained for questioning in order to try and obtain the evidence needed.  If this happens, the case will be reviewed after six hours to see if there is a justified reason for continued detention. This will continue at intervals of no more than 9hours.  

A person can be detained in a police station for interview for up to a maximum of 36 hours from the time of arrival at the police station. This may be extended to 96 hours with permission from the Magistrates court. After this time the person is either charged or released. An extension of 12 hours may be granted by the police themselves if it is necessary to preserve evidence. 

Under the Terrorism Act 2006, a person can be detained for up to 28days.