Powers of arrest

Who carries powers of arrest?

Under s 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) – as amended by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 – powers of arrest without warrant are held by the police, but private citizens also have the right to perform what is known as a ‘citizen’s arrest’ when they feel the need to do so.

The powers of arrest are not something to be abused by the police or by a public citizen and are powers that should only be used responsibly.

Citizen’s arrest

Private citizens may arrest:

  • anybody who is in the act of committing an indictable offence;
  • anybody whom they have reasonable grounds for suspecting to be committing an indictable offence;
  • where an indictable offence has been committed, anybody who is guilty of the offence, or anyone whom they have reasonable grounds for suspecting is guilty of it.

A private citizen may only make an arrest if:

  • it is not reasonably practicable for a constable to make the arrest instead; and
  • they have reasonable grounds to believe it is necessary to arrest someone to stop them:
    • causing physical injury to themselves or any other person;
    • suffering physical injury;
    • causing loss of or damage to property; or
    • making off before a constable can assume responsibility for him/ her.

Police powers of arrest

A constable may arrest without a warrant:

  • anyone who is about to commit an offence;
  • anyone who is in the act of committing an offence;
  • anyone whom they have reasonable grounds for suspecting to be about to commit an offence;
  • anyone whom they have reasonable grounds for suspecting to be committing an offence.

If a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, they may arrest without a warrant anyone whom they have reasonable grounds to suspect of being guilty of it.

If an offence has been committed, a constable may arrest without a warrant:

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For more information on:

  • Arrest procedure
  • Reasonable force