What are your rights if approached by the police?

Written 1st October 2021 by Laura Baumanis

In the aftermath of Wayne Couzens’ sentencing hearing, Olliers’ Laura Baumanis considers 6 things you need to know about your rights if approached by the police

  1. The police do have powers to stop and speak to people in a public place. They can ask anyone for their identity, where they are going or why they are in that area.  However, the police will not have grounds to arrest you if you refuse to answer their questions.  If you are not comfortable being spoken to by the police then you can walk away. 
  2. If you are arrested by the police you have the right to ask the police for their warrant card and ID and what their legal grounds for arresting you are. If they cannot give you this information, including under what power they are making the arrest and what their ‘reasonable grounds’ for believing that you have committed an offence are then they will have no power to detain you. 
  3. If you are stopped by the police and subsequently searched or arrested you are legally entitled to ask the officer’s rank, name and station. You can also request a copy of the search or arrest record. This allows you to raise any concerns regarding being targeted due to race or ethnicity. You should also raise these concerns to the officer you are speaking to.
  4.  If you are uncomfortable in any situation with the police you can request that they switch on their body cameras or ask them to confirm that the exchange is being recorded. This would provide evidence for any future complaints. You should also state that you are uncomfortable in order for this to be recorded. 
  5. An officer alone can make an arrest but would usually need a police van in order to transport you to custody. This would require other officers coming to the scene. You can request an officer of the same sex but this may not be possible in some circumstances.  However if you are being arrested by the police then you should not run away as this could lead to you committing another offence.
  6. If you are a witness to an arrest you cannot verbally and physically intervene as this is a criminal offence. You can record the arrest in order to have documented evidence of what has taken place. If you believe that the person is in danger you can call 999 and tell the officers at the scene what you are doing and why. If you can exonerate the person being arrested you should provide your details to the police in order for a statement to be taken. 
Laura Baumanis

Laura Baumanis

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