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Police Arrest – Your Rights

What happens if you get arrested?

If you are arrested you should be taken to a police station.

You have the right to free and independent legal advice.

Always ask to speak with a solicitor before answering any questions

If you are under 17 years old you should not be interviewed without an appropriate adult (this should be someone in addition to your solicitor).

Police powers of arrest: your rights

To arrest you the police need reasonable grounds to suspect you’re involved in a crime for which your arrest is necessary.

The police have powers to arrest you anywhere and at any time, including on the street, at home or at work.

The police arrest procedure

If you’re arrested the police must:

  • identify themselves as the police
  • tell you that you’re being arrested
  • tell you what crime they think you’ve committed
  • explain why it’s necessary to arrest you
  • explain to you that you’re not free to leave

If you’re under 17 the police should only arrest you at school if it’s unavoidable, and they must inform your headteacher.

The police must also contact your parents, guardian or carer as soon as possible after your arrival at the police station.

Police powers to use reasonable force

If you try to escape or become violent, the police can use ‘reasonable force’, eg holding you down so you can’t run off.

You can also be handcuffed.

The police have powers to search you when you’re arrested.

When you’re arrested

If you’re arrested, you’ll usually be taken to a police station, held in custody in a cell and then questioned.

After you’ve been taken to a police station, you may be released or charged with a crime.

Your rights in custody

The custody officer at the police station must explain your rights. You have the right to:

  • get free legal advice
  • tell someone where you are
  • have medical help if you’re feeling ill
  • see the rules the police must follow (‘Codes of Practice’)
  • see a written notice telling you about your rights, eg regular breaks for food and to use the toilet (you can ask for a notice in your language) or an interpreter to explain the notice

You’ll be searched and your possessions will be kept by the police custody officer while you’re in the cell.

Young people under 18 and vulnerable adults

The police must try to contact your parent, guardian or carer if you’re under 18 or a vulnerable adult.

They must also find an ‘appropriate adult’ to come to the station to help you and be present during questioning and searching. An appropriate adult can be:

  • your parent, guardian or carer
  • a social worker
  • another family member or friend aged 18 or over
  • a volunteer aged 18 or over

The National Appropriate Adult Network provides appropriate adult services in England and Wales.

Your rights when being questioned

The police may question you about the crime you’re suspected of – this will be recorded. You don’t have to answer the questions but there could be consequences if you don’t. The police must explain this to you by reading you the police caution:

“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.”

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