Police powers

Brief notes on police powers

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  • Created by: Tiffany
  • Created on: 20-11-11 17:24

Stop and search

Section 1 of PACE gives the police the right to stop and search people and vehicles in a public place. There must be reasonable grounds for suspecting that person is in possession of (or the vehicle contains) stolen goods or prohibited articles such as offensive weapons. As the power is very wide there are safeguards in that the police officer must give his name, station and the reason for the search. If the search is in public, only outer clothing of coat, jacket and gloves can be removed. A written report has to be made of the search.

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Searching premises

The police can enter premises without the occupier’s permission to make a search if:

·         A warrant has been issued by a magistrate (section 16); the warrant need not be shown on entry, only before the search starts, (R v Longman 1988)

·         It is necessary in order to arrest a person named in an arrest warrant or to arrest someone for an arrest-able offence or to recapture an escaped prisoner (section 17)

·         It is believed that there is evidence relating to an arrest (section 18)


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Powers of arrest

The police may make an arrest when authorized to do so by a warrant naming the person to be arrested and there is a right of arrest for breach of the peace. Also PACE gives the police general rights of arrest in certain circumstances involving arrest-able offences.



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  Section 24 of PACE allows an arrest without a warrant in the following circumstances:

·         Where the suspect has committed / or is in the act of committing an arrest-able offence

·         Where an arrest-able offence has been or is being committed and there are reasonable grounds for suspecting the person arrested (even if it turns out later he did not commit that offence)

·         Where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that an arrest-able offence has been committed ( even if it turns out that no offence was committed) and there are reasonable grounds for suspecting the person arrested

·         Where the suspect is about to commit an arrest-able offence

·         Where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the person arrested was about to commit an arrest-able offence

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Detention at the police station

The detainee must be told his rights by the custody officer. These are:

    Having someone informed of his arrest

    Being told that independent legal advice is available free, and being allowed to consult privately with a solicitor

    Being allowed to consult the Code of Practice

 For most offences the police may only detain a person for a maximum of 24 hours (the Criminal Justice Bill going through parliament in 2003 has provision for this to be changed to 36 hours in all cases). If the person is not charged with an offence, the police must release them. For serious arrest-able offences the police may detain for an initial period of 36 hours and may then apply to the Magistrates’ Court for permission to detain the person for up to 96 hours.

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Fingerprints and samples

While a person is detained, the police may take fingerprints and non-intimate body samples such as hair and saliva without the persons consent. Intimate body samples can be taken, but only with the persons consent and the sample must be taken by a registered medical practitioner or a nurse.

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Section 25 of PACE allows the police to arrest for any offence where:

·         The suspects name and address cannot be discovered

·         There are reasonable grounds for believing that the name and address given by the suspect are false

·         There are reasonable  grounds for believing that the suspect will cause injury to himself or others or will cause damage to property

·         The arrest is reasonably believed to be necessary to protect a child or other vulnerable person


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