Police powers, in general, is an interesting topic because the majority do not know what the police can, or cannot do.
Do I have to talk to the police?…
The immediate answer is no. A police constable does have the power to stop you and ask you questions with the interest of preventing/detecting crime. However, there is currently nothing legally binding you to respond to any questions asked. In fact, you could continue to walk away and carry on with your day.
It should be noted that this is different if there is reasonable suspicion that you have committed or are about to commit an offence.
What is reasonable suspicion?
Reasonable suspicion is, in many unlawful arrests, the kryptonite for police. Police can only lawfully stop you and search/arrest you with a reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed/ being committed/ about to be committed. If this reasonable suspicion is not the case, then there is nothing stopping you from walking away.
Reasonable suspicion can only be based on three things. Firstly, intelligence linking you to an offence. Secondly, you match the description of a person involved in an offence. Thirdly, your behaviour; behaviour has not actually been defined by statute or common law to date. So what even is behaviour? Me walking home late at night? Me looking ‘suspicious’ in a shopping centre? Who knows! However, this may be a blessing in disguise in some cases. I would personally question why I am being stopped, and if it is because they have reasonable suspicion that I have committed an offence, then what is that reasonable suspicion? If the response I get is ‘behaviour’ then its cross examination time! That gets very interesting because you’d be pushing the officer(s) into a corner, this is because reasonable suspicion CANNOT be based on certain aspects; personal factors such as race or religion (big thing in the US at the moment), a persons appearance cannot be a factor, and lastly previous convictions cannot be a reason. So that leaves very little an officer can say, and if it is one of the points I had just mentioned, then you are laughing (or you should be). If an arrest goes on from this point, you will have an argument for an unlawful arrest, potentially writing off whatever you have been sentenced for (I’m definitely not promoting being a criminal btw).
Is there anything I shouldn’t be saying?
Damn right! Speak to any criminal defence barrister and they will tell you the majority of criminals arrest themselves. How does that make any sense you ask? Because people think they can ‘out smart’ the police, when in theory they can’t. Before they know it they’ve dug themselves into a corner that will be near impossible to get out of.
My advice? If you know you have committed an offence and you have been stopped by the police YOU HAVE BEEN CAUGHT. Do not start spinning a web of lies that will soon contradict your story, instead say nothing. Admittedly when police say ‘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’ they are not wrong. However, it will not harm you defence as much as being caught lying will!
This can also help you in more than one way. If an officer makes an error while stoping and searching you/ arresting you and you do not correct them, there is a possibility for an argument of unlawful arrest.
What shall I look out for?
- Police and Criminal Evidence Act S.2 (PACE); an officer MUST provide the following information when searching you. Firstly, they must provide their name station. Secondly, what they are looking for; you cannot be searched without the officer knowing what they are looking for. Thirdly, why you; what has lead to the conclusion that they will find what they are looking for in your possession.
- The police causation. When the police say ‘you are being arrest under section 24 of PACE blah blah blah’.
I will go into more depth on my youtube channel at a later date!