An Overview on Rules for Arresting a Person in the UK

By | January 5, 2022
An Overview on Rules for Arresting a Person in the UK

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This article, ‘An Overview on Rules for Arresting a Person in the UK’ will discuss the power and procedure of arrest in the United Kingdom, and provide an overview of the statutory provisions.

Police officers and other law enforcement officials are empowered to search premises, arrest persons upon reasonable suspicion of committing crimes and seize movable property associated with the same.[1] However, as such powers may lead to abuse of authority if not checked, codes of conduct exist along with statutory limitations to prevent any abuse of power.

Introduction

The criminal justice system in the United Kingdom (‘UK’) may be conceptualized as a composite institution, tasked with the administration of justice in the territory of the UK.[2] The justice system comprises several institutions such as the police, the crown prosecution system and the prison system[3] (also known as correctional institutions in Indian jurisdiction).

While administering justice, such institutions are empowered to potentially cause harm to citizens and other persons, in the furtherance of performing their defined duties. Thus, an appropriate balance must be struck between the powers of the police and the rights of the public. An important tool in establishing this balance is adhering to the statutory codes of practice, which include rules of arrest. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984 (‘PACE 1984’) layout various codes of practice that allow police powers to be balanced against individual freedoms.[4]

This article will discuss the powers of police and criminal procedure relating to arrest in criminal offences. Herein, the relevant provisions of the PACE 1984 will be discussed in respect of criminal procedure and codes of conduct during the arrest.

The Power of Arrest

The concept of arrest refers to the use of sovereign legal authority to deprive a person of his or her freedom of movement.[5] Such an arrest may be made with or without an arrest warrant where reasonable cause and suspicion arise at the time of arrest.[6]

The concept of arrest would evidently curtail the bodily liberty of an individual in a liberal democracy, which is why warrantless arrests or arrest in general is defined and limited by legislation.[7] This is also to defend against abuse of power in case of arresting officers. Moreover, the principles of natural justice prescribe procedural protections in the face of the overarching powers of arrest. For example, in the United States of America (‘US’), a person under arrest must be given a Miranda warning.[8]

In case this procedural requirement laid down by the US Constitution is not followed, while the arrest itself may not be invalid, statements made may be inadmissible at trial because the evidence gathered would be violative of constitutional directives. [9] In the case of the UK, the codes of conduct that are statutorily required by police officers are detailed in Codes of Practice- Code G (Statutory Power of Arrest by Police Officers).[10]

The power of arrest is provided in an Act of Parliament and therefore called the statutory power of arrest. The relevant statute here is the PACE 1984. This statute may be compared with the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, (‘CrPC 1973’) which is the principal legislation, consolidating laws relating to criminal procedure in the Indian jurisdiction. The PACE 1984 provides police officers[11] and any other person[12] the statutory power to arrest in criminal cases. These powers may be drawn from indictable offences under the PACE 1984.[13] The statutory right to arrest may also be drawn from other legislations, but are largely contained within Schedule 2 of PACE 1984.[14]

A Discussion of The Police And Criminal Evidence Act, 1984

The objects clause of the PACE 1984 states that it is, inter alia other administrative purposes, “An Act to make further provision in relation to the powers and duties of the police, persons in police detention, criminal evidence, police discipline and complaints against the police…”[15]

The power of arrest by police is a statutory one and is detailed in Part III of the PACE 1984.  Section 24 of PACE endows police officers with the statutory power for a constable to arrest without warrant for all offences.[16] However, according to the Codes of Practice- Code G (Statutory Power of Arrest by Police Officers), “…if the provisions of the Act and this Code are not observed, both the arrest and the conduct of any subsequent investigation may be open to question.”[17]

ARREST WITHOUT WARRANT -SECTION 24

  • Section 24(1): Applicable Conditions

According to this provision, the constable may arrest without a warrant, the following classes of persons:

“(a)anyone who is about to commit an offence;

(b)anyone who is in the act of committing an offence;

(c)anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be about to commit an offence;

(d)anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be committing an offence.”[18]

  • Section 24(2): Arrest when there is suspicion of an offence being committed

Section 24 deals with the power of a constable to arrest a person belonging to the categories listed in Section 24(1). The first two categories mention scenarios wherein the commission of an offence is imminent or the offence is being committed at the time of arrest. However the last two categories refer to the concept of reasonable grounds of suspicion. Section 24(2) states that if a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed by a person, then he may arrest without a warrant any person whom he has reasonable grounds to suspect of being guilty of the commission of the same.[19]

  • Section 24(3): Arrest when offence has been committed

This provision states that in case an offence has already been committed, then the constable may arrest without a warrant, anyone who is guilty of the offence or anyone whom he has reasonable grounds of suspicion that he is guilty of the commission of the offence.[20]

  • Sections 24(4), 24(5), 24(6): Reasonable grounds of suspicion

Section 24(4) states that arrest without warrant under Sections 24(1), (2) or (3) are valid only when the conditions of ‘reasonable grounds’ as mentioned under Section 24(5) have been satisfied.[21] Section 24(5) lists the various conditions qualifying as a reasonable ground of suspicion, and are as follows:

“(a)to enable the name of the person in question to be ascertained (in the case where the constable does not know, and cannot readily ascertain, the person’s name, or has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name given by the person as his name is his real name);

(b)correspondingly as regards the person’s address;

(c)to prevent the person in question—

(i)causing physical injury to himself or any other person;

(ii)suffering physical injury;

(iii)causing loss of or damage to property;

(iv)committing an offence against public decency (subject to subsection (6)); or

(v)causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway;

(d)to protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question;

(e)to allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question;

(f)to prevent any prosecution for the offence from being hindered by the disappearance of the person in question.”[22]

Section 24(6) clarifies that Section 24(5) (c)(iv) applies only in cases where members of the public going about their normal business cannot be expected to avoid the impugned person.

It may be noted here that Sections 24(5)(a) and 24(5)(b) of PACE 1984 share similarities with Section 42 of the CrPC, which states that police officers may arrest persons on their refusal to share name and address, in order to ascertain the same.[23]

Thus, to summarise, in order for the arrest of a person under Section 24 of PACE 1984 to be valid, two conditions are required:

  • “A person’s involvement or suspected involvement or attempted involvement in the commission of a criminal offence and
  • Reasonable grounds for believing that the person’s arrest is necessary.”[24]

It is important to note that both conditions must be satisfied, and there must be reasonable grounds in order for a person to be arrested in a valid, lawful manner.[25]

ARREST WITHOUT A WARRANT- SECTION 24A

PACE 1984 also provides for arrest without a warrant by other persons. This is commonly known as a citizen’s arrest, and similar powers of arrest exist in European countries such as France, Italy and Germany.[26] According to Section 24A(1), which applies to those who are not constables, the following categories of people may be arrested without warrant:

(a)anyone who is in the act of committing an indictable offence;

(b)anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be committing an indictable offence.[27]

In case of indictable offences, a person other than a constable may also make arrests without warrant but only one who is guilty of the offence or anyone whom the arresting person has reasonable grounds for suspecting they might be guilty of said offence.[28] However, as may be expected, a citizen’s arrest is valid only in exceptional cases, as Sections 24A(3), (4) explain. According to these sections, the power of summary arrest as defined in Section 24A(1) and (2) arise only if the arresting person has reasonable grounds for believing that based on statutorily provided reasons and is necessary to do so[29]– in addition to the fact that it was not reasonably practical for a constable to make such an arrest himself.[30] The reasons provided are as follows:

(a)causing physical injury to himself or any other person;

(b)suffering physical injury;

(c)causing loss of or damage to property; or

(d)making off before a constable can assume responsibility for him.”[31]

Conclusion

PACE tries to balance the power of arrest with the possibility of discrimination caused due to abuse of power by arresting police officers or arresting persons, not being constables. The present article has discussed the provisions relating to arrest with and without a warrant, by police and non-police persons, and provided an overview of the criminal procedure related to the power of arrest in the UK.


[1] Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984, Part II, Sections 8-23

[2] D. Clark, Criminal Justice System in the UK: Statistics and Facts, Statistica, (26/04/2021) available here

[3] Ibid.

[4] Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) codes of practice, Government of United Kingdom, available here

[5] Arrest, Cornell Law School, available here

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] See generally: Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966).

[9] Miranda Warning, Cornell Law School, available here

[10] Codes of Practice- Code G (Statutory Power of Arrest by Police Officers), available here

[11] Section 24, Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[12] Section 24A, Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[13] N. Prajapati, Arrest and Questioning of the Accused in India, UK and USA, Legal Services India, available here

[14] N. Prajapati, Arrest and Questioning of the Accused in India, UK and USA, Legal Services India, available here

[15] Statement of Objects and Reasons, Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[16] Supra, at note 11.

[17]Supra, at note 10.

[18] Section 24(1), Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[19] Section 24(2), Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[20] Section 24(3), Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[21] Section 24(4), Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[22] Section 24(5), Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[23] Supra, at note 13.

[24] Supra, at note 10.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Section 24A(1), Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[28] Section 24A(2), Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[29] Section 24A(3)(a), Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[30] Section 24A(3)(b), Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.

[31] Section 24A(4), Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984.


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Author: Devanjali Banerjee

West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences

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