Police station representation: what to do if you get arrested
Many of us don’t know our rights when it comes to interacting with the police, whether it’s being stopped and searched in the street or something more serious like being arrested. Even those who have been on the wrong side of the law on several occasions might not necessarily know what is the best practice in these situations.
If you’re arrested, though it might be a time of heightened stress, try to keep calm and have in mind that you have a right to be treated fairly and with respect by the police. Panicking may cause you to say something that might jeopardise your case and resisting arrest can lead to injury and even more serious criminal charges.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that you are not required to say anything to the police when arrested and questioned. As you will have no doubt heard in plenty of movies and TV programmes, the arresting officer will usually say something along the lines of: "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."
At the station, it is usually recommended that you make “no comment” in response to questions and don’t write or sign a statement until you have spoken to a solicitor. You have the right to consult with a solicitor privately and are entitled to free police station representation by a legal professional. If you want to make the point clearly you can always say: "I have been advised that I should answer no questions. It is not right that I should have to give a complete case for myself until charges have been made and properly explained and until there are other people around to check that questions put to me are fair and legal. I will say nothing until I am advised to do so by a fully qualified legal advisor".
You should never refuse representation at a police station since evidence collected in any interview can be used against. Your solicitor will be able to advise you how to conduct yourself when being questioned. If you know of a solicitor, you can ask for them in person, otherwise the police custody offices have contact details of solicitors held by the ‘Duty Solicitor Call Centre’. When interviewed on tape, you can protect yourself by saying that your solicitor has advised you to make “no comment” - this way if your case has to go to court, the solicitor can take responsibility for offering poor advice and you will not be to blame for comments.
After an initial arrest and before you can be charged with an offence, police will often continue to investigate a crime to gain evidence which is then submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who will then advise the police what to do. Whether you are charged or not, there are several possible outcomes:
- You will be bailed back or released on bail, meaning you can go free but must return to the police station at a future date and time. Your bail might have certain conditions attached to it such as not being able to contact certain or having to hand in your passport. If police suspect you have skipped bail in the past or been convicted of a serious crime, you are less likely to be granted bail.
- You will be cautioned. This is a formal warning which is kept on record and can be used as evidence in future criminal proceedings.
- NFA or No Further Action means that you are free to go and no action will be taken against you unless further evidence comes to light.
- You can be charged and bailed. meaning that there is enough evidence to prove that you are guilty in court. This doesn’t mean you will be found guilty by a jury however. You will be given a court date and released, at which point it is advisable to seek legal advice.
- The worst case scenario involves you being charged and remanded in custody. This means you will be kept at the police station and taken to court as soon as possible for a hearing at the Magistrates’ court. Essentially, you will be in prison and can be remanded after this hearing, if for example you case is passed on to the Crown Court for trial or sentencing.
This article is a guest post.