This page aims to provide you with information on your rights when you are stopped, searched, arrested, interviewed and detained by the police. It is not intended to be a complete guide to all of your rights but aims to highlight some of the main issues facing young people and the police. These rights are currently governed by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
Stop and search
Intimate Body searches
Searches at home
Fingerprints and photographs
What happens next
Detention after charge
Codes of practice and complaints
If you are stopped by the police you do not have to speak to them or give them your name. However, if you decide not to give your details this may make the officer suspicious. At this stage it is best to be polite and to co-operate. The police do have a right to search you but they must have "reasonable grounds" to think you are hiding or carrying something suspicious.
The 1994 Act has introduced statutory searches which mean that if the police fear there may be a violent outbreak within a certain geographical area, for instance if there is a fear of rioting, they may search you for weapons.
If the police decide to search you they have to tell you their names, the station they are attached to, what they are looking for and why you are under suspicion. The police can only search your outer clothing in public and the removal of any other clothing must be done in a police van or at a police station by an officer of the same sex. if they search you, they must keep a record of the search and you have a right to a copy of this. We advise that you always ask for a copy of this in case you need it as evidence if you decide to make a complaint.
This is an examination of body orifices other than your mouth. This can only be done if an officer of the rank of Superintendent or above believes that:
in both cases an intimate search is the only way of recovering it.
A search can only be carried out by a registered doctor or nurse. If you are under 17
the search must take place in the presence of an Appropriate Adult of the same sex unless
you ask for him or her not to be present, or ask for someone of the opposite sex to be
present. It should never be carried out or witnessed by a person of the opposite sex who
is not a doctor or nurse or appropriate adult.
The police are only allowed to search your home without a warrant if:
After the search the police must leave a copy of the warrant which you should check to make sure it is signed and dated. it is important that you know that searches should be carried out with the minimum disruption to your house. The police must not leave your house unlocked if you are not there.
If the police ask you to go to the station to answer questions, you do not have to go unless you are arrested. If you are arrested the officer must:
Normally, the police can only detain you at the station for 24 hours (but with a maximum of 36) without charging you. If they get the court's permission, they can detain you for up to 96 hours. If you are under 17 you should not be interviewed or charged without an adult being present. This person is called the Appropriate Adult. You have a right to consult a solicitor and we advise that you always do this. Until your solicitor arrives you should give your real name, age and address but not answer any other questions. You should not write or sign anything.
At the police station the police will want to interview you. If you are under 17, they are supposed to do this in the presence of an Appropriate Adult and as recommended, a solicitor.
Your solicitor is intended to give you legal advice and the Appropriate Adult is there to check your well-being and to support you at the police station and in the interview. You, your Appropriate Adult or your solicitor can ask for the interview to be interrupted at any stage if you feel unclear or uncomfortable. All interviews are usually tape-recorded. You do have the right to say nothing, however, the new 1994 Act states that if you choose to remain silent it may harm your defence if you do not mention something that you later mention in court. After the interview, the police will decide to:
(These will be discussed in more detail later).
An Appropriate Adult should normally be one of your parents or carers. If they are not available or cannot be contacted, a social worker should be called if you are ready to be interviewed between 9.30 am and 4.30 am. The police also have a list of volunteer Appropriate Adults in the event that your parent/carer or social worker cannot attend. In addition to an Appropriate Adult, you are entitled to inform another person of your arrest.
The police will ask you to provide fingerprints and will want to take your photograph. They need to ask your permission to do this, however, if you refuse, reasonable force may be used if necessary to take your fingerprints without your consent. Consent must be sought to taking your photograph except under certain circumstances, however, force may not be used. You will normally be advised to co-operate with these procedures. if the offence with which you are charged is not proceeded with, you have the right to see your fingerprints destroyed in your presence.
If you are under the age of 17 you should be held in a detention room and not in a cell. Under no circumstances should you share a cell with an adult. You have a right to food, drink and warmth and can request a doctor or medical attention at any time. You are also entitled to writing materials. Whenever you make a request, or a telephone call is made by you or on your behalf, it should be noted on your custody record. You should ask for a copy of this when you leave the station as you may need it if you decide to make a complaint. Your solicitor will also need a copy.
After you have been interviewed the police will do one of the following:
If you offence is felt to be serious enough for you to be charged instantly, you will be bailed to the youth court on a given date.
If the police feel the offence you have committed is so serious that you may be a risk to the public if you are given bail, you may be held overnight or over the weekend and taken to the Magistrates' Court the next day or the next day the court is open. The court will then decide whether to bail you or remand you into custody or local authority accommodation. If you are detained overnight a youth justice social worker will try to find a secure placement for you to stay the night.
If English is not your first language or you need a signer, you can, and should, request and official, registered interpreter or signer. You should not say, write or sign anything until the interpreter or signer is present.
Throughout your detention you have the right to look at a copy of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which outlines your rights and all procedures which should be followed by the police, and also the Codes of Practice.
If you feel that you have been harassed, discriminated against or unfairly treated in any way, for instance if you have experienced racial abuse, you have the right to make a complaint through the official police complaints procedure. You can ask a youth justice social worker to help you with this.
If you have been unfairly treated on arrest, you should mention it immediately to the custody officer when you arrive at the police station and to your solicitor and Appropriate Adult. Make sure that a record is made of your complaint.
If you require any further information or advice on any of the issues on this page you can contact the Courts and Youth Justice team at:
40 Bromley Road
London N17 0AW
Tel:0181 365 0042
Fax:0181 880 3915