When is an arrest unlawful?

Being unfairly arrested can be a traumatic experience, and can leave you feeling embarrassed and frustrated.

The most common power under which the police might arrest someone is set out in s24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (known as 'PACE'), although there are some other powers under which you can be arrested. An arrest can be made under this power when someone has committed, is in the process of committing, or is about to commit, a criminal offence, or the police have reasonable grounds for believing that this is the case.

If the police arrest you under their 'PACE' powers, it will generally only be lawful if the following criteria are satisfied:

  1. The police must honestly believe that you are involved in the crime.
  1. The police must also have reasonable grounds for believing that you are involved.
  1. It must be necessary to arrest you. For example, to ensure that they have your correct name, to protect you or others from harm or, as is most common, to ensure that they can promptly and effectively carry out their investigations.
  1. The officer must also inform you that you are being arrested and the grounds for this as soon as they can.
  1. Under PACE, the police can arrest you, but they do not have to. The decision to arrest you should be a reasonable.

An "unlawful arrest" is not actually a ground of suing the police in itself. However, it will usually form the basis of a claim in false imprisonment.

Civil Actions Against the Police Specialist Legal Advice

At Saunders Law, we offer expert legal assistance and representation in civil claims against the police, including for false imprisonment, assault, malicious prosecution, and under the Human Rights Act. We can also assist you in making a complaint against the officers involved. We're well-known for actions against the police and other state authorities, and take a thorough and determined approach to cases, working hard to ensure that you obtain the appropriate level of damages for the wrong that you have suffered. All of our solicitors within the Civil Liberties and Actions against the Police Department have extensive experience in this area.

For a free, no-obligation, initial discussion to see if we might be able to help, please contact us today.

Call us on 020 3811 3592 or make an enquiry online.


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