Karen Moxon Smith is an experienced criminal defence lawyer and senior partner at a Norrie, Waite and Slaters in Sheffield. She has over 25 years experience of dealing with every type of crime from driving offences to murder. Karen has extensive experience of the English legal system and how it works, which is very often different for how the public think it works.
Editors note; Karen is Garry’s wife and an experienced criminal lawyer and senior partner at Norrie, Waite and Slater solicitors in Sheffield, UK. Whilst these tips are from her experience in the UK the advice is pretty good for most juridstictions.
This is intended to be a practical and realistic approach, it does not constitute legal advice. These tips are a guide for those unused to dealing with law enforcement but who, having defended themselves successfully, find themselves facing arrest by the police whilst they determine what actually happened.
- If you are approached by the police, situations can quickly get out of hand which will rarely be to your advantage. For instance, if you start shouting others can get involved and then the police have to take action to take charge of the situation. The easiest option might be to remove you! Sometimes the police just want to move people along. Sometimes they genuinely want to ask what is happening.
- Even if you believe you are in the right, listen and cooperate. Give your details, be aware of your demeanour. You can be arrested for not giving your details.
- The officer may have to quickly assess the situation. Don’t make yourself a nuisance. The loudest person always stands out. It is so easy to find yourself in the back of a van.
- This is not the time to tell the officer what your rights are and how s/he should do their job. Whatever your views about the police, they are under resourced and do a dangerous job. Nobody likes a smart Arse ! I have represented more than one law student who has tried to explain his or her rights. It’s not like the text books. I am afraid a later complaint for a minor breach of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) is unlikely to get off the ground.
- Be aware there might be CCTV. I have seen grown men cry when the CCTV shows them repeatedly kicking someone in the head when they honestly thought they had only acted lawfully. I have seen CCTV showing the accused cross the street and follow someone 100 yards when they truly believed the person approached them.
- The police also sometimes forget CCTV catches their actions. That might be useful for a later day but will not help you at the moment of arrest. Unsurprisingly CCTV sometimes either goes missing or wasn’t working when the accused needs it.
- If you are to be arrested then do not resist. The officer will not change his/her mind just because you protest. You will be cuffed and remember they will decide how tight the cuffs go on. The police have set phrases that turn up in statements explaining why they had to take you to the floor, put their knee in your back and use leg restraints. ‘Reccognised Home Office Approved Methods’ turns up a lot in statements. It’s when your face is in the grit and a Bobby is on your back that you might feel the need to kick out and then you end up with an assault PC charge.
- When you arrive at the police station you will be presented to the Custody Sergeant. The officers will tell him/her why they want you detained. It is the custody sergeants decision but s/he is more than likely to agree to the detention. The custody sergeant might listen to you at this point. You will be asked if you want a solicitor, say yes it is FREE AND INDEPENDENT. If you have medical problems make sure they are noted.
- Prepare yourself for a wait of some hours. You should receive a phone call from the solicitor who will also be present when you are interviewed.
- You are NOT ENTITLED TO MAKE A PHONE CALL . Don’t believe everything you see on TV. I have had many an accused greet me with this complaint. Most custody sergeants will let you make a call at their convenience, and at their discretion. Do NOT piss the custody sergeant off. Do Not piss the detention staff off. You have absolutely NOTHING to gain by doing so. You are going nowhere until the Custody Sergeant says so.
- You are entitled to have someone notified of your arrest
- Sleep! Delays occur, the police are under resourced. Your detention will be reviewed regularly. It can be quite a few hours before anyone is available to interview you. The solicitor will arrive when notified that the police are ready to interview. Solicitors are not paid enough to pop down and have a chat. You should not be kept waiting for a solicitor. Be suspicious if you are told that the solicitor will be hours or it is suggested that you will be quicker without a solicitor.
- When the police are ready to interview then the solicitor will attend. You will have a private conversation with the solicitor who will advise you about the evidence the police have and advise you of your options in interview. It is likely that the police officers interviewing have only a handover package from the arresting officers and are not over familiar with the case. The solicitor will stay with you for the interview.
- Following the interview the officers report back to the Custody Sergeant. There might be obvious work that needs doing such as getting a statement, viewing CCTV or even searching your property. You are likely to be put back in your cell until this is done or you might be bailed to come back on a different date.
- There can be lots of different outcomes. Often you will be released but warned that you will be reported on summons. This means you might receive a Requisition to attend court. The Requisition will be sent to the address the police have. If you move and miss the letter of Requisition then the court will issue a warrant for your arrest if you fail to attend court. You might only know about this say at the airport when they scan your passport! I have had clients taken OFF the aircraft whilst sat with their families on the way to the Canaries. I have had a client met at East Midlands airport by armed police!
- If the police think their investigation is as complete as it can be the papers will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) They will decide if you are to be charged with an offence. They try and make that decision in 3 hours ( often whilst you are sat in the cell). If there is a charge you are formally charged and either given a court date or kept for the next available court. Don’t get charged mid Saturday morning otherwise you are there until Monday!
- Unless you are a flight risk, at risk of committing further offences or interfering with witnesses, you ought to be bailed to a court date. Sometimes with conditions. Breach the condition, or if an officer thinks you have breached it or even going to breach it then you are arrested and kept for the next available court. It is only then that there is an argument about whether or not you have breached. There is not an enquiry in the police station. So if you are given a condition to keep away from your girlfriend/boyfriend all s/he has to do is pick up the phone and say you called!
- There are other disposals, fixed penalty tickets, cautions a general ticking off and even No Further Action or Insufficient Evidence to Prosecute. All can have future consequences so make sure you have a solicitor from the start so you make informed decisions. Having a solicitor does not make you look guilty. The police have solicitors when they are in trouble. It doesn’t matter if you do not think you have done anything wrong, you might not have. If there is a chance you have, a solicitor will hopefully not let you make the situation worse than it is.