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What powers do the police have?

The police are granted many powers in order to keep the peace and protect thegeneral public. There are, of course, limits on police behaviour and if you feelthe police have used unlawful practices on you, you should contact a solicitorfor legal advice.

Police powers commonly used

Some of the most common police powers include the following:
1)    Stop and search
2)    Power to Arrest
3)    Entry search and seize

Stop and search

A police officer may stop and search any person or vehicle for stolenarticles or prohibited articles (generally weapons such as knives and guns) thatare made or adapted for use in accordance with certain offences which includefraud, criminal damage, theft, burglary and taking a motor vehicle withoutauthority.

A police officer must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that he willfind stolen or prohibited articles or any article in relation to the aboveoffences. A police officer cannot simply stop and search anybody he likes; thiswas the cause of much criticism particularly in the 1970s when there wereaccusations that certain police officers were stopping people simply because thecolour of their skin. By including a “reasonable grounds” provision this is farless likely to occur.

If a police officer intends to search you or your vehicle, they must bring toyour attention that they are a police officer and usually provide a warrantcard. The police officer must then provide their name, the reason why you arebeing searched and what the purpose of the search is. If you believe thisprocedure was not adhered to when you have been searched, you should contact asolicitor for legal advice.

Power to Arrest

In order to carry out a lawful arrest the police must have a power of arrestand carry out the arrest in the appropriate manner. The police have a statutorypower to infringe on somebody’s liberty and arrest them so long as theindividual is suspected of involvement or attempted involvement in committing acriminal offence and there must be reasonable grounds for believing the arrestis necessary

The conduct of the particular arrest is also the subject of strictprovisions; the individual must be informed that he is under restraint and thepolice must only use the reasonable force necessary to arrest the individual.The suspect must then be told why he is being arrested (this is sometimes notnecessary when the crime is so obvious and/or the individual is heavilyintoxicated).

Entry search and seize

Generally, a police officer will have to obtain a warrant in order to enterand search premises. This will be awarded provided there are reasonable groundsfor believing either a criminal offence has been committed or there is materialon the premises likely to be valuable to a criminal investigation. There are afew other reasons for issuing a warrant, but these will be the main two.

The police have been given wide-ranging powers in order to protect thepublic; however, there has to be limits on how these actions are carried out. Ifyou believe the police have not complied with these regulations you shouldcontact a legal advisor for more information. 

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