Police needs reasonable grounds of suspicion to arrest you

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On September 29 new gruesome details emerged from disgraced police officer Wayne Couzens’ sentencing, detailing how he lured, raped and murdered Sarah Everard.

The 48-year-old man, who was serving as a diplomatic police officer, became the spitting image of a true monster, reviving people’s nightmares and making their worst fears come true.

Perhaps one of the most horrifying facts about Sarah’s murder case was that Wayne, a married man with two children, used his police status to lure his victim, a 33-year-old marketing executive who was walking back home.

On March 3, at 9.35pm, a bus camera captured Sarah and Wayne on Poynders Road in South London, standing beside a white car parked on the pavement with hazard lights flashing.

Mr Harding, a retired Met Police officer who has worked with investigators following Sarah’s disappearance, said that the route the victim was taking home was "well lit" and there were "plenty of properties around".

Sarah and Wayne were reportedly seen "engaged in conversation" before a witness saw her being handcuffed.

It has since been revealed that the officer likely told his victim that she was under arrest for allegedly breaching Covid-19 rules, at a time when the UK was under strict lockdown restrictions.

These terrifying details made many people question themselves on whether they would have followed the police officer into his car or not.

Most argued that they likely would, considering a majority of people are unaware of the official procedures of an arrest, and have also been taught to trust the police.

Consequently, Wayne’s premeditated plan to kidnap, rape and kill Sarah could have happened to any female victim walking, without raising any passerby’s concern.

Here is everything you need to know about your rights when the police arrest or stop and search you:

On what ground can the police arrest you?

According to the government website, the police need reasonable grounds to suspect you are involved in a crime for which your arrest is necessary.

The police have powers to arrest you anywhere and at any time, including on the street, at home or at work.

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Nevertheless, there is an official procedure the police must follow when making an arrest which has been published by the Government's department of Crime, Justice and Law:

  • identify themselves as the police"

  • tell you that you are being arrested

  • tell you what crime they think you have committed

  • explain why it is necessary to arrest you

  • explain to you that you are not free to leave

According to Gov.uk, "if a suspect is under 18, the police should only arrest them at school if it is unavoidable, and they must inform their headteacher."

  • Murderer who hunted down and beat schoolboy to death with a stick could be free in weeks

Additionally, the police have the obligation to contact the minor's parents, guardian or carer "as soon as possible after their arrival at the police station".

On what base can the police stop and search you?

Although certain procedures differ across the UK, as Scotland has a different code of stop and search there is a procedure police must, once again, follow.

Gov.uk states that the police can only stop and search you if:

  • they have a search warrant

  • they have reasonable grounds to suspect that you have committed a crime or are about to commit a crime. Reasonable grounds to search can't be based on an officer's hunch or instinct. It should be based on reliable information, facts or seeing you acting suspiciously

  • you are a danger to yourself or others

  • you are suspected of having weapons on school grounds

  • you are suspected of terrorist activity

  • you are in an area where the police are searching people for a limited time because there is a belief that serious violence might take place or people are carrying weapons. For example, a protest

  • if you agreed to be searched as you enter an event like at a football match when you bought the ticket.

The Crime, Justice and Law Department wrote that a person "can also be searched if the police have reasonable grounds to suspect they have":

  • illegal drugs

  • a knife – unless you have a folding pocket knife with a cutting edge of 7.60cm or less. You may have a legal defence if you needed it for work, it's for religious reasons or it's part of a national costume (such as a sgian-dubh worn with a kilt)

  • a gun

  • stolen property

  • alcohol – at major football or rugby matches or on public transport travelling to them

  • cash of £1,000 or more – that was obtained through criminal activity

  • listed assets worth £1,000 or more – like gold and watches that were obtained through criminal activity

  • fireworks – that you intend to use antisocially.

What does the police need to stop and search you?

According to the government website, a police officer "has the power to stop and search you if they have reasonable grounds to suspect you are carrying" the following:

  • Illegal drugs
  • A weapon
  • Stolen property
  • Something which could be used to commit a crime, such as a crowbar

The website also states that an officer can "only stop and search you without reasonable groups if it has been approved by a senior police officer".

This only happens if it suspected that:

  • Serious violence could take place
  • You're carrying a weapon or have used one
  • You're in a specific location or area

What are your rights when you are being stopped and searched?

Libertyhumanrights.org.uk wrote that a person that has been arrested "should be treated with fairness, dignity and respect". According to Citizensadvice.org.uk, an individual also has the right to:

  • ask the officer to identify themselves – they should give you their name and constable’s number or warrant card. This also applies if they are in plain clothes.

  • stay silent – you don’t have to say anything or provide any information about yourself such as your name or address, and the officer must tell you this. But you can provide an honest explanation for your behaviour to avoid the search if you want to. If the officer accepts your explanation they should not carry out the search

  • an explanation of whatillegal item(s)they are searching for and under what law it is illegal

  • an explanation of the reasonable grounds of suspicion they have for the search – for example, if you match the description of someone seen carrying a knife. Or explain why searches have been authorised in that place during that period of time

  • be searched in as private a place as possible, near to where you were detained. This could be a nearby police station

  • be searched by an officer of the same sex and away from the view of members of the opposite sex

  • be given a receipt of the search – unless this isn’t possible because the officer has to attend an urgent incident.

What are the police’s rights to enter your home?

In general the police do not have the right to enter a person’s house or other private premises without their permission.

However, they can enter without a warrant:

  • when in close pursuit of someone the police believe has committed, or attempted to commit, a serious crime, or

  • to sort out a disturbance, or

  • if they hear cries for help or of distress, or

  • to enforce an arrest warrant, or

  • if invited in freely by the occupant, or

  • under various statutes which give the police powers of entry (not necessarily by force) into a number of different kinds of premises.

What are your rights when you have been arrested?

According to Human Rights laws, whenever an arrest is made, the person arrested always has the right to:

  • Be treated humanely

  • Be treated with respect

  • See the written codes governing their rights and how they are treated

  • Speak to the custody officer, who is responsible for looking after their welfare

  • Have someone notified of their arrest – although they may not be allowed to make the phone call themselves

  • Seek legal advice and consult with a solicitor in private

What can you do if you are suspicious of a police officer’s motives?

Former Met Police chief superintendent, Parm Sandhu, explained while she was invited on Good Morning Britain: "I would say, do not get into the car unless it's a marked police vehicle, ask to see the radio, or ask the arresting officer to call their colleagues and make sure they are on duty.

"If you're really concerned, dial 999.”

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  • Crime
  • Police
  • Sarah Everard

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