Arresting with and without a warrant.

Article shared with kind permission of Conor Hunt (Student).

Arresting with a warrant requires the police to apply to a magistrates' court in order to arrest a suspect. The Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 Section 1 sets out how an arrest warrant can be issued and why. When the police are applying to the courts for a warrant they must write the name of the suspect and what the suspect has allegedly done. If the magistrates' issue the police with a warrant the police can arrest the suspect, using reasonable force to enter premises if necessary. When the police use a warrant for someone’s arrest, the name of the offender must be written on the warrant in order for the police to arrest them and if the offender demands to see the warrant the police must show it or they cannot lawfully enter premises or arrest an individual.


Most arrests are made by the police when they are without a warrant. This is mainly due to the fact that the police must act quickly at the scene of a crime and they will not actually know who is about to be arrested before arriving on the scene. Therefore they cannot request a warrant because they could be letting a perpetrator get away. For example, if the police see a person breaking into someone’s property, they cannot ask for a warrant because that would take time and they need to act quickly so that the suspect can’t get away.


The main difference between the two types of arrest is the time. When the police need a warrant, they already know who the suspect is and what they have done so this method takes a longer period of time. There is also no immediate risk to themselves or anyone else because the offence has already been committed. Compare this to arresting without a warrant, which requires the police to act quickly because the suspect is right in front of them doing a criminal act, so they need to arrest the suspect then and there.


When they are arresting a suspect without a warrant it need not be for an indictable offence (serious offence).  The police can arrest someone who they suspect to have committed an offence, or is about to or is in the course of committing an offence.  However it should also be seen as necessary or appropriate just because they can arrest someone should not mean that they do. Section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (as substituted by Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Section 110) provides the statutory power for a constable to arrest without a warrant for all offences. 

In effect a constable may arrest, without a warrant, anyone who is, or whom he has reasonable grounds to suspect to be, about to commit an offence or to be in the act of committing an offence. If a constable has reasonable grounds to suspect an offence has been committed he can arrest, without a warrant, anyone he has reasonable grounds to suspect of being guilty of that offence. The constable must believe that it is necessary to arrest the person in order to ascertain the name of the person and their address and to prevent the person in question injuring himself or anyone else, damaging property or committing an offence against public decency (when the public can not reasonably avoid the person) or for causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway. It may also be necessary to protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question,to allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question and to prevent any prosecution for the offence from being hindered by the disappearance of the person in question.

This means that arresting without a warrant means the police cannot have a ‘wait and see’ approach, because the perpetrator may be gone or may have caused harm to someone by then so they need to act fast.




PACE Code G 2012

BBC News - Arrest warrants: Police hunt more than 30,000 suspects

Now you can be arrested for any offence - Telegraph



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