Discuss the actions of the police in the case of rachel

P.C. Ross has attended a disturbance outside a café where he has asked Rachel for her name and address and to empty her bag. Rachel has responded “Minnie Mouse, Disneyland”, and refused to empty her bag. He then arrests her.

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There are a number of ways in which an individual’s rights are protected in a stop and search and arrest situation. These are covered partly by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 the relevant Sections being Part 1 sections1 to 7, and Part 3, and the Code of Practice. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Code A deals with police powers to stop and search and PACE Code G 2012 deals with the police powers to arrest.


We will deal with the apparent stop and search and then the matter of the arrest.


Section 1 gives the police the power to stop and search people in a public place. The police must have reasonable grounds for suspecting the individual to be in possession of stolen goods or prohibited articles. This includes offensive weapons and articles which may be used for burglary or robbery and if a serious violent incident has taken place, the police can stop and search you without having reasonable grounds for suspecting they will find the items. We are not made aware of what the disturbance was about or the nature of it. The right to search includes vehicles but this is not relevant here. ‘Public Place’ includes the street, but extends to the areas such as pub car parks. We do not know for certain but as the disturbance was outside a café there is every chance that this could probably be a public place if it were part of the public highway.



The reason for the search must be given. No reason appears to have been given when Rachel was searched. Code A gives detailed guidance about when these powers should be used. There are very good reasons for this as police forces have been criticised in the past for excessive use of this power (MacPherson Report 1999). Code A specifically mentions that reasonable suspicion should never be based upon personal factors such as race, age, appearance or that the person is known to the police. There needs to be reliable supporting information or some specific behaviour by the person concerned. (E.g. acting suspiciously by trying to hide something under an outer coat). Reasonable grounds for suspicion depend on the circumstances in each case.


The police officer must give his name and station as well as the reasons for the search. This does not appear to have been done. It may be that an individual may, after the event, want to question or challenge what happened. It is the case that a high proportion of people stopped are completely innocent. This provision makes it easier to know who to complain to. It also means that individual officers are likely to act responsibly when exercising this power as they know they may need to explain their actions and the reasons behind them.


The case of Osman v DPP 1999 highlights what can happen if the power is not exercised properly. The defendant was charged with assaulting the police in the execution of their duty, a matter normally taken seriously by the Courts. The officers however did not give their names and station. On appeal the Divisional Court ruled the subsequent search to be unlawful because of this. In such cases it is likely that everything else which follows will be unlawful including any evidence supposedly found.


The individual officer must make a written report of the search as soon as possible after the event. This represents an important area of protection because the police know this and again it encourages them to be careful in the exercise of this power as the written report will need to cite the supporting information which gave rise to their reasonable suspicions. The person who has been stopped and searched is entitled to a copy of the written report. This may be important to enable the individual to check details and other relevant information when considering whether the actions of the police have been reasonable.


Now we will look at the matter of the arrest.


When the police 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.



There are clear rules and limitations to the power of arrest. These are as follows: The reasons must be given for the arrest. This should be at the time or as soon as practicable after it. There is no prescribed formula but the principle is that the individual must appreciate that his/her rights have been affected.


Only reasonable force may be used to arrest. This will vary from situation to situation. The police are obviously trained in techniques in restraining people to limit or minimise the risk of harm to either themselves or others including other police officers. The use or miss-use of alcohol or drugs will play a big part in whether the police’s response is considered reasonable


The suspect must be cautioned on arrest. Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 inferences are allowed to be made when an individual remains silent when questioned. As a result the wording of the caution has changed and clearly the suspect needs to be made aware of their rights at the earliest opportunity.


The law provides a degree of protection in relation to evidence unlawfully gained. Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 section 78 enables applications to exclude evidence to be made as a result of an unlawful arrest stop and search.


It seems as though P C Ross arrested Rachel under Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 s110 but there are a number of shortcomings in his actions. No reason for arresting was given and it is far from clear whether Rachel was cautioned or if it was made clear to her that she was arrested.


The Human Rights Act 1998 sets out clear individual rights in relation to detention and to a fair trial. It may be that Rachel may claim that due to the unlawful stop and search and subsequent arrest that she is not lawfully detained and there has been an abuse of processes.


If Rachel decides to complain she will need to contact the relevant police station initially or complete an online complaint form on the Independent Police Complaints Commission site and it will be forwarded automatically to the relevant police force.


(Word count 1319)

Stop and search: on the streets with the police

Theresa May steps up campaign to end unfair police use of stop and search

Your rights - Stop and Search

Now you can be arrested for any offence - Telegraph

A quarter of police stop and searches are illegal:

IPCC issues findings from investigation into Suffolk Police response

Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 - The Guardian

This essay requires a familiarity with the police powers of stop and search and arrest.

The following matters are raised:

  • the protection of an individual's rights under PACE 1984 and the Codes of Practice;
  • the meaning of 'public place';
  • reasonable grounds;
  • Code A;
  • unlawful searches (Osman v DPP (1999);
  • written reports of the search;
  • general powers of arrest under Section 24 of PACE;
  • reasonable force used to arrest;
  • Human Rights Act 1998.




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