Sadly, these days we cannot always rely on a police presence when a crime is taking place, nor their swift attendance in the event of one. Major budget cuts and redundancies have seen police numbers in London and across the UK slashed. Therefore, an element of vigilantism has been established on our streets – and quite rightly so! With brave members of the public stepping up and taking it upon themselves to confront and apprehend suspected criminals – conducting a ‘Citizen’s Arrest’.
It is completely legal and possible for a member of the public or security guard to arrest a suspected criminal, by performing a Citizen’s Arrest. But you must be very careful not to act outside of the law, or find yourself being arrested too. What exactly does the law state about this, and how far do your rights extend? This article will help explain exactly where you stand:
The law surrounding a Citizen’s Arrest in the UK is set out in Section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984. It states that a person can legally arrest anyone:
“Who is in the act of committing an indictable offence; or whom the person has reasonable grounds to suspect is committing an indictable offence.”
At the most basic level, anyone can perform an arrest if they either know or reasonably believe, that an individual is in the process of committing a crime. You can also perform a Citizen’s Arrest if you reasonably believe that a crime has already been committed by said individual.
However, the law is not that simple, and there are several aspects of the law that you need to know before carrying out an arrest to ensure that it is lawful.
In English and Welsh Law, there are three types of offences; Summary offences and Indictable offences.
In order for your Citizen’s Arrest to be lawful, the offence that you believe has been, or is being committed has to fall within the Indictable category (which includes either way offences). Put simply: a serious offence!
There are two other main rules that you will have to follow in order to perform a lawful Citizen’s Arrest. The first is regarding the police; under S24 of the PACE Act 1984, you most believe at the time of the arrest that it is not reasonably practicable for a Police officer to perform the arrest.
This rule exists to ensure that the Police remain the main law enforcement institution – without this rule, the Police would risk being undermined by allowing any individual to make arrests, even when a Police Officer is present; citizens should not have the same powers of arrest as the Police.