What powers do the police have?

What powers do the police have?

The police are granted many powers in order to keep the peace and protect the general public. There are, of course, limits on police behaviour and if you feel the police have used unlawful practices on you, you should contact a solicitor for 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 stolen articles or prohibited articles (generally weapons such as knives and guns) that are made or adapted for use in accordance with certain offences which include fraud, criminal damage, theft, burglary and taking a motor vehicle without authority.

A police officer must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that he will find stolen or prohibited articles or any article in relation to the above offences. A police officer cannot simply stop and search anybody he likes; this was the cause of much criticism particularly in the 1970s when there were accusations that certain police officers were stopping people simply because the colour of their skin. By including a “reasonable grounds” provision this is far less likely to occur.

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

Power to Arrest

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

The conduct of the particular arrest is also the subject of strict provisions; the individual must be informed that he is under restraint and the police 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 not necessary when the crime is so obvious and/or the individual is heavily intoxicated).

Entry search and seize

Generally, a police officer will have to obtain a warrant in order to enter and search premises. This will be awarded provided there are reasonable grounds for believing either a criminal offence has been committed or there is material on the premises likely to be valuable to a criminal investigation. There are a few 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 the public; however, there has to be limits on how these actions are carried out. If you believe the police have not complied with these regulations you should contact a legal advisor for more information. 

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