I just watched a video of English police talking to a lady through her door. She refused to open up unless they told her why they were there. The police refused and told her to open up or they would force the door. She asked if they were going to arrest her and the police refused to answer that. Eventually she opened the door and they arrested her (I think they said for perverting the course of justice, but I can't be sure because it became a scuffle).

Does she have to open the door without being told why?

I've tried searching for the answer to this but so far I've only found what happens when a search warrant is issued, which seems separate to me, or when an arrest warrant is issued and it's outside a property or the police enter forcefully (as in a drugs bust) but I can't find what happens when this particular situation, a more run-of-the-mill situation.

Edit: I can confirm that the police told her they had an arrest warrant. Still, this isn't about her per se but the general rule/right.

According to this BBC interview with a police officer, On the street they would have to:

  • explain to you what the grounds of that search is, what the object of the search is.
  • They need to identify themselves.
  • They also need to explain to you that you are being detained for the purposes of a search and your entitlement to have a copy of a search record.

It appears that this lady would've had more explanation given to her on the street.

This document by the government states:

The police arrest procedure

If you’re arrested the police must:

  • identify themselves as the police
  • tell you that you’re being arrested
  • tell you what crime they think you’ve committed
  • explain why it’s necessary to arrest you
  • explain to you that you’re not free to leave

This seems to assume you've already been arrested or are in the process of being arrested but does not state what should or can happen immediately prior to the arrest.

This site says:

Search without a warrant

The police can enter a premises without a warrant to:

  • tackle or stop a breach of the peace;
  • enforce an arrest warrant;
  • arrest someone in connection with certain serious offences;
  • recapture someone who has escaped from custody;
  • save life or prevent serious damage to property;
  • search a premises where a suspect was during or immediately before their arrest. The search must relate to the offence (or a similar offence) for which the suspect was arrested and they must have reasonable grounds for believing evidence is there;

None of these would seem to me to apply.

I also can see that the officers wouldn't want to say they're arresting her in case she refuses to open up, but then they could force the door anyway, which brings me back to the question, why should they refuse to say?

Any help or insight is much appreciated.

Edit, Additional research:

Section 28 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), titled " Information to be given on arrest" only states what should happen during or after arrest, it does not mention anything about prior to arrest.

I cannot find anything in the PACE act about producing a warrant prior to arrest.

Part 17.1 states:

a constable may enter and search any premises for the purpose…
(a) of executing… a warrant
(b) of arresting a person for an indictable offence

Which suggests to me you can arrest without a warrant but that is for a breach of the peace and seem to imply some immediate need everywhere I look (I could be wrong).

This interesting answer by a lawyer on a competitor Q&A site (boo hiss) says a warrant is required but it's about search, not arrest.

I did read earlier (but have somehow lost the link) that the police must produce the warrant if challenged and read it to you if asked but without the link I wouldn't trust my memory!

Regardless, I still cannot find anything that deals with this situation where you can communicate with the police through a door.

  • 1
    It might make a difference on what grounds the arrest was being made (i.e. with or without a warrant); do you have any information? May 23, 2018 at 17:00
  • @TimLymington I don't but I've been doing more research (that I'll link to above when I get a mo) that says the police must produce the warrant if challenged and read it to you if you want, so I'm going to assume they didn't have it or concealed it.
    – ian
    May 23, 2018 at 21:04
  • I thought the police had to explain through the door why the had power of entry, which can be said in a simple sentence. Otherwise, people risk letting them in for a summary only offence which DOES require a warrant. May 26, 2023 at 15:49

2 Answers 2


This helpful video gives the answer, and it's no, you don't have to open your door unless they have a warrant. If you've committed an indictable offence (those considered most serious, such as murder, manslaughter, causing really serious harm (injury) and robbery) they have the power to enter without a warrant (see 17 b of the PACE Act). In the case I saw there was no indictable offence and so the lady didn't (shouldn't!) have opened her door.

You can speak to them through a closed door or window and if they try to break in it is they that are breaking the law.

  • 1
    I had a fun conversation with a police sergeant after some of his goons had attempted to kick my door down, (without identifying as police). Apparently, they always do this in case the criminal runs out the back. They were searching for a person of interest, and had a warrant. Not knowing who it was, I had made a 999 call. They didn't think to post somebody at the back. Aug 1, 2020 at 15:32
  • @iain What if it is an either way offence? Oct 24, 2020 at 22:21
  • @user5623335 I don't know, I couldn't find anything definitive. Without further infor I'd err on the side of caution and assume that it has the same rules for an indictable offence.
    – ian
    Oct 25, 2020 at 6:30

This will be quite likely to happen if the police have a warrant, and they suspect that someone in the house will destroy evidence, or flee, or attack them, if they can't enter very quickly. And in the right circumstances this will be totally legal.

Aiding someone to destroy evidence by delaying the police at the door might very well get you arrested for obstruction or perverting the course of justice.


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