After this case of suspected harassment by the police in England in response to refusal to provide a name while walking to catch a train I wondered when you are required to stop, and when you are required to answer questions as a pedestrian. From the linked pages, it would seem the answer is that you are not required to answer any questions. You are required to stop if you are either legally arrested or are going to be searched.

To be legally 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

To detain you for a search the police must tell you:

  • their name and police station
  • what they expect to find, for example drugs
  • the reason they want to search you, for example if it looks like you’re hiding something
  • why they are legally allowed to search you
  • that you can have a record of the search and if this isn’t possible at the time, how you can get a copy

From my reading, unless all of one of these sets of actions have been completed, you are allowed to continue about your business as if the police were not there. Is this interpretation correct?

1 Answer 1


Is this interpretation correct?


Encounters such as this should normally fall within the non-statutory stop & account which covers police-initiated conversations with members of the public to ask general questions about their activities when there are no reasonable grounds to suspect an offence.

The terminology varies from Force to Force, but can be summarised as:

What are you doing?

Why are you in the area?

Where are you going?

What are you carrying?

There is no legal requirement or obligation to answer any of these questions, and the police cannot lawfully detain anyone to ask them - unlike the statutory powers under Stop & Search and Arrest covered by the OP.

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