From gov.uk:

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 question is prompted by the news of people being detained relating to the Queens death:

A churchgoer said he was arrested after shouting ‘who elected him’ at the proclamation of Charles III as the new king.

Mr Hill claimed that three security guards had approached him and tried to ‘move’ him away. He replied that he was ‘standing on the public highway’ and asked under what law they were trying to move him on.

After he was allegedly ‘pushed’ by the guards, he said two police officers approached them. He claimed the officers ‘grabbed’ him and took him to a police van. He was arrested, handcuffed and placed on the back seat of the van, he said.

“I asked on what basis they were arresting me. They seemed a bit unsure,” Mr Hill said.

It is worth noting that a later statement confirmed what the crime was, but it appears this information was not provided at the time

Thames Valley Police spokeswoman said that a 45-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of committing an offence under section five of the Public Order Act, which prohibits ‘disorderly behaviour’.

We do not know the exact details of what happened, so given the hypothetical that one is grabbed, handcuffed and placed on the back seat of a van by people who appear to be police, but on inquiry no crime is named, what has happened to you legally? Are you free to go? Are you allowed to use force if that is required for you to leave? Have the police committed wrongful arrest and/or wrongful imprisonment?

  • 1
    You are not allowed to use force: you'll be re-arrested for threatening behaviour or assault. Sep 13, 2022 at 9:33
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    That is not what you asked, you are shifting the question. You asked if you are allowed to use force to leave. Sep 13, 2022 at 9:38
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    I am not sure about the difference. You are allowed to use force to defend yourself against false imprisonment. To not be imprisoned you need to leave. Using force to affect said leaving is legal self defense if the arresting individual was not a police officer. The question is what are your rights if the individual is a police officer.
    – User65535
    Sep 13, 2022 at 9:41
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    You said you are in police custody (handcuffed), please stop changing the question. Sep 13, 2022 at 9:52
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    I am not changing the question. I am just pointing out that if you were in the same situation but by someone who does not appear to be the police the question would be easy, therefore it is not obvious that you would be guilty of a crime in this situation.
    – User65535
    Sep 13, 2022 at 9:57

2 Answers 2


If the police do not explain why they are arresting you as soon as is practicable then the arrest is unlawful.

If you believe your arrest is unlawful then you can make a complaint and sue, claiming (depending the circumstances) wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and/or assault.

It seems very unwise and may constitute a criminal offence to resist or use force to attempt to free yourself from an arrest. What do you think the police will do, give up? And what if you are wrong?

UK police have broad powers of arrest that include (but are not limited to):

  • a statutory power (under section 24 of PACE) to arrest, without a warrant, anyone they suspect has committed or is committing a criminal offence when it is necessary; and,
  • a common law power to arrest those they suspect have breached the peace or about to breach the peace.

I'd be surprised if Mr Hill's arrest was not explained to him and if it were not originally for breach of the peace. This power of arrest was used in other similar cases on the same day.

Incidentally, breach of the peace is not in itself a crime although you can be arrested for it. Think of this arrest as a 'time out'. You must be freed as soon as the breach of the peace is no longer occurring or imminent.

The Arrest for breach of the peace on the Police Law Blog discusses court cases related to complaints of arrests made in similar circumstances, on the day of the royal wedding between HRH Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton (29 April 2011).

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    The OP references s.5 Public Order, not BotP.
    – user35069
    Sep 13, 2022 at 11:00
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    Thanks for this, but it is not quite answering the question. I understand it may be a bad idea to exercise your rights in this situation, but what rights do you have? Is it only the right to sue after the fact, or do you have any rights in the moment? I have been restrained without mention of a specific crime, and from chat it seems others have. This is not a unique situation.
    – User65535
    Sep 13, 2022 at 11:39
  • AFAIK, the arrests for BotP on the same day took place in Scotland, whereas Mr. Hill's arrest took place in England-and-Wales. That muddies the waters, no? Sep 14, 2022 at 23:01

s28(5) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act requires the person be informed “as soon as practicable” of the reason for the arrest. s24 lists the reasons for a lawful arrest which all more or less revolve around the officer knowing or believing the person has committed an offence.

It is not necessary for the officer to identify a particular offence to the person being arrested. That is only necessary if the person will be charged.

Happily for the police, that section has a catch-all: they can arrest to prevent a person committing an offence against public decency where the public cannot avoid that person s25(5)(c)(iv). This is sufficiently broad that it catches a lot of things, at least to justify an arrest even if it might not sustain a charge or conviction.

  • "It is not necessary for the officer to identify a particular offence to the person being arrested" This is in direct contradiction with the UK government site: If you’re arrested the police must: ... tell you what crime they think you’ve committed. And the site you link: Subject to subsection (5) below, no arrest is lawful unless the person arrested is informed of the ground for the arrest at the time of , or as soon as is practicable after, the arrest..
    – User65535
    Sep 13, 2022 at 12:26
  • I suspect it's important here that PACE says "as soon as practicable", not "as soon as reasonably practicable". Sep 14, 2022 at 23:12
  • @User65535 the government site goes further than the law - “I believe you have committed an offence” meets the requirements of the law.
    – Dale M
    Sep 15, 2022 at 0:13
  • @DaleM The advice on the Government website may be based not on PACE, but on the Lords verdict in Christie v Leachinsky [1947]: 'in arresting without warrant on suspicion, the person making the arrest, whether constable or private person, should at the time state on what charge the arrest is being made'. Sep 15, 2022 at 15:16

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