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From the UK Government website:

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

From the current news of the protests over the coronation:

Anti-monarchy group Republic's chief arrested at Coronation protest

Six demonstrators, including Mr Smith, were arrested by police while unloading placards near the Coronation procession route, the group said.

Republic posted photos of officers taking details from them on Twitter.

"So much for the right to peaceful protest," the group said, adding the officers would not give the reasons for their arrest and confirmed their CEO was among them.

Given that the police identify themselves as the police, tell you that you’re being arrested and explain to you that you’re not free to leave but do not tell you what crime they think you’ve committed or explain why it’s necessary to arrest you even after that information is requested and enough time has past that any other urgent business has been conducted, is that a legal arrest or not?

A similar case where it was ruled the the arrest was not legal would be Police inspector Dean Gittoes where a police officer was found guilty of assault for making an unlawful arrest. This would indicate the officers involved could face legal consequences if the arrest was not legal.

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    To whom did officers "not give the reasons for their arrest"? Was it the arrested person or some random member of the public?
    – user35069
    May 6, 2023 at 13:46
  • I suppose you meant to mention something else instead of the second "identify themselves as the police." Did you intent to write "tell you that you're being arrested?
    – phoog
    May 6, 2023 at 13:46
  • @phoog Yes, editted.
    – User65535
    May 6, 2023 at 14:06
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    @Rick For the purposes of the question, we can assume it includes the arrested person, other concerned members of the protest organisation and reporters over a period long enough to write and publish an online newspaper article.
    – User65535
    May 6, 2023 at 14:08

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I have not read the news report so cannot comment on the alleged offences and police conduct, but what I can say is that the information to given on arrest may be found at section 28 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE):

(1) Subject to subsection (5) below, where a person is arrested, otherwise than by being informed that he is under arrest, the arrest is not lawful unless the person arrested is informed that he is under arrest as soon as is practicable after his arrest.

(2) Where a person is arrested by a constable, subsection (1) above applies regardless of whether the fact of the arrest is obvious.

(3) 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.

(4) Where a person is arrested by a constable, subsection (3) above applies regardless of whether the ground for the arrest is obvious.

(5) Nothing in this section is to be taken to require a person to be informed—

  • (a) that he is under arrest; or

  • (b) of the ground for the arrest,if it was not reasonably practicable for him to be so informed by reason of his having escaped from arrest before the information could be given.

Note the provisions at subsection (3) do not require anyone else to be told the grounds (reasons) at the time of arrest - including members of the public, protesters, bloggers or the press. Kerb-side debates can seriously or significantly distract the officer from ensuring e.g. public safety or preventing e.g. an escape from custody.

Also, depending on what else is going on e.g. say in a dynamic and volatile crowd control or public order situation, the person under arrest does not need to told immediately if it would be impractical to do so.

The operative phrase being as soon as is practicable, which is not defined by statute as each case needs to be considered individually according to its own set of circumstances. The relevant case law is DPP v Hawkins [1988] 1 WLR 1166, but the only detailed commentary I can find online is behind the PNLD paywall1.

Succinctly, the magistrates initially dismissed the case against Hawkins for assaulting four police officers who kept him under arrest without giving the grounds as required by s.28(3) PACE. The DPP appealed, and the Court of Appeal sent the case back to the magistrates saying, inter alia, although there is an obligation under s.28(3) to tell a prisoner of the reason for his arrest as soon as possible (sic) after his arrest, a constable was also under an obligation to maintain that arrest until it was practicable to do so.


1Or free to law enforcement officers

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    Could you add if this period has been defined in any way? In whose eyes is the practicality of providing the information viewed? What priorities are legal to put before providing this information? Is it only life and death situations that count, is investigating a crime enough? Does there need to be imminent risk of evidence being lost if the subject is informed of the reason for their arrest? Is pure convenience enough, or does their need to be some specific harm that would occur if the subject is informed? What is the burden of proof that is required to demonstrate practicality?
    – User65535
    May 6, 2023 at 14:17

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