An animal activists' handbook
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13. the long arm of the LAW
All campaigners come into contact with the police from time to time. If you attend a demonstration which involves some degree of confrontation between protesters and the target of the demo, (for example if you hand out leaflets outside a circus with performing animals or outside a fur shop), it is more than likely that the police will be called.
Individual police officers differ in the way they deal with emotive situations. You can usually avoid being arrested simply by making sure that you don't break the law, but some of the laws that affect protesters are open to interpretation. For example, many people have been arrested over the years for "threatening behaviour." Your definition of the word "threatening" might differ from that of the police!
Occasionally, a police officer will interpret perfectly legal behaviour as unlawful and arrest a person without warning. Remember that what the police can do and what they will do are sometimes two different things. Arrest is a very useful way of rendering a person inactive by removing them from the scene of a protest, regardless of the possibility of an unlawful arrest claim afterwards. We know people who have been demonstrating for decades without ever being arrested, but it is important to realise that if you are an active campaigner there is always a chance that you might be arrested one day.
The most common alleged offences which lead to arrests on demos are "threatening behaviour" and "breach of the peace". Basically, if you shout abuse at someone or threaten them in such a way that they might attack you, the police can interpret this as unlawful. They will usually issue a verbal warning first, they will point out to you that they believe that your behaviour is unlawful and that you could be arrested if you continue. You can either agree with them and change your behavior or argue with them and risk arrest. Quite often at demonstrations, a police officer will explain to you what they consider to be unacceptable behaviour. For example, they may accept your right to give out leaflets and shout requests to customers to boycott the establishment in question, but clamp down on you if you are obviously trying to insult or upset people.
In this chapter we will attempt to answer some commonly asked questions. Please bear in mind that this information is intended as a guide only. Laws are complicated and frequently amended and your civil rights can change from one year to the next. For up to date information about your rights, we recommend that you contact the organisation Liberty, at 21 Tabard Street, London, SE1 4LA. Ph: 0171 403 3888.
What happens if the police ask for my name/address?
You do not have to give it, but if they are determined to know this information, they can arrest you under section 25 of PACE.
What proof does a police officer have to have to arrest me?
A reasonable suspicion that a criminal offence known to English law has been committed and that you have committed it, or that a breach of the peace has occurred or is likely to occur. There is no definition anywhere of the words 'reasonable suspicion', it is a very vague phrase and the police will use their own judgement about this.
What does a police officer have to do/say to arrest me and what else should he/she tell me?
They should physically detain you and at the same time say, "You are under arrest for (offence). You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defense now if you do not mention now anything you later rely on in court. Anything you do say will be written down and may be used in evidence." The bit in blue is the official police caution and must be given. They must tell you why you have been arrested and caution you but they don't have to do it at the point of physical arrest as long as they do so as soon as reasonably possible afterwards.
What do I have to say/not say?
You still have an absolute right to remain silent, however the CJ&POA has introduced the fact that a court can draw a reasonable inference from a failure to deny or account for something specific and obvious at the point of arrest/interview/charge. If you have not committed any offence, it is a good idea to state this.
Searching your clothes at the point of arrest
The police can search you if they believe that you have something which may be a danger to yourself or others. Where the search takes place in public, the officer can require you to remove your outer jacket/coat or gloves. Hats including turbans are exempt from this requirement. They can ask to search your mouth.
What happens next?
The arresting officer will escort you to a police vehicle and then you will be driven to the nearest police station. If they think it is necessary, they may restrain you with handcuffs. At the police station you will be brought before the custody sergeant who will decide if there has been a lawful arrest and whether there are grounds to detain you, (and yes, some custody officers have been known to reprimand arresting officers for a groundless arrest and release the detainee.) Again it is a good idea to deny having committed an offense and get it recorded on the custody record.
You will be asked to hand over any possessions and money (and possibly your shoelaces!) which will be placed in a see-through bag. These items will then be written down as a list and you should sign directly under the last item on the list. This will ensure that you get your things back when you are released. They will then fill out a form and ask you a few questions. (This is called "processing".)
What do I have to tell them?
Nothing if you really don't want to, but if you refuse to tell them your name, address and date of birth they can refuse to bail you if you are charged with any offence.
Your rights and why you should enforce them.
Under PACE you are entitled to know the reasons for your detention, make a phone call, have someone informed that you are in custody, speak to a solicitor of your choice in private, have writing materials, receive food appropriate to your diet, and have appropriate rest periods. Ask to see a copy of the PACE codes of practice when you are taken into custody. This clearly sets out your rights. Asking for it will give the police a clear message that you intend to take your rights seriously. Don't be afraid to demand your rights. Don't be afraid to ask to see a solicitor, it does not imply guilt and it means that you will have someone to talk to who is on your side.
What if I am angry and upset about being arrested?
It's a natural reaction, but we strongly advise you to do your best to remain calm. If you curse and swear at the police you will not do yourself any favours, in fact it could really go against you. If you behave in a civil, polite and formal manner towards the police, they will be more likely to treat you with dignity and your time in custody will be much more bearable as a result. It's also best to assume that the police have no sense of humour.
Can they take my fingerprints and photograph?
They can use reasonable force to take your fingerprints under a senior officer's authority. It is a matter for the individual whether they want to consent to taking fingerprints or not but refusal to co-operate can lead to a separate charge of obstruction or worse if more than passive non co-operation is used. Police don't always bother to force the issue. Photographs can be taken before you are charged without your consent if your arrest took place in a crowd, for identification reasons. If you are charged they can take photos without consent in certain circumstances and may take a crafty Polaroid shot but they can never use force to take your photograph. In some circumstances the police may ask for a mouth swab, for their DNA database. They can use reasonable force to obtain a sample if you refuse.
What happens during an interview?
An interview is an opportunity for the police to find out if you want to tell them anything about the alleged offence. They will tape the interview. You don't have to be interviewed. Only you will know if there is anything for you to worry about. If the arrest is an obvious mistake and you have an alibi which is watertight, then telling the police the details may result in your immediate release. If you are guilty but don't intend to admit it then say nothing. In between the above two situations there is a grey area.
You may be totally innocent but for reasons beyond your control you can't explain yourself without making the situation worse. You are advised to say nothing. On the other hand you may not have done what the police say but have done something they don't know about and don't want to tip them off. Say nothing. You may not want to risk getting others into trouble or simply have a policy not to co-operate with the police. This is your right. Since the police have to have evidence in order to charge you, if they don't have any before the interview and you tell them nothing, then they won't have any more after the interview. Silence seldom makes your position worse. If in doubt, ask your solicitor or the duty solicitor's advice before the interview.
Once the police have sufficient evidence to charge you, they should do so without delay. Interview after charge is not allowed. After you have been charged you will usually be released on bail with or without conditions to attend court. In extreme circumstances protesters can be held in police custody instead of being bailed. They must be brought to court at the first opportunity.
Police bail PACE section 47
This means the police are making further enquiries and you will have to return. There will be no bail conditions.
Release with no charge
This means that the police have insufficient evidence and you are free to go. We recommend that as you leave the police station you ask for a copy of your custody record. You will need this later if you decide to sue for wrongful arrest.
What things can make a vehicle unlawful?
Apart from the obvious(tax, MOT, bald tyres etc.) the driver of a minibus must be over twenty one and properly insured to cover liability to third parties. Any agreement between a driver and passengers to travel at their own risk is invalid. It is illegal to carry passengers in a vehicle without seats or with seats which pose a risk to safety, (e.g. sideways facing seats with no arm rests or seat belts to prevent passengers being thrown backwards towards the van doors). It is up to the driver to ensure the safety of passengers.
PACE = Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984,
CJ&POA = Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
If you are arrested, try not to worry. Most arrests result in people being released a few hours later without charge. Being arrested is a minor inconvenience but it shouldn't stop you from doing what you believe in. Remember that the police are public servants whose wages are paid by your taxes and proudly demand that they respect your rights whilst in custody!
Even if you are charged, there are sympathetic solicitors and experienced activists who will help you defend yourself in court. You won't be on your own. ARCNEWS can help you find a solicitor in your area.
Campaign Against Cruelty An Animal Activists Handbook
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