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High Court ruling on arrest following voluntary interview

The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis v MR [2019] EWHC 888 (QB)

The High Court found that arresting a volunteer at the police station was not a reasonable course of action by the police.

Details

A suspect voluntarily attended a police station in respect of an allegation of harassment. He was arrested, photographed, fingerprinted and had a DNA sample taken. He was detained for several hours and then released on bail before the police decided to take no further action.

The county court judge ruled that the arresting officer’s decision to arrest the suspect was not objectively reasonable. The police commissioner appealed this decision. The High Court found that the officer’s suspicion that the suspect had committed an offence objectively justified at the point of arrest. However, there had been no reason to carry out the arrest, the officer’s belief in the need to arrest the suspect was not objectively justified and therefore the arrest was unlawful.

The objective test of whether an arrest is necessary ‘is more than simply ‘desirable’ or ‘convenient’ or ‘reasonable’.  It is a high bar, introduced for all offences in 2005 to tighten the accountability of police officers’ (paragraph 47). Whether the arrest of a volunteer is necessary is fact specific and ‘the officer who has given no thought to alternatives to arrest is exposed to the risk of being found by a Court to have had objectively no reasonable grounds for his belief that arrest was necessary (Hayes v Chief Constable of Merseyside [2011] EWCA Civ 911)’. The judgment makes it clear that the officer should have interviewed the suspect, established his identity and requested his mobile phone. Had the officer encountered any issues he could have carried out an arrest at that point.

 Commentary

Children are particularly likely to be invited in to the police station for voluntary interview and practitioners should consider whether any subsequent arrest has been necessary. The protections afforded to children by Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) are regularly disregarded and every effort should be made by practitioners to ensure that children are not un-necessarily detained.