Frequently asked questions by members of the public.
6. Do I need a Solicitor at Court? Can I get Legal aid ?
The answer to the first question is invariably yes. The Court, can depending on the case, potentially send you to prison. Most criminal solicitors will, if you contact them, advise whether or not you will be eligible for legal aid. If not, you may have to pay privately.
In both cases they will advise you when the evidence is received from the prosecuting authority of the strength of that evidence. They will discuss with you, your explanation, if any and advise you on the appropriate plea and likely sentence. It is generally better to instruct a solicitor as quickly as you can. If the matter goes to the Crown Court he may instruct a Barrister or Higher Court advocate to advise on your case further and to undertake the advocacy in court.
7. I have just been bailed by the police. What does Bail mean? What is a release under investigation?
There is a good explanation here with regard to bail. A release under investigation is where you are released by the police without a obligation to return to the police station. The investigation and evidence gathering by the police is however still ongoing. You should note that a release under investigation is not an end to the matter. You may be summonsed to court by the police, asked to reattend a police station voluntarily to be further interviewed or re-arrested. It is vital if you change address or contact details that your new details are given to the police officer investigating your case otherwise you may be summonsed to court without your knowledge or the police may put out a warrant for your arrest. You must not, if you are released under investigation do nothing that may jeopardise the police investigation of you. If you do you can be arrested again.
8. What powers do the police have to search me, my property or enter my home? How can they exercise these powers?
This is a huge topic and a book by itself. It is always better to get specific legal advice from a solicitor about your specific situation. The list below does not claim to be comprehensive and you should seek legal advice from a competent solicitor.
For instance Searches of premises can be authorized by a search warrant issued under
section 8 of PACE 1984 for evidence of indictable offences
section 26 of the Theft Act 1968 for stolen property
section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 for controlled drugs
schedule 5, paragraph 1 and 11 of the Terrorism Act 2000 for evidence relating to terrorism
They may also be authorized under Section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to:
· execute an arrest warrant, arrest or recapture a person on any premises
· save life and limb or prevent serious damage to property.
Section 18 of PACE
where there is authority to enter and search the premises occupied or controlled by a suspect who has been arrested for an indictable offence.
Section 32 of PACE
where there is authority
To search an arrested person where the person has been arrested at a place other than a police station.
If the offence is indictable, they can also enter and search any premises that the suspect was in at the time of their arrest, or immediately before arrest, for evidence.
Powers to stop and search a person
Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
Section 1(2)(a) of PACE provides police officers with the power to stop and search any person, vehicle, or anything which is in or on a vehicle, for stolen or prohibited articles, points and blades, or fireworks. Prohibited articles include offensive weapons and articles with which a person is going equipped to steal or cause criminal damage.
Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
Section 23(2) of the MDA provides that a constable may search a person suspected of being in possession of a controlled drug and detain them for the purpose of the search. They may also search any vehicle or vessel in which they suspect the drug may be found, and can require the person in control of the vehicle or vessel to stop it for that purpose.
Other stop and search powers
Other powers which apply in specified circumstances include:
section 47 Firearms Act 1968
section 7 Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985
section 4 Crossbows Act 1987
section 2 Poaching Prevention Act 1862
section 12 Deer Act 1991
section 11 Protection of Badgers Act 1992
section 19 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
section 139B Criminal Justice Act 1988
The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016
This article is written by Robert Cashman, a practicing criminal solicitor with a national firm of Criminal Solicitors. It does not purport to be a exact statement of English law but for guidance only and you should always get independent legal advice about your specific situation.
Robert can be contacted via https://www.policestationagent.com/