Apprehension of Offenders
If the police believe that an individual has committed an offence they will usually arrest that person.
"Arrestable" OffencesThe police cannot immediately arrest all people suspected of an offence because some, more minor, offences do not have a power of arrest. This means that before a person can be arrested for those offences a warrant must be obtained. Generally speaking, "serious" offences including theft and most types of assault, do entitle the police to arrest the offender without a warrant. The timing of an arrest will, of course, depend on the circumstances of the case. Some people will be arrested immediately, at the scene of the crime - others may be arrested years later after a lengthy investigation or when new evidence comes to light.
Police CautionWhen an individual is arrested by the police they must immediately be "cautioned". The police caution outlines the individual's rights and in particular their rights regarding what they say after they have been arrested and how this may be used against them. Suspects used to have the right to remain silent; however, now a court is entitled to draw inferences from a suspect's refusal to answer questions. If the caution is not properly given the arrest, and any subsequent imprisonment, could be rendered unlawful.
Police InterviewsA suspect will usually be interviewed, under special conditions, soon after they have been arrested. Police interviews are recorded so that there can be no question of intimidation or manipulation. If a suspect is vulnerable - for example they are under 17 or have a mentally disability - they should not be interviewed without a lawyer or a "suitable adult" being present. The suitable adult may be a parent or other family member. Other suspects can ask to have a lawyer present - if so the interview will not go ahead until the lawyer can get there. An interview may also be delayed if the suspect is not in a fit state to be interviewed - for example if the suspect is drunk or hysterical.
Bail, Charge or ReleaseWhat happens next will probably depend on how much information the police have managed to gather connecting the individual to the offence. After the interview, if the police decide that no offence was committed or that they do not have enough evidence to connect the individual to the offence, they may be released.
If the police decide that there is some evidence connecting the individual to the offence, but that they need to carry out more enquiries before they have enough information, he may be bailed to return to the police station at a later date. This means that he is free to go while the police continue their enquiries but he must come back for further questioning on the date specified. During this time the police may ask the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for advice about charging the individual.
If the police believe that there is already enough evidence against the individual they are likely to charge him with the offence.