NO COMMENT - THE DEFENDANT'S
GUIDE TO ARREST
If you think you might one day run the risk of
being arrested, you must find out what to do in that situation.
If prison, fines, "community service", etc don't appeal to you,
by following this advice you can massively reduce the risk of
all three. In the police station, the cops rely on people's naivety.
When you have been arrested:
You have to give the police your name, address and
date of birth. They also have the right to take your fingerprints,
photo and non-intimate body samples. The Criminal Justice and
Public Order Act 1994 has now removed the traditional "right to
silence". However, all this means is that the police/prosecution
can point out your refusal to speak to them, when the case comes
to court, and the court may take this as evidence of your
guilt. The police cannot force you to speak or to give a statement,
whatever they may say to you in the station. Refusing to speak
cannot be used to convict you by itself. It's yet to be seen how
the police will use this change in the law, but we reckon the
best policy if you want to get off is remain silent. The
best place to work out a good defense is afterwards, with your
solicitor or witnesses, not under pressure in the hands of the
cops. If your refusal to speak comes up in court, the best defense
we think is to refuse to speak until your solicitor gets there,
then get them to agree to your position. You can then say you
acted on legal advice. Keeping silent is still the best thing
to do in police custody.
Q: What happens when I get arrested?
When you are arrested, you will be taken to a police station.
You will be asked your name, address and date of birth. Your personal
belongings will be taken from you. These are listed on the custody
record and usually you will be asked to sign that the list is
correct. You should sign immeciately below the last item, so that
the cops can't add something incriminating to the list. You should
also refuse to sign for something which isn't yours, or which
could be incriminating. You will then be placed in a cell until
the police are ready to deal with you.
Q: When can I contact a solicitor?
You should be able to ring a solicitor as soon as you've been
arrested. Once at the police station it is one of the first things
you should do, for two reasons:
- To have someone know where you are
- To show the cops you are not going to be a soft target; they
may back off a bit
It is advisable to avoid using the duty solicitor as they are
often either crap or hand in glove with the cops. It's worth finding
the number of a good solicitor in your area and memorising it.
The police are wary of decent solicitors. Also, avoid telling
your solicitor exactly what happened; this can be sorted out later.
For the time being, tell them you are refusing to speak. Your
solicitor can come into the police station while the police interview
you: you should refuse to be interviewed unless your solicitor
Q: What is an interview?
An interview is the police questioning you about the offences
they want to charge you with. The interview will usually take
place in an interview room in the police station. An interview
is only of benefit to the police. Remember they want to prosecute
you for whatever charges they can stick on you. An interview
is a no-win situation. For your benefit, the only thing to
be said in an interview is "No Comment". Remember, they cannot
legally force you to speak.
Q: Why do the police want me to answer questions?
If the police think they have enough evidence against you
they will not need to interview you. In most public order
arrests they rely on witness statements from 1 or 2 cops or bystanders,
you won't even be interviewed.
The police want to convict as many people as possible because:
- They want to convict you to make it look like they're doing
a good job at solving crime. The "clear up rate" is very important
to the cops, they have to be seen to be doing their job. The
more crimes they get convictions for, the better it looks for
- Police officers want promotion, to climb up the ladder of
hierarchy. Coppers get promotion through the number of crimes
they "solve". No copper wants to be a bobby all their life.
A "solved" crime is a conviction against somebody. You only have
to look at such cases as the Birmingham Six to understand how
far the police will go to get a conviction. Fitting people up
to boost the "clear up rate", and at the same time removing people
the cops don't like, is a widespread part of all police
Q: So if the police want to interview me, it shows I could be
in a good position?
Yes - they may not have enough evidence, and hope you'll implicate
yourself or other people. And the easy way to stay in that good
position is to refuse to be drawn into a conversation and answer
"No Comment" to any questions.
Q: But what if the evidence looks like they have got something
on me? Wouldn't it be best to explain away the circumstances I
was arrested in, so they'll let me go?
The only evidence that matters is the evidence presented in court
to the magistrate or judge. The only place to explain everything
is in court. If they've decided to keep you in, no amount of explaining
will get you out. If the police have enough evidence, anything
you say can only add to the evidence against you. When the cops
interview someone, they do all they can to confuse and intimidate
you. The questions may not be related to the crime. Their aim
is to soften you up, get you chatting. Don't answer a few small
talk questions and them clam up when they ask you a question about
the crime, it looks worse in court. To prosecute you, the police
must present their evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service.
A copy of the evidence will be sent to your solicitor. The evidence
usually rests on very small points: this is why it's important
not to give anything away in custody. If they don't have enough
evidence the case could be thrown out of court or never even get
to court. This is why they want you to speak. they need all the
evidence they can get. One word could cause you a lot of trouble.
Q: So I've got to keep my mouth shut. What tricks can I expect
the police to pull in order to make me talk?
The police try to get people to talk in many devious ways. The
following are some pretty good examples, but remember they may
try some other line on you.
THESE ARE THINGS THAT OFTEN CATCH PEOPLE OUT. DON'T GET CAUGHT
- "Come on now, we know it's you, your mate's in the next
cell and he's told us the whole story"
If they've got the story, why do they need your confession?
Playing co-accused off against each other is a common trick
as you have no way of checking what another person is saying.
If you are up to something dodgy with other people, work out
a story and stick to it. Plus you can't be convicted just on
the word of a co-accused.
- "We know it's not you, but we know you know who's done
it. Come on Jane, don't be silly, tell us who did it"
The cops will use your first name to try and seem as though
they're your friends. If you are young they will act in a fatherly/motherly
- "As soon as we find out what happened you can go"
- "Look you little bastard, don't fuck us about. We've dealt
with some characters, a little runt like you is nothing to us.
We know you did it, you little shit, and you're going to tell
- "What's a nice kid like you doing messed up in a thing
They're trying to get at you.
- "We'll keep you in until you tell us"
Unless they charge you for a "serious offence" they have to
release you within 24 hours. Even if you are suspected of a
"serious offence" you have the right to a solicitor after 36
hours, and only a magistrate can order you to be held without
charge for longer.
- "You'll be charged with something far more serious if you
don't answer our questions, sonny. You're for the high jump.
You're not going to see the light of day for a long time. Start
answering our questions cos we're getting sick of you"
Mental intimidation. They're unlikely to charge you with a serious
charge that won't stick in court. Don't panic.
- "My niece is a bit of a rebel"
- "If someone's granny gets mugged tonight it'll be your
fault. Stop wasting our time by not talking"
They're trying to make you feel guilty. Don't fall for it -
did you ask to be nicked and interviewed?
- Mr Nice: "Hiya, what's it all about then? Sergeant
Smith says you're in a bit of trouble. He's a bit wound up with
you. You tell me what happened and Smith won't bother you. He's
not the best of our officers, he loses his rag every now and
again. So what happened?"
Mr Nice is a devious as Mr Nasty. He or she will offer you cigarettes,
a cuppa, a blanket. It's the softly-softly approach. It's bollocks.
- "We've been here for half an hour now and you've not said
a fucking word ... look you little cunt, some of the CID boys
will be down in a minute, they'll have you talking in no time.
Talk now or I'll bring them in"
Keep at it , they're getting desperate. They're about to give
up. You've a lot to lose by speaking.
- "Your girlfriend's outside. Do you want us to arrest her?
We'll soon have her gear off for a strip search. I bet she'll
tell us. You're making all this happen by being such a prick.
They pick on your weak spots, family, friends, etc. Gerry Conlon
of the Guildford Four was told that his mother would be shot
by the RUC unless he confessed. Cops do sometimes victimise
prisoner's families, but mostly they are bluffing.
- "You're a fucking loony. Who'd want you for a mother, you
daft bitch? Confess or your kids are going into care"
- "Look, we've tried to contact your solicitor, but we can't
get hold of them. It's going to drag on for ages this way. Why
don't you use one of our duty solicitors, and we'll soon get
the situation cleared up so you can go home"
Never accept an interview without your solicitor present, and
don't make a statement even if your solicitor advises you to
- a good one won't.
- "You're obviously no dummy. I'll tell you what, we'll do
a deal. You admit to one of the charges, and we'll recommend
to the judge that you get a non-custodial sentence, because
you've co-operated. How does that sound?"
They're trying to get you to do a deal. There are no deals to
be made with the police. This bloke got sent down for not paying
a fine. The prisoner he was handcuffed to in the prison bus
did a deal with the police. He pleaded guilty to a charge after
being promised a non-custodial sentence. The man trusted the
police, he was a smalltime businessman accused of fraud. When
it came to court, the judge gave him 2 years. The bloke was
- "We've been round to the address you gave us and the people
there say they don't know you. We've checked up on the DSS computer
and there's no sign of you. Now come on, tell us who you are.
Wasting police time is a very serious offence. Now tell us who
you are or you've had it"
If you've sorted out a false address with someone make sure
they're reliable, and everyone in the place knows the name you're
using. Stick at it, if you're confident. You can't be charged
for wasting police time for not answering questions.
- "They've abolished the right to silence - you have
to tell us everything now, it's the law"
As we said at the beginning, you can still say nothing. There
is no obligation to tell the cops anything beyond your name,
address and date of birth.
If you are nicked on very serious charges, or for serious violence
to a police officer, the cops may rough you up, or use violence
and torture to get a confession (true or false) out of you. Many
of the people freed after being fitted up by the West Midlands
Serious Crimes Squad, or coming to light now in Manchester, were
physically abused till they admitted to things they hadn't done.
If this happens, obviously it's your decision to speak rather
than face serious injury, but remember, what you say could land
you inside for a long time, even if it's not true. Don't rely
on retracting a confession in court - it's hard to back down once
you've said something.
In the police station the cops rely on people's naivety. If you
are sussed the chances are they'll give up on you. In these examples
we have tried to show how they'll needle you to speak. That's
why you have to know what to do when you're arrested. The hassle
in the copshop isn't nice, but if you are on the ball, you can
get off. You have to be prepared. We've had a lot of experience
of the police and we simply say:
- Keep calm and cool when you are arrested. (Remember you are
on their home ground).
- Get a solicitor.
- Never make a statement.
- Don't get drawn into conversations with the police.
- If they rough you up, see a doctor immediately after being
released. Get a written report of all bruising and marking.
Remember the officer's names and numbers if possible.
Having said nothing in the police station, you can then look
at the evidence and work out your alibi, your side of the story.
This is how you will get off.
- An interview is a no-win situation. You are not obliged to
- If the police want to interview you, it shows you're in a
- The only way to stay in that position is to refuse to be drawn
into any conversation and answer "No Comment" to any questions.
Q: What can I do if one of my friends or family has been arrested?
If someone you know is arrested, there's a lot you can do to
help them from the outside:
- If you know what name they are using - as soon as you think
they've been arrested, ring the police station. Ask whether
they are being held there and on what charges.
- Inform a decent solicitor.
- Remove anything from the arrested person's house that the
police may find interesting: letters, address books, false IDs,
etc in case the police raid the house.
- Take food, cigarettes, etc into the police station for your
arrested friend, but DON'T go into the police station to enquire
about a prisoner if you run the risk of being arrested yourself.
The police have been known to lay off a prisoner if they have
visible support from outside. It's solidarity which keeps prisoners
in good spirits.
This information taken from a pamphlet by London
Anarchist Black Cross 27 Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N