Being Arrested

(nb this section is adapted from guidance from Green & Black Cross, a grass-roots project providing advice and support to protestors)

1. You should be told why you are being arrested and the name or number of the arresting officer. You should ask what station you are being taken to, although at large protests, the police officers do not always know.

2. You will probably be handcuffed. You will be searched – usually just a ‘pat down’ by an officer of the same sex as you. The police are only allowed to strip search you if there is good reason to believe that you are concealing an item such as a weapon or evidence or drugs.

3. You will be taken to the police station. This may be individually, or you may be taken along with other arrestees. At mass arrests in the past, the police have used buses for multiple arrestees, and there have been very long waits before arrival at the police station. 

4. You will get ‘booked in’ at the police station. Your personal belongings will be taken from you. These are listed on the custody record and usually you will be asked to sign to say that the list is correct. You do not have to sign, but if you do, you should sign immediately below the last line, so that the police 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. They will ask you all kinds of questions about who you are and what you do. You do not have to give any details when arrested or at the police station.

5. If you do decide to give your details, you only need to give your name, address, and date of birth. You are only legally obliged to give your details if and when you appear in court.

6. They will take your photograph. You don’t have to comply, but they are allowed to use “reasonable force” to view your face.

7. They will take your fingerprints and DNA. Again, you don’t have to comply, but they are allowed to use “reasonable force”. Two important exceptions are being arrested for Breach of the Peace (not a criminal offence) and Obstruction of the Highway (a ‘non-recordable’ offence) – they should not take fingerprints/DNA if arresting for these offences.

8. You will then be put in a cell.

9. You have the right to free legal advice. You also have the right to have an “appropriate adult” if you are under 18 or have learning difficulties or mental health issues, even when undiagnosed. Police advice, however, is that if they know your chosen appropriate adult is aware of your actions in advance, or involved in the protest, they are unlikely to be accepted. The alternative is for the police to arrange for someone to attend from an independent appropriate adult service.

10. You have the right to have a solicitor present during an interview. We recommend that you use a solicitor with experience of supporting activists. If you have a solicitor coming, refuse to be interviewed before they arrive. If they can’t be contacted within a couple of hours then you may have to just give a no comment interview.

11. Do not use the duty solicitor. They are unlikely to have experience in protest law, and so ask for an experienced solicitor. For London based ones with capacity and who are already representing XR clients see You want a solicitor based in or near where your action is taking place, as this is where your trial will be. If you are looking for a local solicitor check out Netpol’s list If there isn’t one near you it’s possible to call the nearest one or a London based one before your action to ask them to cover your area using an ‘agent’ as described above.   

12. You also have the right to:

  • A copy of the PACE codes leaflet. This tells you your rights in custody – ask for it.

  • A translator if English isn’t your first language.

  • Food that meets your dietary requirements – e.g. vegetarian/vegan/religious requirements

  • A doctor if feeling unwell.

  • A warm cell, including blankets and cups of tea/coffee.

13. You should prepare yourself for boredom, isolation, bad food, frustration, mild sensory deprivation, distressing noises from other prisoners, a bright light on 24/7 and being kept under constant surveillance. Remember, you can only be held for up to 24 hours (except for some very serious charges – unlikely in protest related cases). If you’ve prepared for the worst you may be pleasantly surprised!

14. If you are expecting to be arrested, bring along a book. Chances are you will be allowed to take it to your cell. You might also want to ask the custody sergeant for a pencil and paper to take to the cell.

15. You may be released in the early hours of the morning - so make sure you have enough money with you to get safely home; or that someone is available to pick you up.