If you have been arrested, it’s possible that you will have had property seized and retained by the police. This could include personal documents, mobile phones or even your vehicle. These are all potential “exhibits”. In certain circumstances, you may be able to get some or all of that property back even if you have been “Released Under Investigation”.
It is important that you act quickly as some property can be destroyed before you have a chance to get it back.
This note sets out the general procedure for retrieving any property that the Police have taken from you.
There are two main ways in which the Police might take your property
If you are arrested and/or the subject of an investigation, property you have with you may be seized by the Police.
Regardless of whether you’ve been arrested, Police have wide-ranging powers to seize property from premises/your home address that they believe is relevant to an investigation or potential evidence.
If your property is seized it is usually held at the police station until the matter has been dealt with. If you are charged with an offence, the Police will then decide whether property they have seized will be used as evidence by the Prosecution or not.
Getting your property back
The Police are likely to want to hold onto some of the items they have seized (structures etc) until at least after the Rebellion has finished.
Getting items back can be difficult and can take a significant amount of time; for instance, it took lawyers months to get vans used in the April Rebellion back from the Police. It’s also common that property is destroyed by the Police during these delays, though this is most likely to apply to items such as banners or placards.
When the Police no longer need your property, the officer in charge of the case should authorise it to be released.
If the Police know that the property is yours, they should notify you (usually in writing) to tell you where you can pick it up.
The Police will hold your property until all relevant matters have been dealt with. Sometimes this may be until a case has been resolved; other times this won’t be until after any possible appeal has been completed.
Once the letter of authorisation has been sent to you the Police will generally wait 28 days for you to collect your property or for a response from you (either by telephone or in writing). If there is no response, it will likely be destroyed or sold at auction.
If you want to find out whether you can collect your property, you will need to speak to the officer in charge of the case.
If the Police do not know who the property belongs to, you will need to contact them to get it back. You may be required to provide personal information and evidence of your ownership of the property in question. This carries risks of arrest if you come forward to collect property that the Police believe has been used in a criminal offence.
Therefore, an approach to the Police can be made through a lawyer or perhaps even through XR’s Police Liaison group. If you choose to contact the Police yourself, you should be careful with what information you communicate - either orally or in writing - so as not to incriminate yourself in further offences (that your property may have been involved in).
In certain circumstances, it may be better simply to abandon the property. For example, the Pink Boat that was the centrepiece of the April Rebellion’s Oxford Circus site could not be recovered without putting the buyer at risk of arrest for a range of offences.
If the Police are disputing your ownership of the property, then you may have to prove it is yours. Whilst this can easily be done if you have receipts, without them you may have to think more creatively (perhaps you have photographs of you with the property, for example).
If the Police still refuse to return your belongings then you may need to contact a lawyer who should be able to give you initial advice as to whether or not you can recover your property and what steps you will need to take. You may need to bring an action to ask the Magistrates’ Court to compel the Police to return your belongings.
If the Police have seized larger items, you may be able to persuade them to take photos of the items and return them to you.
Getting a vehicle back
Your ability to collect an impounded vehicle will also depend on whether that vehicle is hired and whether it’s roadworthy.
If it’s hired, it may help if the hirer contacts the hire company. The hire company may be able to get the vehicle back from the Police more quickly than you can, but they may also not be particularly co-operative. This can be expensive if the hire company continues to charge you for the vehicle.
Alternatively, you could send your hire documents to the Police to evidence the urgency of its return, but beware this could be used in evidence against you and/or the hirer. That said, if the hire company information is displayed on the vehicle, the Police will likely be able to find out who hired it from the hire company fairly easily.
Vehicles are usually kept at the pound. The Police may claim that you are responsible for the “charges” while the vehicle is at the pound, but you should challenge this.