5 Keys for witnessing an arrest (UK Edition)
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ABOUT THIS TRAINING
Note: this is a general guide to your rights. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Laws and procedures vary by city, county, and country. Consult local activists and attorneys for more precise information relevant to your area.
This training was originally posted on informeddissent.info and is intended as a brief summary of other witnessing an arrest trainings.
This training is a 3 minute read.
5 KEY MESSAGES
You do not need to answer police questions, so don’t. This is for your own protection and for the protection of others.
The police are trained to gather evidence and so you might accidentally incriminate yourself or someone else. Never identify anyone as the organizer or coordinator unless it is with their permission - they might see themselves differently. Instead of trying to decide when it seems ‘safe’ to answer, just say “No comment” to all questions – during ‘informal chats’, in the police van, and especially in police interviews.
NO PERSONAL DETAILS
You do not have to give personal details when you are arrested. Typically people give their details when being checked in at the custody desk at the police station as this minimizes the chance of being arrested and then released without being booked in. It also allows you to be released inside the 24hr limit - if you withhold personal details at the police station it’s likely you’ll be kept in until you can be taken in front of a magistrate's court.
'UNDER WHAT POWER?"
Ask “What power?” to challenge the police to act lawfully. Police officers rely on you not knowing the law. If you are asked to do something by a police officer, ask them 'under what power?' (i.e. what law) they are using and why they are using it. Make a note of what was said, by whom (badge number/shoulder number) as soon as possible afterward.
NO DUTY SOLICITOR
Use a solicitor with protest experience. The “duty solicitor” is the solicitor who is present at the police station. They may come from any firm of solicitors, which means they almost certainly know nothing about the protest. You don’t have to know the number of your solicitor give the company name to the police and they will call your choice of the solicitor for you. See your 'bustcard' or here for a list of protest experienced solicitors, who are already representing XR rebels and have capacity. Remember that all advice from lawyers at the police station (no matter what firm you use) is free, so call a solicitor who has protest experience, rather than the duty solicitor. If you are eligible for legal aid, it can be difficult to change solicitors once it has been applied for. If there are lots of you arrested, there may be a delay before you get the chance to speak to a solicitor.
XR note: If you are London-based, many XR activists are already using HJA, Birds, Birnberg Peirce and ITN. Contacts can be found here tinyurl.com/lonsolicitors. If you are looking for a local solicitor check out Netpol’s list netpol.org/solicitors/criminal-solicitors-2/. 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.
Cautions are an admission of guilt. Offering you caution is a way the police may ask you to admit guilt for an offense without having to charge you. It is an easy win for the police, as they don’t have to provide any evidence or convince a court of your guilt. We only ever recommend accepting a caution if your solicitor (not the duty solicitor, but a protest experienced solicitor) advises you to do so. Even then, ask your solicitor why you are an exception to the general rule of 'No Caution' and get them to explain to you the reason behind it.
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