Your rights and section 50 Police Reform Act
If you are stop and searched or to held in a kettle, you DO NOT have to give police your name and address. The police will often ask for your details in these situations, but you DO NOT have to provide them.
However, under section 50 of the Police Reform Act the police DO have powers to take your name and address (but not date of birth) IF they reasonably believe you have engaged in anti-social behaviour. Anti-social behaviour (ASB)is defined as doing something likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to others.
Section 50 powers are sometimes used by the police as a routine or blanket means of obtaining names and addresses, especially during stop and searches. But if the police do not have a genuine and reasonable belief that the person they are dealing with has been involved with ASB, the use of this power would be unlawful.
If you are told to give your details under ‘section 50’:
- Clarify that they are using s50 Police Reform Act. If possible, record them saying this. In some circumstances the police have subsequently denied using s50 powers, claiming that people gave their details voluntarily.
- Ask them to tell you exactly what they believe you have done that constitutes anti-social behaviour. They must have a reasonable belief that you did something likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.
- If possible film what they do, or record what they say on your mobile phone.
- It is not enough for the police to say they believe you are ‘going to’ engage in anti-social behaviour. Section 50 powers do not apply to possible future actions – only if a person ‘has been acting, or is acting in an anti-social manner’.
Refusing to give your details under section 50:
- If you refuse to give your name and address you may be arrested, but this is not always the case. Even though the police may threaten to arrest for not providing details they do not always do so.
- If you are arrested, you may be taken to a police station and charged with an offence under s50. However, in some cases the police have been known to ‘de-arrest’ if a person gives their details after arrest.
- If you are prosecuted, the police will have to provide some evidence to the court that they reasonably believed you had been engaged in anti-social behaviour. If they cannot do this, you should not be convicted.
- If you are convicted you may be fined, but you cannot be imprisoned for breaching section 50.
- Giving a false or inaccurate name and address is also an offence under section 50.
A number of people arrested under s50 have taken civil actions against the police for damages. If you are unlawfully arrested for not giving your details, you may be able to claim compensation. Contact Green & Black Cross or Netpol if you want to explore doing this. It may help if you have an audio or video record of the incident.
Note: Behaviour ‘likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress’ is a very broad definition, and the courts have allowed the police to extend it to all sorts of behaviour, including (in some circumstances) swearing.
You may be interested in a previous post exploring how the police use section 50 powers.