How to report a crime or make a citizen’s arrest
This page was created by the BBC.
* Updated: 04 Jul 2007
* Created 03 Feb 2004
4. Can I make a citizen’s arrest?
Arrests can be made by people other than the police but should be approached with caution. Making an arrest is potentially dangerous, and the police do not actively encourage people to make citizen’s arrests.
You can make an arrest if:
* You see someone committing an ‘indictable offence’
* You are certain that someone has already committed an ‘indictable offence’
For the arrest to be completed you need to inform the person that they are under arrest and 'restrain' them – you don’t have to physically hold or restrain them but they must be 'under your control'. If you tell someone that they are under arrest and they run away then the arrest has not been completed.
As soon as you have made an arrest you must alert the police. Then you must either hand the arrested person over to a policeman in the street, or take them to a police station as soon as possible.
To make a citizen's arrest the crime must be an ‘indictable offence’, i.e. a serious offence which could be tried in a crown court. Another way to think of indictable offences is as crimes that can result in long prison sentences.
Examples of indictable offences are theft, burglary and criminal damage. So, drink-driving would not qualify as it is an offence which would be tried in a magistrates court and only result in a maximum sentence of six months.
If you arrest a person who is later judged by the police or the courts not to have committed a ‘serious offence’ then your arrest may be unlawful.
Safety and reasonable force
Legally citizen’s arrests are a tricky area and the circumstances of the arrest can be examined in detail if the case goes to court.
The right to make a citizen’s arrest comes under section 3(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967 which says:
"A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large."
If you have made an arrest using ‘reasonable force’ but the arrest is later judged to be unlawful, then in theory criminal charges can be brought against you for any physical injury caused. With this in mind you should attempt to avoid causing any injury to the person you are arresting.
As with any police officer, if you seriously injure the person being arrested, then that person can bring criminal charges against you regardless of the outcome of the arrest.
There is more legal information concerning citizen’s arrests on a website set up by a final-year law student.
However, the most important thing to consider when deciding whether to make a citizen’s arrest is your own safety. If you are in any doubt then you should not put yourself at risk.
Source - http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/actionnetwork/A2258462