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Police powers under the law 28.11.07

The police are a key 24-hour agency for women experiencing domestic violence, and the first port of call in emergency.

Each police officer has the discretion to use his or her powers to intervene, arrest, caution or charge an abusive man. Arrests can be made to prevent further injury or to protect a ‘vulnerable person or child’.

Broken bail conditions
The police can also arrest someone who has broken bail conditions, or an injunction with powers of arrest. This includes breach of any non-molestation injunction: following implementation of section 1 of the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004 breach of a non-molestation order made on or after July 1st 2007 is a criminal offence.

How long police can detain a suspected criminal
The police have strictly limited powers as to the length of time they can keep a suspected criminal at the police station (usually 24 hours) and they cannot impose conditions when forced to release him on police bail.

Imposing bail conditions
The police only have the power to impose bail conditions on an arrested person following charge. It's important to note that conditional bail may only be imposed where a Custody Officer would have otherwise detained the defendant in custody following charge. Requirements may include a condition of residence, not to go within a specified distance of a person or location, to sign on at a police station or the imposition of a curfew. However, the Custody Officer cannot require the arrested person to reside at a bail hostel, or to be available to assist the court, or to undergo a medical examination.

Single power of arrest
From January 2006, common assault is also, in effect, an arrestable offence - though the police must apply a test of 'necessity' before they can make any arrest. (This followed the implementation of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which introduced a new "single power of arrest" and therefore superseded the relevant clause within the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004.)
For information on recent legislation of particular relevance, view Criminal Law.


This editorial has been adapted from the following: Hester, Marianne, Pearson, Chris and Harwinn, Nicola, with Abrahams, Hilary (2nd edition 2006)  Making an impact: Children and domestic violence – a Reader (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers). View the full article