Your rights including stop and search

Your rights if you are arrested

If you're arrested, you are temporarily not free to leave, but you have many other rights that protect you. You'll see the main ones below, as stated in the Government's own website.

What happens next?

You may be handcuffed (to make sure that you don't try and escape, hurt a police officer or hurt yourself) and taken to a custody office in a police station.

At the police station, the custody officer will decide whether there are any legal reasons to keep you there. If there aren't any, they will arrange for you to be released.

If you are detained at the police station

The custody officer will tell you why and tell you about the rights that you have while you're being held by the police. You have the right to:

  • speak to a solicitor/lawyer (you can use one that you know or we can call one for you, known as the duty solicitor - the duty solicitor is free of charge to use and independent of the police)
  • have someone told that you've been arrested, if you are under 17 the police will inform your parents or guardian
  • read the police codes of practice which govern how you can expect to be dealt with whilst in custody

Why might the police arrest someone?

If we suspect a person has been involved in an offence, we have the power to arrest them no matter where that person is - in the street, at home, at a friend's house or at school.

If you are arrested by the police it's your right that we:

  • tell you that you are being arrested
  • tell you the crime they we suspect you have done
  • show you that we are police officers (by wearing the uniform and numbered shoulder badges or, if working undercover, by showing you a warrant card)
  • tell you that you are not free to leave

If you are under 17

  • If you are under 17, we will arrange for your parent or your legal guardian to come to the station to help you.
  • If we need to interview you, then we will arrange for your parent, guardian or a responsible adult to sit in on the interview with you. If your parents or legal guardian are not available we will find another adult from our appropriate adult scheme to help you.

How long do the police have a right to hold you?

  • You can't usually be held for more than 24 hours without being charged with a crime.
  • For a serious crime, a police Superintendent can extend the amount of time that you are held to 36 hours - a court can extend it further to 96 hours.
  • A police Inspector will review your detention at regular intervals throughout your time in custody to ensure that the matter is being investigated properly and that you still need to be held at the police station. They will normally come and speak with you and explain what is happening.

How we make decisions on how to deal with you?

Out of Court Disposals

Even if there is enough evidence to charge you it may be decided to deal with your offence in a different way. Out of court disposals are aimed to divert minor offending of young people away from the youth justices system, while challenging and supporting you to reduce the risk of you re-offending again.


If it is your first offence the police may suggest that you are given a reprimand or verbal warning instead of charging you. If you do not admit that you committed the offence then you cannot be reprimanded. The YOT will be told that you have been given a reprimand and you may be invited to take part in a voluntary programme to help you stop offending.

Final Warning

Final warnings can be given for a second offence or for a first offence if the offence is too serious to be dealt with by a reprimand. The YOT will be told if you are given a final warning and will do an assessment of you to try and see why you have offended. As a result of this assessment the YOT will generally offer to do some work with you to help you stop offending. Working with the YOT is voluntary but if you are charged with another offence in the future, the YOT can tell the court that you chose not to work with them.

Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND)

If you are aged 16 or 17 a police officer can issue you with an on the spot fine instead of arresting you. This is only available for certain minor offences. You can only be given a PND if there is enough evidence for the offence to be charged. The Youth Offending Team, or YOT as it is more commonly known, will be told that you have been given a PND. If you do not accept that you have committed the offence you can ask for the case to go to court instead. You must do this within 21 days of receiving the penalty notice.

Who decides if there is enough evidence to charge someone?

The decision as to whether there is enough evidence to charge you is normally decided by the custody Sergeant and an independent prosecuting body known as the Crown Prosecution Service or the CPS. If they decide there is enough evidence, you may be charged with an offence (crime) before you leave the police station. The police and CPS may decide that they need more evidence before they decide whether to charge you. If this happens, you may be released on bail to come back to the police station another day. 'Released on bail' means that you can leave the police station but you must come back when you are told to. Your bail may be subject to conditions that you will have to follow, such as not being able to contact witnesses involved in the incident or going to a certain area, for example.

If you are charged with an offence you will be given a charge sheet. This will give you the details of the offence that you have been charged with. It will also tell you which court you have to attend and the time that you have to go there. You should show the charge sheet to your solicitor if you see them before the first hearing.

An information leaflet for young people going to court is available from Her Majesty's Court Service by clicking the attached link:

What is the Youth Offending Team?

Youth Offending Team, also know as YOTS for short, work with children and young people to help stop them offending or re-offending. They can offer you help and support. If you appear at court and are found guilty of an offence they may be asked to work with you as part of your sentence.

What happens once you've been charged?

Once you have been charged with an offence you will have to go to court. Find out more in 'Your rights if you are charged'.

Your right to see the information we have about you

Sometimes we keep information about criminals, suspected criminals, or other people who might be involved in crime in some way on our databases.

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 you are entitled to be informed whether or not personal data is held about you, and what that information is, if you put a request in writing.

But it may be that there are some things, under the Act, that we cannot tell you. That's if:

  • it could get in the way of us preventing and detecting crime
  • it could stop us getting hold of and arresting criminal offenders
  • it's against the interests of national security

How you can apply to see information

If you want to see any information that we have on you, you need to write to us (or ask your parents or guardian to do so) enclosing your details and proof of who you are. All requests to see personal data carry a fixed 10 cost under the terms of the Data Protection Act.

For more details about this visit the ‘Your right to information’ section on our main Metropolitan Police website.

You can also find lots of useful information on the Youth Justice Board website.