It seems that the good police of West Yorkshire may have been dealing with cuts to the police budget in an innovative way – by calling on a superhero for help.
On 25th February 2013 Batman (who’s real identity was, in the best traditions of superheros, not released) marched a wanted suspect into Bradford Police Station. The un-named suspect has since been charged with fraud offenses and is due in Court on 8th March.
Obviously nobody could question Batman, but is the ordinary person allowed to go round picking up suspects?
What is a ‘citizen’s arrest’? Can I do one?
The law has long recognised the right of any person to intervene in a crime and apprehend a criminal. There are limits to that and people should be cautious before doing it.
We will return to the question of when a police officer can arrest someone, but the right of a private citizen to arrest a criminal is set out in s24A Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
We have set it out here:
(1) A person other than a constable may arrest without a warrant—
(a)anyone who is in the act of committing an indictable offence;
(b)anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be committing an indictable offence.
(2) Where an indictable offence has been committed, a person other than a constable may arrest without a warrant—
(a)anyone who is guilty of the offence;
(b)anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be guilty of it.
(3) But the power of summary arrest conferred by subsection (1) or (2) is exercisable only if—
(a) the person making the arrest has reasonable grounds for believing that for any of the reasons mentioned in subsection (4) it is necessary to arrest the person in question; and
(b) it appears to the person making the arrest that it is not reasonably practicable for a constable to make it instead.
(4)The reasons are to prevent the person in question—
(a) causing physical injury to himself or any other person;
(b) suffering physical injury;
(c) causing loss of or damage to property; or
(d) making off before a constable can assume responsibility for him.
How does this apply to Batman?
Here, it seems that Batman hadn’t caught the criminal in the act, so s24A(2) applies. Presumably he had knowledge that the man was wanted and therefore he would have had “reasonable grounds for suspecting [the man he arrested] to be guilty of it“.
We don’t know the circumstances as to whether the other conditions in subsections (3) and (4) were met. It is most likely (although this is speculation here) that the criminal, on spying Batman, would have been likely to have legged it, so Batman could have relied on this in effecting arrest.
Batman should also have told the individual that he was under arrest and the reasons why.
We don’t know if the criminal put up any resistance, but Batman (and anyone else for that matter) would only be allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to effect the arrest.
What are the consequences if the arrest is unlawful?
Here is the problem. There will potentially be civil liability (the person could be sued for ‘trespass to the person’ among other things).
More seriously, Batman could be liable for a criminal offence – typically kidnap or, less seriously, common assault. See this story for a cautionary tale.
For this reason, people should be very careful before undertaking a citizen’s arrest. If at all possible – call the police.