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Investigation and Charge For An Offence

Investigation and Charge For An Offence

The police have certain powers that enable them to investigate crime. These powers include powers of search and arrest. If you are involved in a crime either as a witness, victim or suspect, the police follow strict rules and guidelines to ensure that your rights are protected as they investigate the alleged crime.

Police Procedure

If you are witness or victim to a crime the police will first of all ask you to make a statement. This is the first step the police take in their investigation of the crime that has alleged to have been committed. You could also be asked to look at photographs, CCTV images or even accompany the police to the area where the crime has been committed just in case you can personally identify the person that committed the crime.

Once your statement has been taken the police officer will either read it back to you, or ask you to read what you have just said. If you are happy that the statement is accurate, you’ll be asked to sign it. After the statement is taken you may be asked further questions as the investigation progresses. If the witness or victim of the crime is under 17, and the police think that the case is likely to go to court, a video of the witness or victim’s statement may be taken.

After the statement process the police may need to collect evidence. This could mean specialised officers called Crime Scene Investigators will visit the scene of the crime to look for any evidence that can be used in the case. If you are injured as a result of the crime, the police may want to photograph your injuries for their records. The whole police investigation could take several months to complete so don’t be surprised if the police contact you again for additional information.

Making an Arrest

The police have wide powers of arrest if they suspect that a person has committed a crime. If you are arrested you will be taken to a police station for further questioning. Once at the police station you are entitled to have a solicitor present while you are being questioned. If you are under 17 an adult must be present while the questioning takes place.

After the questioning the police has one of several options open to them: They can release the suspect without charge, as they don’t have enough evidence to prosecute. The suspect can be charged, or if the suspect has committed a minor offence, they can give a formal caution that is now known as a simple caution. If the suspect is under 17 years of age and the police have enough evidence for a charge they will refer the case to the Youth Court or the Youth Diversion Scheme in Northern Ireland. A suspect is then known as a defendant as they have been formally charged with a crime.

Stop and Search

As part of their powers the police can use stop and search as part of their investigation. If the police stop you they will:

  • Ask you where you are going.
  • Ask you to turn out your pockets.
  • Ask you to remove items of clothing.
  • Ask for your personal details.

Your car or other vehicle can also be searched even if you are not present. You are also not required to give this information, but if the police have a strong suspicion that you are guilty of a crime, they can arrest you. Stop and search is usually used on an ad hoc basis by police officers on their beats, but it can also form part of a wider investigation that the police are currently involved in.

After the Investigation

The next step after the police have completed their investigation is to decide whether they have a strong enough case to go to court. The police have to send all of their evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who will decide whether a case should go to court.

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