A couple of policing questions.


Verdentia's Gardener
Nov 23, 2011
This site will surely be suffering no shortage of
Tried looking up some answers to these, but didn't have much luck. I was wondering whether anyone knows:
a) When police first started tape recording interviews held at the station, and,
b) What happens to someone while police are searching their home. Are they made to wait at the station? Can they be present?

I don't watch enough crime dramas, apparently!
I think it's with PACE, the Police And Criminal Evidence Act (a quick Google suggests 1984).

Not sure if people can be present or not. I'd guess it's unusual.

Edited extra bit: also, PACE means you can't lie to suspects, but you can be super vague. So you could say "We have CCTV footage of the incident" even if it's 3 seconds of ultra-grainy worthless nonsense, and then the suspect might incriminate themselves.
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b) In the tv shows they are handcuffed and sat on the couch while the search happens.
It will presumably depend on the circumstances. If it's a forensic examination of the property then I would expect the suspect to be elsewhere. If it's a relatively simple prod around, then they might be if arrested on the premises. Have certainly seen "reality" cop shows where they beat the door down then search, whilst waiting for the owner to return to their otherwise empty house.

I'm a serving Police Sergeant so will wade in with my size 9 Magnums. I will emphasize however that I am with an English force NOT a Scottish one. Scotland is governed by different laws and I note you are from Ayrshire. Bottom line if your story is set in England then follow the below. If in Scotland... well, if you ask a Scottish cop they will be happy to help.

a) Tapes were already well in use by the time I joined (2006). I will ask one of the old timers on my team about when they were brought in, however a quick Google search suggests 1991.

b) This is a more complex question and does depend on a lot more variables. I will lay out the main pieces of legislation we use, then examples to aid understanding.

Section 18 PACE 1984 (Police And Criminal Evidence Act)
This is used when we have arrested someone and then decide we need to search their property (or car). They will be in custody and we then have to go find the duty Inspector and convince them as to why we need to search the subjects premises and get a signed document. We then go and search it. (There is also something called an 18(5), the main difference is that all that means is there is an urgency to that search so we simply get retrospective authority from the inspector and go do it). Bottomline the subject is in the cells at this point.

Johnny Scumbag has been identified on CCTV as having stolen a handbag in Starbucks yesterday, he was wearing his favorite lime green tee shirt. An officer is on patrol and sees JS and arrests him and takes him into custody. The officer then wants to go to JS's house and search it both for the handbag and the distinctive clothing (All good evidence). The Officer goes to the Inspector and tells him the circumstances, who then signs the search book. The officer then goes to JS's disgusting pit and locates both the bag and tee shirt. This is, as you can imagine, is pretty compelling evidence that JS is guilty as sin.

Section 32 PACE

This is used when you have arrested someone to search the premises that the suspect was in at the time of arrest or immediately before.

Same circumstance, JS has stolen the handbag. Except this time the officer sees JS wearing the tee shirt looking very happy with his delightful new bag outside his house. On seeing the officer JS runs into his house. The officer runs after him and boots open the door (using a S17 PACE power of entry) and catches JS in his bedroom, who by this time is stripped to the waist and the bag is nowhere to be seen. The officer slaps his cuffs on JS and arrests him. JS is physically cooperative so he is sat down on his bed. The officer then searches the room and finds the tee shirt and bag.

Various Warrants

Warrants are sworn out in Magistrates court and aren't necessarily associated with a specific offenses as such. Now this would be a WIDE topic and so I will merely give a simple example of this.

JS's former, and probably future, best mate Billy Scrote, due to a series of Jeremy Kylesque shenanigans has fallen out with JS. BS approaches an officer and tells him that last time he was in JS's house he has seen a load of stolen gear. The officer says thank-you very much and, on returning to the Police Station and doing some back ground checks, sees that there is lots of intelligence suggesting the same thing. Officer then compiles this intelligence and goes to Magistrates court and shows it to the Magistrate who authorizes a warrant under the Theft Act.
Early the next morning Officer and his team use the big red door key, (or battering ram) and smash down JS's door. They quickly flood into the address and before JS can wake properly he finds himself in handcuffs and they detain him. The officers search the premises and indeed find a load of stolen items. He is then arrested for theft (depending on how strong the intelligence is you might arrest as soon as the cuffs go on) and he is taken into custody.
Perhaps it will be easier if you are setting your story in England and want to send me your draft or story plan I will add notes to ensure it's procedurally accurate. (If you want it to be)

In relation to what Thaddeus mentioned... well interview technique is a huge topic. I am, of course, happy to help but I will, in the politest possible way, I will wait until the OP wants to ask about it as I could write pages on it on not sure that the OP wants or needs that information.
Additionally (and apologies for banging on, but as you can imagine this is M'ah Thang). There are more esoteric search powers then the ones I mentioned. In terms of general policing the above cove 95% of circumstances.

Forensic led investigations I would handle in a slightly different way... and again will cover that if requested.
Hello Ralph! :)

This might be somewhat of a derail (OK, it is) but I have another police procedural question arising from a story I'm working on. The scenario is that a policeman clearly sees more than one person attack with weapons an unarmed third person, who has done nothing to provoke them. And the attackers lose, and are moderately injured (joint damage, broken nose, concussion). The intended victim is uninjured.

I assume that the weapon-wielders would be handcuffed at the very least; but what happens to the victim of the attack? Is he probably going to be restrained as well? And does it make any difference if the "victim" is there attempting to aid the victim of yet another assault which was in the process of being committed by the same people?

I hope I've been clear enough.

My understanding as to the handcuffing is that it will vary. People may be asked to wait outside or sit in a particular place in the house unrestrained (though supervised) if the search will not be compromised in any way by their presence. Don't forget some searches are carried out on properties where the occupiers are not in any way thought to be involved in any criminal act. If on the other hand there is a worry that people will contaminate the crime scene they will be removed from the house and perhaps placed in some sort of custody (back of a police car etc) or restraints.

People will also be placed in restraints if they attempt to impede the search. It is an offence to defy the terms of the warrant.

If it's a serious crime, those considered likely to be involved will already likely be at the police station being interviewed etc and the initial search will be carried out fairly quickly.

In the case of crimes like murder etc, warrants to search become unimportant at the crime scene, and people geneally will not be allowed to remain in the area whether they are considere as involved or not. Often enough if peopledo not have family nearby to stay with they are put up by the police in motels etc and any personal stuff they may need such as clothing is removed from the house and brought to them by the police.

However, I'm speaking here as a kiwi and I assume this will all vary from country to country.

Cheers, Greg.
Hi Mirannan,

I follow you, and it would be very dependent on what the officer initially saw.

The first thing I will say is that, in layman terms, an arrest is not us saying that a person is guilty of an offense... merely that the we feel the need to ask you some pretty pointed questions if you follow.

The second thing is contrary to what the media will have you believe, the law clearly allows one to act in self defense (of self or another). Common law, Section 3 of the Criminal law act 1967 and ECHR have it enshrined in them. Police have some further laws and powers but bottom line the above covers 'civvys'. The test is, was that self defense PLAN (That is Proportionate Legal Accountable and Necessary)

Okay to answer more directly.

If I was at one end of the street and saw person A at the other innocently walking down the street where he is set upon by a gang and person A handed them their backsides because he's a bit tasty, then I would still treat person A as the victim of the assault. (As long as his response was proportionate and neccesary, no kicking someone when they're down!). If that gang had weapons, then I would still treat person A as the victim even if he had injured the gang pretty badly, as because they have weapons their intent is clearly to cause major injury. I would also, as an aside, probably enter him for some kind of citizen award or recognition.

Now if I only saw half of it, e.g. the bit where all of them are scrapping I would be more inclined to lock them all up for affray (having a fight) and sort out who (if any) are the victims and who are the offenders in a controlled environment (e.g. a nice warm custody block). Simply speaking I need more evidence to figure out who the goodies and baddies are. If there are witnesses (who I might not have the chance to speak to there and then because I'm dealing with a scrap, but would speak to them later). I will consider their evidence and then release person A (Again as long as we're still PLAN) with no further action.

Now if only I saw the bit where Person A is standing over the gangs broken bloody bodies, and with noone to tell me otherwise, (and lets say the mere presence of the weapons were not enough to suggest one thing or another) I would probably treat the gang as victims and person A as the offender. HOWEVER it would certainly be on my mind to consider the wider circumstances and be open to de-arresting person A and arresting the gang. Just not necessarily there and then.

Consider the Tony Martin case (the farmer who shot the burglars). The law wouldn't have had too many problems if he had shot a burglar who was coming TOWARDS him, but the fact was he shot the chap in the back as he was running away and at that point no harm to anyone (You may have views on the chap getting his comeuppance, but that's an ethical debate, not a matter of law). Bottom line Martins actions were not PROPORTIONATE to the circumstances at that precise moment.

In relation to handcuffing, well depends on the injuries. We have a duty of care to people and I'm not going to handcuff someone who is badly injured if my first priority is first aid.

I hope that covers your question dude :)

Bang on, I have no intention of handcuffing some criminals 90 year old grandmother when I'm on a search warrant. Handcuffing in itself is a use of force (an assault) that has to be justified, and again, kept to PLAN. It is, however, for a cop very easy to justify it and the 'standard' for having an uninjured prisoner. To put it in perspective, I had a very steep learning curve with a school girl with very long fingernails and an exception to me having eyeballs early in my career. She looked like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. I would have avoided a hell of a lot of scratches and p*** taking from colleagues had I simply cuffed her from the outset. You would be surprised how strong mad strong is, especially when someone wants to hurt you and you don't want to back! (I will add I did win before you start to wonder!)

A Crime scene is in the UK is effectively the Police saying that an area is evidence and 'seizing it' (even if that is a house, road etc etc). Scenes are tightly controlled as to who can go in and out and preferably as few people as possible. It is nothing to do with warrants and a separate entity. I merely mentioned as they are often lumped in the same general category.
Thanks everyone, and thank you Ralph for the insight there! :) I should've probably mentioned exactly why I was curious , ‘cause there’s a few specifics:

A character of mine has found some unsettling objects in her attic that are linked to missing-person incidents that occurred two decades ago, and has decided to inform the police. I'm setting the story around the early 20th century (and although it takes place in a fictional county, it's supposed to be based in England) and so she goes to the station about it.
I asked about the tape recordings -- I had audio in mind -- because the inspector is asking her questions, and I wondered when-abouts audio recordings were first used by police. And the reason I asked about detainment was because the story has her asking to accompany the inspector to her home, just to be present while a preliminary search goes on. In her situation, I wondered whether that was possible.

Er, sorry I wasn't all too clear in the first post there. :eek:
Depends on the unsettling objects. If they are in the category on dismembered body parts etc then, yes we are back to scene material.

We are allowed to conduct voluntary searches, no authority needed. The person simply signs a disclaimer (After PACE that is, before probably something similar anyway) that they are happy us searching.

Tape recording isn't an issue at all. Your character is merely volunteering information. She isn't a suspect and is a witness at most(In this case continuity of potential evidence)

Also this isn't the sort of thing an inspector would be concerned with, at the initial stages anyway. It would be a constable who goes out. Inspectors essentially have a massive geographic area to look after, or alternatively manage investigations with CID. Initially this would be merely one job amongst dozens that are occurring on the Inspectors patch. If it then turned into something complex or juicy they would come and have a look.
Ah! Well, the objects in question are photographs, each featuring missing persons from the area, and each appearing to have been taken some time after each disappearance. Why they're in her attic at all, the character doesn't yet know. Since they provide new leads for several missing-person cases, would the inspector play an immediate part?
Yes the inspector would be interested in that as part of the inspectors job is managing missing person cases. A constable would still do the leg work though.
I remember my uncle discussing the taping with a friend (two high ranking police officers) I think it began in 1988 but became standard practice in 1991. He'd been arguing for it from the 1970s. But this is a child's memory and it could have been earlier.
Ralph, thanks. I obviously wasn't clear enough. The story is in the crits section, but briefly:

PC answers a general call (do those actually exist, BTW?) to the effect that a member of the public, who plays no further part in the story, has heard screaming from somewhere down the street. PC goes to area where the reported screaming was coming from, is just about to investigate the alley where it's coming from when a civilian comes running down the street, and is about to enter the alley when three armed men (two, followed by another one) come boiling out of the alley armed with flick-knives and attack immediately. All clearly witnessed by PC from across the road. just to make it interesting (there is a story-related reason, believe me!) the civvie is in a full suit of chainmail.

Civvie avoids the attacks, lays both of the first two out cold within less than a second, disarms the third (with some associated damage, a wrenched or maybe dislocated shoulder to the attacker being most of it) and that's when the PC arrives within reach of the scene. Civvie notices PC arriving, snaps into combat stance, relaxes when it becomes evident that the latest arrival is a policeman.

What happens? Including - how many others get involved, seeing that there is probably the original crime victim (not yet seen), three muggers or possibly rapists who need medical attention, and the (completely uninjured) civilian? And, of course, three presumably unlawful weapons lying around on the pavement.

Again, if anyone is annoyed about the derail then I apologise. :eek:
Welllllll setting aside the fact he's in chain mail? Sounds fairly reasonable to me that they're knocked out cold!

Including the chain mail... I'd say I would seriously be considering having a long chat with the chap and find out quite why he's in chainmail, whilst calling for a taser unit, probably with CS discretely palmed as I had just seen him layout 3 guys... just in case...

If the PC's witnessed the entire attack then the guy in chain couldn't really be arrested since it sounds like / and I assume looked like, self defence. But he will be asked to stick around and give a statement, and there are certain things he is required by law to give. Name, address etc. If he fails to give those details he is automatically guilty of a crime.

As to the chain - interesting. I know it would attract curiosity, but I seem to recall somewhere that in parts of America wearing a bullet proof vest is against the law if you are comitting a crime or are a felon.

As for the taser I'm not sure but I suspect it wouldn't work through chain since it's a conductor.

Cheers, Greg.
There may be some differences in NZ as opposed to UK here.

1. In these circumstances the armour guy can't be compelled to give a statement or act as a victim. He could be compelled to give details if he was deemed to be acting in an anti social manner (section 50 of the police reform act. That is in keeping with the letter of the law but not the spirit As he is a Good Samaritan in this case.

2. I don't know, I've never tasered a chain mailed chap before... I'd suspect it may work even better though. Either way as an officer and supervisor, I like as many tactical options at my disposal as possible and I would have one present and probably for that matter have a dog unit coming as well. Clearly he is handy, possibly has mental health issues and armoured so wouldn't be too much to assume he was armed as well.