LEGAL EAGLE: Resisting arrest in the light of the murder of Sarah Everard

Since news broke of the false arrest of Sarah Everard before her murder at the hands of a police officer, I have seen loads of advice on social media about calmly resisting arrest if male officer(s) try to arrest you as a lone female. Is this good advice?

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 1:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 1:45 pm
A person obstructs or resists a police constable if he or she makes it more difficult for him to carry out his duty.

I have been asked this question so many times recently. I will start by saying I have no criticism whatsoever of Ms Everard for allowing Wayne Couzens to arrest her or getting into his car.

Your concerns are understandable. Advice to call 999 and check the identity of an officer is good advice – which in the case you refer to would not have prompted any warning, as Mr Couzens was a serving police officer. It is well established law that a police officer can still act as a police officer, for example carry out an arrest, when not on shift.

Section 89 of the Police Act 1996 states: “Any person who resists or wilfully obstructs a constable in the execution of his duty… shall be guilty of an offence and liable… to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or to a fine”

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A person obstructs or resists a police constable if he or she makes it more difficult for him to carry out his duty. Arguably making an officer wait whilst you verify their identity makes it more difficult. There are cases where running away to evade arrest amounted to obstructing police. Using force can be a far more serious offence of assaulting an emergency worker and under current law, you can be guilty of an assault on an emergency worker even when that worker is not acting lawfully at the time.

It is a defence to demonstrate that your actions were in reasonable and proportionate self defence. This means if the circumstances are such that you can establish you needed to defend yourself, and your actions in doing so were no more than necessary in those particular circumstances, you would have a defence to offer the Court if you were charged with resisting or obstructing police.

Should you ever find yourself arrested you are entitled to free and independent legal advice either from a solicitor of your choice or the duty solicitor. If you are accused of resisting or obstructing police in circumstances in which you felt threatened and refused to be arrested, it is essential that you seek advice as early as possible. And of course, always call 999 if you need the assistance of emergency services in an emergency situation.

For further information please contact Ben Hoare Bell LLP on 0191 565 3112 or email [email protected] Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for further information.