CORONAVIRUS UPDATE 13/4/20: Under emergency powers, there is no general obligation for you to give name, address or personal details to police officers that stop you in the street (unless you are driving a vehicle, in which case see below). You are also not legally obliged to explain what you are doing or why you are out of the house. You are only obliged to give them your name and address if you are ‘reasonably’ suspected of being infected (e.g. you are showing symptoms or have tested positive for the virus). For more info on the police’s craven abuse of power during lockdown, see this piece by Carl Spender.
This has become very complicated and is causing much confusion. Here’s the position as we see it. You do not have to give your name and address unless under a specific legal obligation (Rice v Connolly 1966). Refusal to give your name and address cannot amount to obstructing the police in the course of their duty under s89(2) of the Police Act 1996 but giving a false name and address can.
There are new laws about giving details at the police station after arrest and in court. S159 of the Policing and crime act 2017 makes it an offence not to state your nationality at the police station and s160 to fail to produce documents proving your nationality (no idea what will happen if you don’t have any). You are now required to state your name, address, date of birth and nationality at your first court appearence (s162). All three offences have a maximum sentence of 6 months.
There are a number of laws which make refusal or giving a false name and address to a constable a crime. All have a maximum penalty of a fine. There are also heaps of bye-laws that can penalise you for refusing to give your details. We say all this is incompatible with article 10 & 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
1. Anti Social Behaviour. If you are reasonably believed to be committing anti-social behaviour (s50 Police Reform Act 2002). Anti social behaviour is defined as behaviour likely to cause Harassment Alarm or Distress the same as the offence under s5 Public Order Act 1986. Given that, any prosecution should be tied to a s5 (or more serious) offence. A stand alone case seems to invalidate the “reasonable belief” as if the constable had reasonable belief (a higher standard than the reasonable suspicion he would require to arrest for s5) why isn’t it being prosecuted? Presumably because the CPS don’t think his belief credible enough to give at least a 50% chance of conviction. We know of no test case on section 50. If and when one arises we imagine the following arguments to be used on appeal against conviction disregarding disputes as to the facts. A. Necessity. You didn’t want to give your address to the police as you feared it would be used by them to harass you or they would give it to the press or far right groups making you vulnerable to attack. B. European Convention on Human Rights Art 6- Fair Trial. The argument is you should not have to incriminate yourself by remaining silent. This failed in Strasbourg for a motoring case but this may be different. C. ECHR Article 8- Privacy and Family Life. Intrusions have to be not only lawful but “proportionate” and “necessary in a democratic society“. D. ECHR Article 10 & 11. Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly. Being forced to give your details on a demonstration would have a “chilling effect” on legitimate protest.
2. Driving. If you are the driver of any vehicle including pedal cycles you can be required to give your name, address and date of birth (Road Traffic Act 1988 s163-168).
3. Assorted, little invoked laws.
There are various other laws where you are required to give your name and address: Obscure Pedestrians reasonably suspected of failing to obey directions of a constable directing traffic who fail to give details commit a crime under s169 RTA; If you are a reasonably suspected of poaching in daytime (Game Act 1831 s31-31A), disrupting a public meeting (s3 Public Meeting Act 1908) or disrupting an electoral meeting (Representation of the People Act 1983 s97) but for both only on a request from the chair of the meeting; Pedlars must give their name and address on demand to a constable (Pedlars Act 1871 s17).
Bizarrely there are different rules for Police Community Support Officers giving them wider powers than the police to demand your name and address if they reasonably suspect you of certain offences or anti-social behaviour. (schedule 4 Police Reform Act 2002).
Lastly….when you don’t have to give your details but your mate down the pub reckons you do.
You don’t have to give your name and address, whatever type of search is carried out. This includes s43 & s44 Terrorism Act 2000, Conservation of Seals Act, Protection of Badgers Act, the lot.
Andy Meinke – LDMG