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 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.
Arrest- If you are reasonably suspected of an crime a cop may arrest you if and only if it is necessary for a reason listed in s24 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. One of these is if they cannot ascertain your name or address. In theory for a section 50 you could be arrested on this ground, then give your details released by the police and then summonsed for not giving your name and address! You are under no legal obligation to give your name an address at any stage in the police station.
Bonus “In Court”update!
We have had recent cases of people refusing to give their details when brought to court. None of the five people so far have been found in contempt of court and all have been given bail to await trial. However 2 people were kept in prison for three weeks while the police attempted to find out their identity. Note they were not refused bail just held until the court had sufficient information to make a decision on bail. However all these people were charged with non-imprisonable offences or ones that were unlikely to attract a custodial sentence on conviction. The situation is likely to be different for more serious cases. Three are now charged with the section 50 offence so we may get a test case on that yet.
Andy Meinke – LDMG