It can be confusing what powers police have on the street and whether you have to give out personal information when asked. In previous case studies, we’ve discussed the certain procedures police must go through when performing a stop and search, but today we’ll answer the question ‘do you have to tell police your name in the UK*?’ and what can happen if you refuse.
It can sometimes feel as if the average person must follow or carry out every police request when stopped in public. However, this is not always true. Some personal information doesn’t need to be given in certain circumstances. Today we’ll highlight those circumstances and any implications it can cause.
Disclaimer: Please note that this article is not intended as legal advice and individuals should seek advice tailored to their own circumstances.
Do you have to tell police your name for ‘stop and account’?
If a police officer stops you on the street, they may ask you what your name is, what you’re doing in the area and where you’re going. These are known as ‘stop and account’ and do not mean you are guilty of a crime. You do not have to stop or answer any of these questions, and refusing to do so is not an offence.
There is one circumstance when you must answer if they ask for your details and this is when they have reason to believe you have engaged, or are engaging, in anti-social behaviour. Anti-social behaviour is defined as acting in a way that is causing or likely to cause distress to one or more people in another household. To be categorised as anti-social behaviour, the particular behaviour must be persistent.
In this particular instance it is a criminal offence to refuse to give your details. You can be arrested if the police think it’s necessary to do so in order to find out your name and address. You should never give false information. Doing so can be seen as obstructing the police in the course of their duty.
If there is no other reason to suspect you of a crime, refusing to give your details is not enough to arrest you. If they have no reasonable grounds to detain, search or arrest you then you are free to leave.
Do you have to tell police your name if you are being stopped and searched?
It’s important to know your rights when being stopped and searched. During a stop and search, a police officer may ask for your name, address, date of birth and what you are up to. You do not have to give these details unless the officer has pointed out an offence they suspect you have committed.
Do you have to tell police your name if you are arrested?
If you are arrested, you do not need to give your details to the police, either in public or at the station. This can delay your release; however, the police can only legally hold you for 24 hours unless further time has been authorised by either an officer at least the rank as a superintendent or a Magistrate/Justice of the Peace. After which you must be either charged or released, regardless of them gaining your details. Further details on police detention are highlighted in our previous blog about how long can police hold you in custody.
If you do decide to give your details, you only need to give your name, address and date of birth. But you are only legally obliged to give these details if and when you appear in court.
How HNK can help
We hope this post gives a better picture for do you have to tell police your name in a number of different circumstances. We believe everyone should have access to their rights in these situations and cover a number of topics on police procedures.
Our actions against the police team have fought many cases throughout the country. They are recognised as leaders in the field of human rights law and actions against the police. We are proud to offer a no-win-no-fee service, depending on the facts of your case and an initial assessment. This means you won’t have to pay a penny upfront.
If you feel you have been wrongly arrested or suffered an unlawful stop and search without reasonable grounds, HNK can help you claim action against the police. Visit our Actions Against the Police Page to find out more about pursuing a claim. Alternatively, call us on 0151 271 5387 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Please note that HNK can only advise on incidents that occur in England and Wales. *