Police Misconduct FAQs

If you’ve been arrested but have not committed a crime, remember that you have the right to be treated lawfully, fairly and with respect by the police. Should you feel an arrest, or search, has been unlawful, contact our specialists at a later date for free legal advice.

How long can the police keep me in custody?

You can only be held in police custody for up to 24 hours; after that the police must either charge you with a crime or release you.

Extensions can be applied for – up to 36 or 96 hours if you’re suspected of a serious crime and 14 days if you’re arrested under the Terrorism Act. If you are held for longer than appropriate this can constitute unlawful imprisonment.

Our experts

Andrew Petherbridge

Lawyer and Head of Civil Liberties


There are some circumstances under which you may have a claim for false imprisonment by the police, even if you were not actually taken into custody.

Misuse of stop and search powers and containing crowds without letting individuals leave an area (known as “kettling”) can potentially lead to claims of unlawful imprisonment.

Why should I seek legal advice?

The number of allegations against police forces in England and Wales soared to 69,571 in the 12 months from April 2014 to April 2015 – a 13 per cent rise.

However, when matters were investigated by the forces involved themselves, just 19 per cent of complaint investigation appeals were successful. When cases were passed on to be considered by the IOPC, 39 per cent were successful.

Such a large discrepancy in outcomes casts doubt over the fairness of hearings heard by forces themselves. Many people turn to us when they have become frustrated with the internal police complaints procedures.

With our legal expertise and experience, we will ensure full investigations are carried out into your individual case as part of your claim.

Do I have to make a complaint to the police force or the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) before seeking legal advice?

Not necessarily, although we will generally advise people to do this before we consider accepting instructions. Some complaints will be handled by the force’s own internal professional standards Department, but others may be so serious in terms of the allegations made that they have to be passed to the IOPC.

Is there any evidence of misconduct I will need?

If you want to make a complaint or take legal action against the police then it helps to have names and addresses of any witnesses, and to have made a written record from yourself as soon as possible after the event.

It should be witnessed, dated and signed. If you are injured, or property is damaged, then photographs or video recordings, taken as soon as possible, will help. Physical injuries should also be medically examined.

How much will my claim be worth?

This depends on many factors and varies largely from case to case. Factors which will be considered in all cases are the nature of a wrongful arrest, how long you were unlawfully detained for as a result and the impact on your life, and any injuries suffered as a result of excessive force, battery or assault committed by the police.

Any aggravating factors will also be taken into consideration, such as being unlawfully arrested in front of your family, friends or colleagues, or if an unlawful action does harm to your standing in the community or workplace.

How long do I have to bring a claim?

Timescales to make claims vary dependent upon the type of case. Victims have six years to make a claim for unlawful arrest, three years for assault, and one year for breaches of Human Rights.

Will my case be handled on a ‘No win no fee’ basis?

Yes it will. Simply explained, making a claim for compensation will not cost you a penny up front, and if successful, you will only be expected to pay a contribution to your solicitor’s fees at the conclusion. These costs are usually a percentage of the compensation you are awarded, which will be agreed prior to your case proceedings.

Am I eligible to receive legal aid?

In certain circumstances, we may also be able to provide legal aid cover. Please call our dedicated civil liberties team today to find out if you’re eligible to receive legal aid.

Do you accept instructions in criminal cases?

No, we do not represent people facing legal prosecutions themselves. Neither can we represent people who wish to make complaints about the standard of police investigations into crimes committed against them. We solely focus on representing people in civil claims against the police for misconduct.

No Win No Fee | Legal Aid Cover Available

  • personal insurance cover so there’s no financial risk to you in pursuing a claim
  • whatever the outcome of your case, you won’t have to pay a penny (provided that you fully assist us with your claim) other than an agreed percentage of your damages
  • legal aid assistance is available in some circumstances


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