Dealing with the Police

If the police arrive, don't open the door, speak to them through the letter box. Explain that you are not a burglar; you are living there because you have nowhere else to live. Do not say that you broke in. You can say you were walking past and the door was open.

Be polite but firm with them. Once you are inside a place and have "secure access", (i.e. your own lock on the door) the main danger of arrest and prosecution is over. Try to get the front door reasonably secure as fast as possible (i.e. change the lock).

If the police insist on coming in, tell them that no arrestable offence is taking place and they should leave you alone. In the unlikely event that you are arrested, phone RELEASE (020 7603 8654) and they will put you in touch with a solicitor. You have the right to make one phone call. The police must release you within 24 hours, or charge you. You still do not have to tell them anything other than your name, address and date of birth.

N.B. you have the right to make more than one phone call if you need to, though when you get to do this depends on the vagaries of the desk sargeant .

If you are arrested and you've never been arrested before/don't feel confident about dealing with the cops, make sure you ask for a solicitor as the cops are not legally allowed to question you until they arrive. Don't accept the duty solicitor if you can help it, phone Release, or alternatively there should be a list at the front desk. Above all Don't Panic, and don't say anything until you've seen the solicitor. Being arrested isn't so bad, mostly its just very boring.

A common tactic for the police if they turn up is to try and arrest you for Abstracting Electricity - it is a defence to prove intention to pay - you do this by taking a meter reading and then signing on for an account at the earliest opportunity. If they try and nick you for this (most often its a way of bluffing their way inside) tell them you have the reading and plan to go to the Electric Board first thing in the morning.

The attitude of the police to squatters varies widely from area to area but often once you've convinced them you are a squatter they will go away as long as there is no obvious sign of damage.

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