Once the police questioning has finished the police must decide if there is enough evidence to charge the person. Depending on the severity of the crime, the police decide whether they can lay charges or whether this must be done by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The police can also decide to issue the person arrested with a formal caution.

What happens when someone is charged?

When someone is charged with an offence they are given a charge sheet with the details of the offence for which they are being charged, the date of their court appearance and any bail conditions that have been set.

What if they are not charged?

If the police do not feel they have enough evidence to make a charge then they will either release the person with no further action and the case will be dropped or they will delay making a decision until further information has been gathered.

How long will they be at the police station for?

A person cannot normally be held by the police for more than 24 hours without being charged or released.

In the cases of more serious offences a further 12 hour detention can be granted by a senior police officer and police can apply to a Magistrates Court to hold the suspect for up to 96 hours (four days). If arrested under suspicion of terrorism a judge can authorise the police to hold the person for up to 14 days.

If the police do not have enough evidence to charge someone they may only be detained if the police believe further detention will allow them to obtain the evidence they need to bring charges. If an investigation is continuing, the police can bail someone without charge to return to the police station at a fixed time and date.

This page was updated on January 2017