I’ve read my fair share of crime novels and in more than a few of them there has been the threat of arrest or an actual arrest for obstruction of a police officer.
The offence under The Police Act 1996, s. 89 states:
Any person who resists or wilfully obstructs a constable in the execution of his duty, or a person assisting a constable in the execution of his duty, shall be guilty of an offence…
As you can see, this is a nifty little offence that can easily be used.
First, let’s look at the specific wording as I mentioned in previous posts that it was important.
A constable is a police officer of any rank and can be a uniformed officer or detective. They are all constables. Detective CONSTABLE. Though obviously rank doesn’t have constable in the title, they are still warranted constables. The chief of the whole police is a constable.
Note also that it applies to anyone assisting a constable, so if you have a PCSO assisting you, then it would also work here.
Resistance suggests a physical opposition. This can be the case. But obstruction does not and some examples of obstruction would be tipping off passing motorists about a speed trap area. (Sorry!) Providing misleading information, and making it more difficult for the constable to do their job. Refusing to answer your questions is not obstruction I’m afraid. Every one under arrest has a right to silence and if they’re not under arrest then they don’t have to answer your questions. This is one area I see the obstruct a constable offence used incorrectly in fiction.
The obstruction must be wilful.
If the person is attempting to help but it turns out it’s more harmful than helpful but their intention was to help, then you don’t have an offence.
What happens if you obstruct the police?
You could face a lengthy prison sentence of a month, more likely a fine. I never once used it or had cause to use it. But, it is a handy one to have in your back pocket. But if you’re threatening someone with something you always have to be prepared to carry it out or further threats will not be taken heed of.
You can find all other posts in this series HERE.
Rebecca Bradley is a retired UK police detective with over 15 years UK policing experience. Seven of those years were in uniform and the rest in a specialist investigative department where She handled multiple, serious and complex investigations. She is now a crime writer and offers a police procedural fact-checking service, available to all crime writers setting their work in England or Wales.
Please see THIS POST for further details.
Join my Writing Crime group. If you sign up to the group you will receive a police MG11 statement (a genuine statement paper – I found online) which I have written a statement on, using an incident that occurs at the end of my novella, Three Weeks Dead. So, it’s a genuine statement, authentically written by an ex-detective.
What else will you receive in this group?
Every month I will send you, either;
- Another document I have completed.
- A link to an online document I know will help you.
- Another police document that forms part of a police investigation.
All of these can be printed out and kept in a folder and your folder will grow with policing information that you, as writers, can use, or ignore, as you wish. It is fiction, but having the information means you can make an informed decision.
If you want to be a part of this group and to claim your first item (the completed statement) then go HERE.
Margot Kinberg says
As always, this is fascinating, Rebecca! And I can see how it could be woven into a crime plot. I like it that you gave specific examples, here, since some things are, and some things are not, obstruction.
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