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This is a short guide for women who want to know more about police powers.


Camping is not unlawful, under the byelaws, on MoD land surrounding AWE Aldermaston; neither is attaching things to the fence. Meeting, protest, and recreation have never been unlawful under the bylaws. At AWE Burghfield, camping is prohibited under the byelaws but attaching things to the fence is not.

The byelaws prohibit some activities in the ‘Controlled Area’, which is the area of public access surrounding AWE marked by concrete triangular bollards and red signs. There are also ‘Protected Areas’, under the byelaws, within the perimeter fence with further prohibitions but trespass within the perimeter fence is, in most places, a byelaw offence, and may also be covered by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, Section 128 (SOCPA) so you are unlikely to need to know the other prohibited activities. Within the perimeter fence are some areas that may be either ‘Controlled’ or ‘Protected’ areas, but nowhere outside of the perimeter fence is part of the Protected Area. All the MoD owned land that you have access to outside of the perimeter fence is an area that the lovely government has specifically invited the public to use.

MoD police

The police you meet at AWE are likely to be MoD police. They will probably visit the camp during the weekend, and may also stop and talk to women walking around the perimeter. They often ask women for their ‘details’, but they have no power to require your name or address or any other information.

You do not have to tell the police your name or address or any other information.

You also do not have to explain why you are there, where you are going, what your plans are, how many of you there are or how you got there. The camp is on public access land, next to a public highway, and you have the right to freedom of expression and opinion, to access MoD land surrounding AWE Aldermaston and to pass, and re-pass, on the highway. Unless you have been arrested or detained under specific stop and search powers (see ‘Stop and Search’ below), you are free to go; the police cannot detain you to ask you questions. If the police question anyone with a view to gathering evidence about a suspected criminal offence, they should first caution them.

The only exception to the general rule about not needing to give your ‘details’ is if the police tell you that they are reporting you for an offence. In that case, if you don’t tell
them your name and address, you could be arrested instead of being reported. It would be very obvious if this was happening, so there’s no need to tell them your name and address just in case.

When the police stop someone and ask them to account for their presence or actions, they call this a ‘stop and account’ but they do not have any particular power to do this under any legislation. They are no longer required to provide you with a record of the encounter. They usually get out their notebooks but this does not mean you have to give them information or even stop and talk to them at all. In the unlikely event of any problems, if at all possible, let us know by phoning the emergency number at camp, or, if you are near to the camp, shout for someone.

The police should always be polite and professional. If they are not they may be in breach of their codes of practice or the law.

It is not unlawful to take photographs in a public place, including around AWE. The police do not have the power to view your photographs, taken on digital cameras or phones.

Stop and search

This is extremely unlikely to happen. For the police to conduct a search they need to have reasonable grounds to suspect you of a crime. They could search someone if they reasonably suspect that person of carrying drugs, stolen goods, an offensive weapon or items that could be used to cause damage to property. There are also some other circumstances in which they can stop and search someone, such as under the Terrorism Act.

If the police say they are going to search you under one of these powers, which they must specify, you still do not have to tell them your name and address or any other information.

They may tell you that you have been detained for the purposes of the search. This does not mean that you are under arrest, just that you have to wait for them to conduct their search and then you are free to go.

If you are searched you have a right to a written record of the search giving the date,
time and place of the search, the identity of the police officer conducting the search, the
grounds for the search and the objectives of the search. The search should be limited to the objectives, for example, if they say that they are looking for a large item they should not look in your small handbag. If they don’t volunteer the record of the search you can ask for it. If you forget to ask for a record, you can still ask for it within three months.

You should not be required to remove any clothing apart from outer clothing like a coat (and then only if they are specifically looking for something that could be concealed under your coat). This is a different power to search on arrest, which can be a general search. You cannot refuse a search; if you think that the search is unlawful the best thing to do is to pay attention and either make contemporaneous notes (it’s helpful if someone else does that) or write down what you remember as soon as you next get a chance. Alternatively use a mobile phone to record if possible. This will make it easier to make a complaint or take legal action against the police such as a private prosecution or civil action.

There are similar powers to search vehicles providing there is reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion means the existence of facts or information that would satisfy an objective observer that you might be involved in a crime. It is not a general suspicion that you might be a protester, for example. Protest is a protected right and there are no special powers at Aldermaston preventing protest.

You do not need to know or remember all your rights and if in doubt about anything you can always ask. The police should be willing to explain to you what they are proposing to do and under which powers they think they are acting. You should not be denied your rights whether you know what they are or not. It is not obstruction of the police to ask them about what they are doing or proposing to do or request to know under which powers they are acting. At Aldermaston the police may be inexperienced and patience is sometimes needed.

It is perfectly acceptable to ask the police which powers they are using in any situation and even if you think you know it can be very useful to clarify and to hear it explicitly stated, especially when there are witnesses or you are recording the encounter. It can also help them to focus on not exceeding their powers.


Almost all of our collective experience of arrest has been through planned peaceful actions where arrest was always on the cards at events other than our regular monthly camp. Simply attending a lawful peaceful protest at Aldermaston carries an incredibly small risk of arrest (which of course should be zero!). We have included this section just in case, but it is important to be aware of the following information even if, or especially if, you have absolutely no plans to do anything that might have the remotest risk of arrest.

In the extremely unlikely event that you are wrongfully arrested, the police should inform you that you are being arrested, and tell you what you are being arrested for. They should caution you. This means they will say something along the lines of ‘I am arresting you on suspicion of blah blah, you do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something that you later rely on in court, anything you do say may be given in evidence’. They might also say something about needing to detain you for the purposes of investigating the suspected offence.

After any caution and until you are released your words now have a different legal significance.

The important parts of this speech are: you do not have to say anything and anything you say may be given in evidence. This is not the time to try to explain your actions or defend yourself. Sometimes the caution will be followed by the question: ‘do you understand?’ They might also ask ‘do have anything to say?’ or ‘what is your reply to caution?’ Whatever they say, once they have stopped talking: you do not have to reply to caution. It might seem a bit strange or impolite to not answer a direct question but you have just been cautioned that you do not have to say anything and it is your legal right to remain silent. Confusingly, you can be also cautioned without being arrested, for example, if you are stopped for a traffic offence.

If we know you’ve been arrested, we will do our best to track you down and collect you from the police station. Normally the police would eventually ask if you want anyone informed. It’s a good idea to ask them to inform your fellow campers through the designated phone number because then we know that you’ve reached a police station and where it is. Sometimes the police will give us an idea of how long it’s all going to take and we can let them know that we’re going to collect you. If you see someone being arrested, please try to observe, makes notes if possible, and let someone know.

With any arrest it’s best to exercise your right to silence, be patient and don’t be concerned about anything the police may predict because in practice it will hardly ever materialise and is just designed to worry you so that you are more likely to give them evidence by talking to them. If the police decide to interview you, remember: you do not have to say anything. They may try to persuade you that it is in your interests to give your side of the story or explain yourself: it is not. The overwhelming majority of convictions in the UK are through confessions, overheard incriminating chat, answers to innocuous sounding questions, well meaning but misguided attempts to ‘put your side of things’ or pleading guilty! Hardly any are through brilliant detective work and physical evidence. Something you might assume to be lawful may not be, so your explanation may actually do more harm than good and narrow your defence options. "No comment" is the best policy. Being in custody can be worrying and disorientating but is one of those things that it’s best to wait out and worry about later when you’ve had proper sleep, food and taken legal advice. It is generally not necessary to consult a lawyer while in custody. If you’re arrested on your own it can be quite a lonely experience and even if you are with others you will most likely be separated at the police station, but there will be support when you’re released and throughout any possible further proceedings.


The same laws apply as anywhere else. If you’re driving on a public road the police can stop you, usually by attracting your attention and then directing you to pull over. The police can require you to produce your documents; if you don’t have them they can require you to produce them at a police station of your choice within 7 days.

They may breathalyse you in some circumstances. If they want to search the vehicle your rights are the same as for any other stop and search.

If you are not driving, but the police know you have a vehicle, they do not have the power to require you to produce you documents unless they suspect that you have very recently committed a traffic offence while driving that vehicle and for some reason they didn’t manage to get the opportunity to stop you before you got out of the car. If you are sitting around the camp fire, for example, and the police say ‘whose is that car?’ they cannot demand your documents or details, but if you’re parked on MoD land they might ask you move. If you’re legally parked on the highway they have no power to require the name of the driver (but of course they can look up the registered keeper on their computers). If the police ask about a particular car that’s not yours it’s best to leave it up to the driver to decide what to do.

Passengers in a car stopped by police do not have to give any details.


If you have any encounter with the police where they are uncivil, detain you unlawfully, search you unlawfully, steal any of your possessions, interfere with your lawful business, assault you, damage your property, enter premises without a warrant, or misuse or exceed any of their powers, you can make a complaint. To do this you need to be able to identify the police concerned. Remember - they do not have a right to your 'details' but you have a right to know theirs.
07969 739 812
May 2013
For further information about arrest, see
our legal briefing: