What is the Right to Remain Silent? – Your Legal Rights When Arrested


If you have been arrested because of a suspected offence, the “right to silence” or the right to remain silent as it is more commonly known, is the right of suspects in England and Wales to refuse to answer questions. However, whilst this is an important legal right that can avoid self-incrimination or harming a case, most people do not fully understand their legal right once under police caution, and the importance of the right to remain silent. Especially until you have had legal advice.

If you have been arrested and taken to police custody, the police may question you about the crime you are suspected of and this will be recorded. The 'right to remain silent' means you do not have to answer the questions, but it is important to fully understand the consequences of how you behave during police questioning. The police must explain your rights to you by reading you the police caution:

“You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

If you have been arrested and taken to a police cell, it is important that you exercise your right to remain silent until you have received legal assistance and support from a criminal defence lawyer who will fully explain your rights and be there to guide you during your time in police custody.

Russell and Russell Criminal Defence Solicitors provide 24-hour legal advice lines so you can speak with one of our criminal defence lawyers when you need to. 

Your rights in custody

If you have been arrested and taken to a police station, the custody officer at the police station must explain your rights. You have the right to:

  • get free legal advice – you can contact us on our free 24hour legal helpline
  • tell someone where you are
  • have medical help if you’re feeling ill
  • see the rules the police must follow (‘Codes of Practice’)
  • see a written notice telling you about your rights, e.g. regular breaks for food and to use the toilet (you can ask for a notice in your language) or an interpreter to explain the notice 

Along with the rights described above, the police must also:

  • Provide you with an interpreter free of charge, if English is not your first language
  • Contact your embassy or consulate, should you request it, free of charge
  • Allow you or your solicitor to see documents and records relating to your arrest
  • Tell you why you have been arrested and detained
  • Tell you how long you can be detained for

Once at the police station, you will be searched (with the possibility of a strip search) and your possessions will be kept by the police custody officer while you are in the cell. You will also have your photograph and fingerprints taken – even if you do not consent.

Your Right to Free Legal Advice 

Everyone who is to be questioned under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) is entitled to free representation. You must be told about your right to free legal advice before you are questioned and whilst it is up to you if you choose to exercise this right, it is highly recommended that you speak with a solicitor before you are taken for a police interview.

You also have the right to see your legal representative in private. Without appropriate guidance, there is a chance you could say something that incriminates you or that could accidentally jeopardise your case. Your solicitor will also explain the consequences of not answering certain questions that may be put in front of a jury in the court. 

You will be offered a duty solicitor, free of charge, who are independent of the police and are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, you are entitled to contact a criminal defence solicitor of your choice. Normally, police are not allowed to question you until your legal representation has arrived or has advised you over the phone.

We operate a 24-hour service,  so if it is suggested that ‘it’s too late the solicitor won’t answer the phone’  or something to that effect, it is simply not true. We will always answer the call. 

If it is suggested by the police that they don’t know the firm or the particular solicitor you have named,  or the firm is too far away, that is irrelevant and not up to them to say. They simply need to contact the central call centre who dispatch the matters and hold a record of all the contact details for all the firms in the country.   We will then give you the appropriate advice and guidance ourselves.

Our criminal defence lawyers can help you

There are various legal rights you are entitled to and our expert criminal defence solicitors can explain these to you if you have been accused of a crime and detained by the police. Our defence team have a proven track record of dealing with police station attendances and can represent clients across the North West and North Wales. 

We also have several Higher Court Advocates who can represent you at both Magistrates’ and Crown court should your and we are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so access to justice is always at hand. Put simply, Russell & Russell Solicitors defence lawyers are experts in what they do.  

Get Free Legal Advice Now

Russell and Russell Criminal Defence Solicitors provide 24-hour legal advice lines so you can speak with one of our criminal defence lawyers when you need to. Call:

Chester: 01244 405733

Manchester: 01204 381999

Or you can make an online enquiry and one of our team will be in touch. 


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