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Use of force powers, policy and legislation

Common Law

Common Law provides a use of force which applies to all persons to prevent a breach of the peace. To protect yourself or others from violence and to protect your own property.


S117 PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act)

  • When an arrest is made force may be used
  • Provides power of “reasonable” use of force under PACE powers unless consent is required (e.g. intimate samples)
  • Example – force to take fingerprints off a detained person who is refusing.
  • Where consent is required – no force can be used


S3 Criminal Law Act 1967

States – “Any person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances, in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large”


S76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 

Section 76(7) sets out two considerations that should be considered when deciding if force used was reasonable.

  • The force was used with a legitimate purpose
  • That force was used with a honest held belief that it was necessary


All officers must consider the below three questions when considering or apply the use of force, this is either an individual or of force or a collective use of force such as in a public order situation.

1) Does the use of force have a lawful objective?

2) Are there alternative means capable of achieving the lawful objective?

3) Have regard to the nature of the threat, what is the minimum force required to achieve the lawful objective?

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