Section 49 RIPA 2000: Trending now in a Police custody suite near you
The powers available to Police under section 49 of The Regulatory Investigative Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 were once, only used in the most unique and complex cases; and historically most frequently in relation to allegations of terrorism. It was used as a tool to try and obtain information held on the phone, computer or any other electrical device of the person detained. However, the willingness of the Police to use power is seen in more and more cases at the Police Station, and now seems to form the basis of most investigations conducted, for a huge range of offences.
If you are arrested and the Police believe that your phone, laptop or any other electrical device that holds information that can help them prevent or detect crime, then they can seize it. The purpose of seizing a device is to see what information it contains, and more importantly to see if it contains evidence that they can use against you in their inquiry.
Whilst you are in custody, the Police will ask you to disclose to them any password, pin lock or encryption code.
Should you refuse to disclose any information that will allow the Police to examine your device, then the Police can apply to the Magistrates Court to obtain an order that places a burden on you to disclose such information to the Police; albeit there are defences available to not providing the password, pin lock or encryption code. Failure to comply with this order can result in you being charged with a separate offence which, if convicted or you plead guilty, can lead to a term of imprisonment of up to 2 years.
The Police may well still be able to access your device without your co-operation.
Only you know what information your device contains and how much harm it can cause you should you find yourself in a position where you face questioning under caution. It is another reason why it is so important to seek specialist legal advice if you are arrested or invited for a voluntary interview. The decisions taken at the investigation stage can have a huge impact on the direction of the case as a whole.
If you or a family member require police station assistance, you can call our out of hours number 0333 240 7373 at any time of the day or night, and follow the options that apply to your locality.