O’Hara v Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary: HL 21 Nov 1996

Second Hand Knowledge Supports Resaobnable Belief

The plaintiff had been arrested on the basis of the 1984 Act. The officer had no particular knowledge of the plaintiff’s involvement, relying on a briefing which led to the arrest.
Held: A reasonable suspicion upon which an arrest was founded need not be based on the arresting officer’s own observations. All that is required is a genuine and reasonably based suspicion in the mind of the officer. The test as to whether there are reasonable grounds for suspicion to justify an arrest is partly subjective, in that the arresting officer must have formed a genuine suspicion that the person being arrested was guilty of an offence, and partly objective, in that there must be reasonable grounds for forming such a suspicion. Such grounds can arise from information received from another, even if it subsequently proves to be false, provided that a reasonable man, having regard to all the circumstances, would regard them as reasonable grounds for suspicion.
Lord Hope considered what was the level of suspicion necessary to found a valid arrest under the section, saying: ‘My Lords, the test which s 12(1) of the 1984 Act has laid down is a simple but practical one. It relates entirely to what is in the mind of the arresting officer when the power is exercised. In part it is a subjective test, because he must have formed a genuine suspicion in his own mind that the person has been concerned in acts of terrorism. In part also it is an objective one, because there must also be reasonable grounds for the suspicion which he has formed. But the application of the objective test does not require the court to look beyond what was in the mind of the arresting officer. It is the grounds which were in his mind at the time which must be found to be reasonable grounds for the suspicion which he has formed. All that the objective test requires is that these grounds be examined objectively and that they be judged at the time when the power was exercised.’
Lord Steyn said: ‘Certain general propositions about the powers of constables under a section such as section 12(1) can now be summarised. (1) In order to have a reasonable suspicion the constable need not have evidence amounting to a prima facie case. Ex hypothesi one is considering a preliminary stage of the investigation and information from an informer or a tip-off from a member of the public may be enough: Hussien v. Chong Fook Kam [1970] A.C. 942, 949. (2) Hearsay information may therefore afford a constable a reasonable ground to arrest. Such information may come from other officers: Hussien’s case, ibid. (3) The information which causes the constable to be suspicious of the individual must be in existence to the knowledge of the police officer at the time he makes the arrest. (4) The executive ‘discretion’ to arrest or not as Lord Diplock described it in Mohammed-Holgate v. Duke [1984] A.C. 437, 446, vests in the constable, who is engaged on the decision to arrest or not, and not in his superior officers.’ and
‘For obvious practical reasons police officers must be able to rely upon each other in taking decisions as to whom to arrest or where to search and in what circumstances. The statutory power does not require that the constable who exercises the power must be in possession of all the information which has led to a decision, perhaps taken by others, that the time has come for it to be exercised. What it does require is that the constable who exercises the power must first have equipped himself with sufficient information so that he has reasonable cause to suspect before the power is exercised.’

Lord Hope of Craighead
Gazette 15-Jan-1997, Times 13-Dec-1996, [1996] UKHL 6, [1997] AC 286, [1997] 1 All ER 129, [1997] 2 WLR 1, [1996] NI 8, [1997] Crim LR 432, [1997] 1 Cr App Rep 447
House of Lords, Bailii
Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984 12(1)
England and Wales
CitedCastorina v Chief Constable of Surrey CA 10-Jun-1988
Whether an officer had reasonable cause to arrest somebody without a warrant depended upon an objective assessment of the information available to him, and not upon his subjective beliefs. The court had three questions to ask (per Woolf LJ): ‘(a) . .
CitedHussien v Chong Fook Kam PC 7-Oct-1969
(Malaysia) The Board considered the propriety of an arrest by the police. Lord Devlin said: ‘An arrest occurs when a police officer states in terms that he is arresting or when he uses force to restrain the individual concerned. It occurs also when . .
DistinguishedMcKee v Chief Constable for Northern Ireland HL 1984
The House considered the state of mind of an officer required to allow an arrest under the section.
Held: Lord Roskill said: ‘On the true construction of section 11(1) of the statute, what matters is the state of mind of the arresting officer . .

Cited by:
CitedJarrett v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police CA 14-Feb-2003
The claimant sought damages for false imprisonment and assault after her wrongful arrest. She had waived her handbag at an officer investigating a disturbance and been arrested. The police said the arrest was lawful, she being suspected of common . .
CitedKeegan and Others v Chief Constable of Merseyside CA 3-Jul-2003
The police had information suggesting (wrongly) that a fugitive resided at an address. An armed raid followed, and the claimant occupant sought damages.
Held: The tort of malicious procurement of a search warrant required it to be established . .
MentionedCumming and others v Chief Constable of Northumbria Police CA 17-Dec-2003
The six claimants sought damages for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment. Each had been arrested on an officer’s suspicion. They operated CCTV equipment, and it appeared that tapes showing the commission of an offence had been tampered with. Each . .
CitedA, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, Mahmoud Abu Rideh Jamal Ajouaou v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 11-Aug-2004
The claimants had each been detained without trial for more than two years, being held as suspected terrorists. They were free leave to return to their own countries, but they feared for their lives if returned. They complained that the evidence . .
CitedAl-Fayed and others v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and others CA 25-Nov-2004
The appellants appealed from dismissal of their claims for wrongful imprisonment by the respondent. Each had attended at a police station for interview on allegations of theft. They had been arrested and held pending interview and then released. Mr . .
Appeal fromO’Hara v The United Kingdom ECHR 16-Oct-2001
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) No violation of Art. 5-1; Violation of Art. 5-3; Violation of Art. 5-5; Non-pecuniary damage – finding of violation sufficient; Costs and expenses partial award
CitedCoudrat v Revenue and Customs CA 26-May-2005
The claimant appealed against dismissal of his claim for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution against the Customs and Excise. He was arrested and held accused of VAT fraud. Proceedings were discontinued. He had signed an application for . .
CitedSaik, Regina v HL 3-May-2006
The defendant appealed aganst his conviction for conspiracy to engage in moneylaundering. At trial he pleaded guilty subject to a qualification that he had not known that the money was the proceeds of crime, though he may have suspected that it . .
CitedMB, Re, Secretary of State for the Home Department v MB Admn 12-Apr-2006
The applicant challenged the terms of a non-derogating control order. It was anticipated that unless prevented, he would fight against UK forces in Iraq.
Held: The section allowed the Secretary of State to impose any necessary conditions, but . .
CitedHough v Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police CA 14-Feb-2001
Where a constable arrested someone based upon information on the police national computer, he was not to be held accountable for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment, if the information upon which that had in turn been based, did not justify the . .
CitedCommissioner of Police of the Metropolis v Raissi CA 12-Nov-2008
The Commissioner appealed against an award of damages for false imprisonment. The claimant had been arrested shortly after a terrorist attack. The judge had held that they had no reasonable belief of his involvement. The Commissioner did not now . .
CitedAlexander, Farrelly and Others, Re Judicial Review QBNI 5-Mar-2009
Each claimant said that they had been wrongfully arrested, the arresting police officers having either failed to ask whether the arrest was necessary (Farrelly), or mistakenly concluding so.
Held: The Order now contained in regulation . .
CitedMercury Tax Group Ltd and Another, Regina (On the Application of) v HM Revenue and Customs and Others Admn 13-Nov-2008
The claimant sought judicial review of the lawfulness of search warrants given to the Commissioners and executed at their various offices. The Revenue had suspect the dishonest implementation of a tax avoidance scheme. The claimants said that there . .
CitedArmstrong v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police CA 5-Dec-2008
The Chief Constable appealed against a finding that the claimant had been arrested for rape without reasonable grounds. A description of the rapist had been given which the claimant met in several respects, but from which he clearly differed in . .
CitedHayes v Merseyside Police CA 29-Jul-2011
The claimant had been arrested after a complaint of harassment. The officer then contacted the complainant who then withdrew his complaint. The officer went to visit the complainant to discuss it further. On his return the claimant was released from . .
CitedHowarth v Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis QBD 3-Nov-2011
The claimant sought judicial review of a decision to search him whilst travelling to a public protest in London. A previous demonstration involving this group had resulted in criminal damage, but neither the claimant nor his companions were found to . .
CitedFitzpatrick and Others v The Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis QBD 11-Jan-2012
The claimants, two solicitors and their employer firm sought damages alleging trespass and malicious procurement by police officers in obtaining and executing search warrants against the firm in 2007 when they were investigating suspected offences . .
CitedMcCann v Crown Prosecution Service Admn 21-Aug-2015
Appeal by case stated against conviction for obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty. The appellant had been protesting. She, correctly, thought the land to be a rivate highway. The police officer had thought it a public hghway and . .
CitedLane and Another, Regina v SC 11-Jul-2018
The defendants were to be tried for allegedly sending funds abroad to support terrorism. The court now considered the meaning of the phrase ‘reasonable cause to suspect’ in the context of the anticipated use of the funds: ‘Does it mean that the . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Police, Criminal Practice

Leading Case

Updated: 20 November 2021; Ref: scu.135035

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