BRIXTON LEGAL: What to do if your child is arrested

Pam DouglasPam Douglas is a solicitor with local firm Wainwright & Cummins. Each month, she takes a common enquiry and asks one of her colleagues from the relevant department to answer it for our readers

This month, we’re tackling the question of what to do if your child is arrested and my colleague, Dominic Geodjenian, who’s part of our criminal law team, answers it below:

So, you’ve received the dreaded phone call from police telling you that your child has been arrested. What do you do?

First of all: don’t panic! At this stage, the police are only investigating an allegation of a criminal offence and they generally have 24 hours to do so.

They can make an arrest if they have “reasonable grounds” to suspect that a crime has been committed – most commonly a statement from a witness, CCTV or forensic evidence.

It’s important to remember that your child has rights while in custody, including the right to let a person of his choosing know that they have been arrested – which is the reason you received a call.

But, crucially, your child also has the right to free and independent legal advice. They can be represented by any solicitor of their choosing. I would always suggest that it should be someone who is local and has an awareness of community issues.

If you can’t get there, you should ask another responsible adult to go instead.

During the interview itself an “appropriate adult” (possibly you), who is able to help your child understand the proceedings, should be present with the solicitor.

You should attend the police station as soon as possible and ensure that your child has proper face-to-face legal advice before they answer any questions in interview.

The reason I say this is because, even if your child insists that they have done nothing wrong and wishes to explain that to the police, they could inadvertently make a comment which suggests otherwise or, if there are other people involved, could lead to a charge under “joint enterprise”.

This is where a person is present at a crime and is deemed to have encouraged or assisted in the commission of the offence. Obviously being able to explain to police why you were in the wrong place at the wrong time can be tricky for a child under emotional stress.

After the interview, police may either decide to charge your child with an offence and send them to court, bail them to come back on another date to give them time to continue their investigation, or drop the case and take no further action.

For further information please send an email or telephone 020 7095 5700.