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What is the Police Caution?

In England and Wales, police officers use the police caution as a verbal statement delivered to a suspect when they are arrested or interviewed. The police caution advises the suspect of their legal rights and the potential consequences of remaining silent or providing false information to the police. This webpage aims to provide an overview of the police caution and its significance in criminal law.

What is a police caution?

The police caution is a statement delivered by a police officer to a suspect who is under arrest or being interviewed as a voluntary attendee. The caution wording is standardized and typically reads:

"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."

The purpose of the police caution is to ensure that the suspect understands their legal rights and the potential consequences of their actions. What are the legal rights of a suspect?

Upon arrest, a suspect has several legal rights, including:

  • The right to remain silent: A suspect has the right to remain silent and not incriminate themselves. They do not have to answer any questions or make any statements if they do not want to.

  • The right to legal representation: A suspect has the right to have a solicitor present during questioning or to consult with a solicitor before answering any questions.

  • The right to medical attention: A suspect has the right to medical attention if they need it.

  • The right to inform someone: A suspect has the right to inform someone of their arrest and whereabouts.

What are the consequences of ignoring the police caution?

If a suspect ignores the police caution and provides false information to the police, or fails to mention anything which they later rely on in court, it may harm their defence. This is because their credibility may be called into question, and their defence may be weakened, as they failed to disclose relevant information or provide truthful answers during the investigation.

Additionally, any statements made by the suspect may be admissible as evidence in court, which can be used against them in a prosecution.


In conclusion, the police caution is a crucial element of the criminal justice process in England and Wales. It ensures that a suspect understands their legal rights and the consequences of their actions. Suspects should pay close attention to the caution and seek legal advice if they are unsure about their rights or how to proceed. By understanding the police caution, suspects can help protect their legal interests, and ensure that they receive a fair and just trial.



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