• In the case of Collin v Wilcock 1984 3 ALL ER 374, it was held that where a Police Officer, without exercising his power of arrests, seeks to stop, and detain a person with the actual or threatened use of force, the act of detention is unlawful: nor is there a power to stop and detain a suspected prostitute for the purpose of cautioning her.

Facts of the Case

  • D and another person, a known prostitute was seen by police officers apparently soliciting men in the street.
  • The other woman agreed to be questioned but D refused and walked away.
  • A police officer took her arm to restrain her when she swore at her.
  • She then swore again and scratched the officer’s arm.
  • She was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer in the execution of her duty which is contrary to the Police Act 1964 s.51(1).
  • She was then convicted of assault.

Issues in Collin v Wilcock 1984 3 ALL ER 374

  • Was the Police Officer’s act lawful in the attempt to detail the woman.

Held by Divisional Court

  • Appeal allowed

Robert Goff LJ

  • Here, the use of force when not exercising a power of arrest was held to be unlawful.
  • Although the Street Offences Act 1959 s.2 recognised the practice of cautioning a woman suspected of loitering or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution, there was no implied power to stop and detain to implement the system of cautioning.
  • “The fact that the statute recognises the practice of cautioning by providing a review procedure does not, in our judgment, ^ carry with it an implication that police officers have the power to stop  and detain women for the purpose of implementing the system of cautioning. If it had been intended to confer any such power on police officers that power could and should, in our judgment, have been expressly conferred by the statute. Next, Mr. Armstrong submitted that the purpose of the police officer was simply to carry out the cautioning Q procedure and that, having regard to her purpose, her action could not  be regarded as unlawful. Again, we cannot accept that submission. If the physical contact went beyond what is allowed by law, the mere fact that the police officer had the laudable intention of carrying out the cautioning procedure in accordance with established practice cannot, we think, have the effect of rendering her action lawful. Finally, Mr. Armstrong submitted that the question whether the police officer was or D was not acting in the execution of her duty was a question of fact for the magistrate to decide; and that he was entitled, on the facts found by him to conclude that the prosecutrix had been acting lawfully. We cannot agree. The fact is that the prosecutrix took hold of the defendant by the left arm to restrain her. In so acting, she was not proceeding to arrest the defendant; and since her action went beyond the generally acceptable g conduct of touching a person to engage his or her attention, it must follow, in our judgment, that her action constituted a battery on the defendant, and was therefore unlawful. It follows that the defendant’s appeal must be allowed, and her conviction quashed.” Pg.1180