A criminal investigation begins when the police suspect a crime may have been committed. The police conduct the investigation and gather evidence. In serious cases once the police believe they have enough evidence to charge they liaise with the
Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which usually decides what, if any, charges are suitable. It may request further investigation.
If the police identify you as a suspect, the first key stage is the decision to arrest you.
After a period in custody for questioning, the next key stage is the decision to charge. If the police need to conduct further investigations and you do not need to be held in custody the police must release you either without charge or on police bail asking you to return to a police station at a later date.
If however, you are to be charged with an offence and the police decide you should still be kept in custody, you will be taken to a court to decide whether or not to release you on bail before the trial.
If you are being investigated for alleged terrorist offences your rights, and the police powers, are different from those discussed below (see the
Terrorism Act 2000 which is outside the scope of these factsheets).
If you are under 18 there are additional safeguards. Ask your lawyer to explain them.
Click on the links below for more information about your rights before the case goes to court: