Police powers / Questioning

Stop and Account

Disclaimer: this article is for general information. It’s not intended to be used as legal advice. For information on how to get legal advice, please see our page here.

What is stop and account?

Police officers and police community support officers (PCSO) can ask you questions, just like anyone else. “Stop and account” is when the police ask you questions about who you are and what you are doing in an area. This is different to stop and search, which is covered on our website here. For information on disabled people’s rights, please see here.

What can the police ask me?

  • What is your name?
  • Where do you live?
  • What are you doing here?
  • Where are you going?
  • What are you carrying?

If the police officer is not in uniform, they have to show their warrant card to prove their identity.


Do I have to answer?

In general, you do not have to answer these questions if you don’t want to. Under stop and account, you have the legal right to walk away and refuse to answer the police.

So if the police are asking you to stop because they want you to answer their questions:

  • The police can’t touch you
  • The police can’t search you
  • The police can’t force you to stay
  • The police can’t arrest you if you don’t answer or if you walk away unless they believe you are acting antisocially. More on this is below.

They can only do these things if they have a specific power to do so. Please see our pages on stop and search and arrest for more information about this.

Top Tip

Remember, ’stop and account’ is not the same as ‘stop and search’. Under ‘stop and search’ the police have greater powers – so don’t mix them up. If you are stopped by police, ask them what the reason is.

When do I have to answer police questions if I’m stopped by the police?

If the police believe that you have behaved in an anti-social way, they can ask you to give them your name and address. Anti-social behaviour is defined as behaviour likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress”.

These are called Section 50 powers. This is because Section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002 gives the police this power.

If you refuse to tell them, or if you give them the wrong name and address, this is a criminal offence. This means that you have broken the law and committed a crime. If you are found guilty, you may have to pay a fine.

The police can also arrest you if they think it’s necessary to do so that they can find out your name and address.

You can find more information about this in our article on answering police questions.

More information is also on our page on stop and account and disabled people’s rights.

Never purposefully give false information. This could be seen as an offence of obstructing the police in the course of their duty.

Can I get a record of what happened?

It depends. Some police forces make a record of a ‘stop and account’. Ask the officer or PCSO if they are making a record. If so, you can ask for a copy.

What if I want to complain?

You have the right to complain if you are unhappy with the way the police treated you. You can visit our pages here for more information.

If you are able to get a record, this will help if you want to make a complaint.

If you think that the police broke the law, for example by making you stay and not giving a reason, you might want to speak to a lawyer.

You can visit our pages on finding a lawyer and look for a lawyer who specialises in actions against the police.

What are my rights on this?

Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them

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