Communtity Law Manual | Police powers | Use of force in making an arrest

Being arrested or detained (held) by the police: Their powers and your rights

Use of force in making an arrest

Can the police use force in making an arrest?

Crimes Act 1961, ss 39, 40

When they’re making an arrest, the police can use reasonable force to overcome force used by the person to resist arrest. They can only use the least amount of force necessary in the situation.

The police can also use reasonable force to prevent someone trying to avoid arrest or to escape after arrest.

What can I do if the police use unnecessary force against me?

Crimes Act 1961, s 62

If you believe the police have used inappropriate or excessive force against you, you can:

  • make a criminal complaint to the police – this could result in the police officer concerned being charged with assault or some other crime
  • bring a civil case against the police for damages (compensation)
  • complain to the police and ask them to do an internal police investigation. This could result in disciplinary charges being laid against the relevant police officer
  • complain to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (see “Complaints about the police” in this chapter).

If the police use excessive force against you, this may mean that the arrest was unreasonable and that your rights have been breached. This applies even if the police are exercising power under a warrant (see “Your rights when dealing with the police” in this chapter).

The court may rule that any evidence obtained as a consequence of the arrest is inadmissible.

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