Nobody made arrests that turned out to be unlawful deliberately. They were made either out of ignorance of the law which was inexcusable or out of ignorance of the circumstances normally where a decision to arrest was the only apparent solution to a problem at the time.
However, any unlawful arrest was likely to have serious consequences to the official making it.
One arrest that had me really worried afterwards occured one Christmas Eve.
I was duty driver around midnight on Christmas Eve when a telephone message called for assistance at the Stag and Pheasant pub on Huddersfield Road.
The officer on that beat had run in for help from the Police Box at the top of Webster Hill. I took a constable with me in the Police van, joined the beat constable and we decided the plan of action. The two foot constables would go into the pub whilst I parked the van up on the pavement and partly on the small forecourt of the pub. Anyone thrown out of the pub front door was “arrested” and I would put them in the van.
Shortly, bodies began to be ejected from the pub and I was grabbing them and putting them in the van. Some were blind drunk, some were staggering and some calmy accepted directions to get in the van.
Within five or ten minutes, order in the pub was restored. I had eleven men locked in the van and the two foot constables emerged from the pub. The beat man would resume his duties and the other officer and me took the prisoners back to the police station. There, they were searched and put in the cells. The system with drunks was to allow them to sober up before charging them and bailing them to appear at the next Magistrates’ Court.
The officer who had accompanied me in the van was on one of the town beats and he had to come in at 5.30am when he and I would take the details of each prisoner, indicate with what offence he was charged and the duty Inspector would charge each one and grant bail.
Eleven men in various stages of recovery from alcohol were individually charged with being drunk and disorderly and left the station.
The overnight beat man came into the station at 6am and we three officers who had been involved in the arrests had to make out a report of the events that tallied with what each had entered in his pocket book and the report would form the evidence to support each and every charge.
Consternation! The two beat men had thrown out ten drunks. I had put eleven men in the van. Eleven men had been charged and bailed with appropriate entries in the charge book, the station log and the custody sheets which showed the men’s detention in the cells.
We three had our own inquest as to what had happened and I realised that in grabbing each man and putting him in the van, I could now recall that one man I had grabbed had not come from the pub but had simple being passing along the footpath at the crucial time.
My two colleagues could only provide evidence of arresting ten men between them.
Number 11 was mine and mine alone. There was no way the other two could change their evidence to help me. It would simply leave me holding the baby.
We decided we would sit tight, not even telling our superior officers and see what happened three days hence when the eleven appeared before the Magistrates. If Number 11 objected to the charge, I would have to explain as best I could. The 27th December, the day of court, came round.
Several officers attended court, including we three, as there were a large number of offenders appearing for a variety of offences committed over Christmas. We checked that our eleven were present and nervously awaited our turn.
The prosecuting officer was the Chief Inspector who was second only in rank to the Chief Constable. He of course was not aware of phantom prisoner Number 11.
All eleven stood in the dock. To each one his name and the charge of drunk and disorderly was read out and he was asked to plead guilty or not guilty. Then men each answered “Guilty, Your Worship” and I had the sinking feeling that Number 11 was going to say “Not Guilty, Your Worship”
This was it. I was going to have to give evidence before the Magistrate for something I could not justify. They were going to give me a roasting. That would be nothing to the roasting I would get from the Chief Inspector. I was going to be in for it.
“Guilty, Your Worship” replied Number 11 and what relief I felt.
The magistrate said, “You will all be fined 10 shillings”
Number 11 was a stranger to me. I had no idea why he had pleaded guilty and I thought it prudent not to broach it to him after the court hearing or to anyone else after that.