UK: Admissibility Of Evidence Obtained In Breach Of Section 30 PACE

Last Updated: 25 September 2012

Article by Kabir Sondhi, pupil at 6 Kings Bench Walk


This article aims to explore the practical utility of the Court of Appeal's decision in the recent case of R v. King [2012] EWCA Crim 805 (Pitchford LJ, Cox J & Burnett J, dated 27th April 2012), in which the Court was asked to decide a novel point relating to the admissibility of evidence obtained in breach of the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE).

The appellant appealed on the ground, inter alia, that a covert recording of an incriminating conversation between himself and a co-accused - made after arrest but before conveyance to a police station - should have been excluded on the basis that it had been obtained in breach of the police's duty under section 30 PACE to convey the appellant to a police station as soon as practicable after arrest.

The Court, whilst denying the appeal, acknowledged that a deliberate breach of the duty under section 30 is capable of rendering inadmissible evidence obtained as a result of that breach. The Court held that, although the policy behind section 30 is to bring a suspect within the protection of PACE Code C as soon as practicable, the mere fact of a breach of section 30 does not place evidence obtained during that breach into a separate category where unfairness is presumed - the fairness of its admissibility depends on the factual circumstances in which it was obtained.

Legislative Provisions

Section 30 PACE sets out the following:

"(1) Subsection (1A) applies where a person is, at any place other than a police station -

(a) arrested by a constable for an offence, or

(b) taken into custody by a constable after being arrested for an offence by a person other than a constable.

(1A) The person must be taken by a constable to a police station as soon as practicable after the arrest.


(10) Nothing in subsection (1A) or in section 30A prevents a constable delaying taking a person to a police or releasing him on bail if the condition in subsection (10A) is satisfied.

(10A) The condition is that the presence of the person at a place (other than a police station) is necessary in order to carry out such investigations as it is reasonable to carry out immediately.

(11) Where there is any such delay the reasons for the delay must be recorded when the person first arrives at the police station or (as the case may be) is released on bail."


The appellant was convicted of various offences involving conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs (as well as related firearms and proceeds of crime offences) after a trial at Canterbury Crown Court. He was sentenced to a total of 18 years imprisonment.

Undercover police had begun to purchase drugs from a supplier (MN) but did not know the identity of the overall source, although they suspected it to be the appellant. A senior officer had issued a written policy decision stating that, should MN visit the travellers' site where the appellant was the senior resident, a tactical team should enter and arrest persons at the scene. It went on to say that, should MN meet with an occupant of the site, "both arrested persons will be placed for a period of time together in a police vehicle with recording facilities... They will be left unsupervised and their presence and any conversation will be recorded." This policy decision was justified by reference to the decision in R v. Bailey and Smith [1993] 97 Cr App R 365 (in which covert surveillance of incriminating conversations between prisoners in a cell after arrest and interview was held to be admissible). However, the policy was silent as to the police's duties under section 30 PACE.

When MN visited the appellant, around 150 officers attended the site in convoy. The appellant and MN were arrested at 10:20am. Police detained both men on site for over an hour before placing them in the back of a patrol car fitted with recording equipment. During the six minutes they were together in the car, the appellant and MN were recorded making incriminating comments. They were then separated and the appellant was eventually conveyed to a police station.

At trial, counsel for the appellant applied to have the recorded conversation excluded under section 78 PACE on the basis that it was obtained under a breach of section 30. The trial judge ruled after a voir dire that there was no delay and added that, even if there had been a delay, it was minimal and there was no unfairness in the admission of the evidence.

The Appeal

The Court of Appeal was asked to consider the admissibility of evidence obtained under a breach of section 30 - an issue on which it had not previously been invited to rule.

Counsel for the appellant argued that a deliberate flouting of the duty under section 30 deprived the appellant of the protection of Code C during a period of particular vulnerability and, therefore, the evidence was inadmissible.

The Court held that: "the deliberate flouting of a statutory duty for the purpose only of creating an opportunity for a covert recording may, depending on the circumstances, result in the exclusion of evidence" (paragraph 26). It concluded, however, that in the instant case there was no unfairness in the proceedings occasioned by the admission of the evidence, pointing to the following material considerations:

i) During the period of an hour when the appellant and MN were under arrest and awaiting developments they remained under the supervision of police officers who did not engage them in conversation;

ii) The placement of the appellant and MN in the same police car provided no more than an opportunity for them to speak together in the belief that they were not being overheard;

iii) No trick or subterfuge was practised upon the accused so as to lead them to believe that they must make some response to their arrests; and

iv) The covert recording took place before interview under caution but that fact placed them at no greater disadvantage than if they had been covertly recorded in police custody after interview under caution.

Analysis & Practical Application

R v. King defines a novel category of impropriety in obtaining evidence that may render that evidence inadmissible - namely evidence obtained through a deliberate breach of section 30. However, as with other categories, exclusion on this basis is restricted to circumstances where the admission of the evidence would be unfair considering the circumstances in which it was obtained.

The decision will be of use to practitioners defending in analogous cases where investigating authorities exploit the circumstances of an arrest in order to obtain incriminating evidence. If an investigating authority has purposefully breached section 30 in order to obtain evidence, R v. King can now be used as good authority to persuade a court to exclude it.

On the other side, the case sets boundaries for investigating authorities seeking to obtain such evidence whilst maintaining its admissibility. This will be of significance to authorities dealing with serious and organised crime, where opportunities to obtain incriminating evidence against professionally savvy criminal operators may have to be manufactured.

Beyond that narrow class of cases, the decision in R v. King may have broader utility for practitioners in more everyday cases where evidence is obtained under a deliberate breach of section 30, albeit not a breach set up in order to obtain such evidence. Although, as mentioned above, the Court of Appeal held that a breach of section 30 does not necessarily render evidence unfair, it is submitted that an argument for exclusion under section 78 based on a breach of section 30 is stronger than an equivalent argument that simply cites breaches of individual PACE Code requirements.

The statutory discretion under section 78 to exclude evidence obtained in breach of lawful powers does not rely on the breach having been committed either in bad faith or willfully (see DPP v. McGladrigan [1991] Crim LR 851; R v. Samuel (1988) 87 Cr App R 232; and R v. Foster [1987] Crim LR 821). Where the evidence is obtained in breach of PACE Code requirements, it can be excluded under section 78 where those breaches are "significant and substantial" as a question of fact and degree (see R v. Quinn [1990] Crim LR 581; R v. Walsh (1989) 91 Cr App R 161; and R v. Keenan (1990) 90 Cr App R 1).

It is submitted that there is a strong presumption that a breach of section 30 will "significant and substantial" as it is a "gateway" provision ensuring access to the protections afforded by PACE Code C, including the suspect's right to receive legal advice before making any statement; the suspect's right to be further cautioned; and the suspect's right to be detained in a cell on his own. Arguments for exclusion based on a breach of section 30 can be made more forceful if no record was made under section 30(11) of the reason for the delay in conveyance or if the detained person was not given the opportunity to comment on the covert recording during interview, compounding the original breach.

It is worth considering the practical application of the argument. Consider the following example:

The police receive an emergency call reporting an incident of domestic violence. A unit driving a specialist high-performance vehicle arrives first. Officers enter the address, and talk to the parties involved. They arrest a male suspect and lead him outside, where they lawfully arrest and caution him and place him in the back of their car. The suspect makes no reply to caution, although he is highly agitated and obviously angry that the police have been called. The officers, mindful that they are driving their station's only high-performance vehicle are keen to secure the attendance of a van to convey the suspect to the police station, in order to keep their specialist car out and operational. They therefore decide to wait for the van to arrive, which takes well over an hour. Meanwhile, an officer on foot patrol arrives to assist. He brings the complainant out of the house in order to take a statement. When he does so, the suspect, sitting in the police car with the arresting officers, shouts out of the open window: "Don't you fucking tell them what I done or I'll fuck you up proper next time you fucking bitch." The officers hear this and make a note, on which the prosecution intend to rely at a subsequent trial for common assault by beating.

The officers' notes are incriminating evidence and are of probative value, albeit that they are also prejudicial. It is submitted that this is the type of situation in which a slightly modified R v. King argument may be effective. The police have deliberately breached their duty under section 30 - they chose not to convey the suspect when they could reasonably have been expected to do so. Although the deliberate breach was not effected for the purpose of obtaining the incriminating evidence, the evidence has nonetheless been obtained as a direct result of the breach and should arguably be excluded.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.