Power to take fingerprints without consent when identity unknown

31 March 2021

Not reviewed after the date of publication


Do police have the power to take fingerprints without consent, via use of an INK machine, of a person in the street who is refusing to give their name or address, and is suspected of committing an offence?


In the circumstances provided, we believe that fingerprints may be taken without the appropriate consent if the requirements of the legislation are satisfied. Sections 61(6A) and 61(6B) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 provide:

'61(6A) A constable may take a person's fingerprints without the appropriate consent if –

(a) the constable reasonably suspects that the person is committing or attempting to commit an offence, or has committed or attempted to commit an offence; and
(b) either of the two conditions mentioned in subsection (6B) is met.

61(6B) The conditions are that –

(a) the name of the person is unknown to, and cannot be readily ascertained by, the constable;
(b) the constable has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name furnished by the person as his name is his real name.'

Therefore, fingerprints may be taken by a constable without the consent from a person who they reasonably suspect is committing/attempting to commit or has committed/attempted to commit an offence, if either of these two conditions are satisfied:

        1. The constable doesn't have their name and cannot find out their name; OR
        2. the constable has reasonable grounds for doubting the name given by the person as their real name.


A constable has the power to use reasonable force to take the fingerprints (under section 117 of PACE. Details of the force used and the officer's reasons for doing so should be recorded by the officer.

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