Ever wanted to ask a police officer a question but were too embarrassed to ask?
People are often reluctant to share what’s on their mind when they think the answer might be obvious – or the question too trivial.
It turns out that there is an official resource of answers to questions people have submitted but felt too silly to ask in person, the Liverpool Echo reports.
The Ask the Police website contains answers to popular topics like drink driving, coronavirus and criminal offences.
You can also submit your own question for police to answer.
A lot of the questions are about driving, while other people have asked for an explanation on the definition of offences like cyber-flashing.
And many want to know about the seemingly minor indiscretions that could get you arrested.
Here are answers to some of the questions people want to ask:
1. I hit an animal whilst driving, do I have to report it to the police?
Some animals are not included in the definition of ‘animal’ given in the legislation, so you are not required to report accidents with them to the police.
A dog (as well as a goat, horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep and pig) are animals covered within the remit of the legislation, therefore you are required by law to report any accident with these animals to the police.
A cat does not fall within the remit of the Road Traffic Act and therefore you do not need to report the incident to the police as long as there are no other factors involved.
Badgers are specially protected and it is an offence to possess one, dead or alive, (without the proper authority), so if you kill one, leave it at the roadside.
2. Can I be arrested if I am sat in my car drunk (over the permitted limit), but not driving?
Yes, there is an offence of being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst being over the permitted limit. Each case would be judged on its own merits but the officers would be looking at:
- whether you had the keys for the vehicle
- were you in the vehicle at the time
- what were you doing at the time
- whether there was anyone else in or near the vehicle
- what evidence is there that you were intending to drive the vehicle
3. Is it illegal to smoke whilst driving?
Providing there are no children in the car, it is not an offence in itself to smoke, eat or change the CD or radio whilst driving but you could commit the offence of driving without due care and attention or not being in proper control of the vehicle.
These are some activities that distract driver’s attention from the road. Others include reading maps, talking on a hands-free mobile phone and having very loud music in the car.
4. Can I carry a passenger on my pedal cycle?
No, you cannot carry a passenger on your pedal cycle unless it has been adapted to carry another person, such as a tandem or if your bike has had a special seat fitted.
5. Can cyclists be prosecuted for drink driving on a pedal cycle?
Yes, it is an offence to ride a pedal cycle on a road or other public place whilst being unfit through drink or drugs, basically so as to be so under the influence of drink or drugs that the person does not have proper control of the pedal cycle.
6. A lot of cars have their fog lights on when it’s not foggy, is it legal?
You must not use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226 of the Highway Code) as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves.
You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves.
7. Do people in the front and back seats of a car have to wear seatbelts?
Yes, it is compulsory to wear a seatbelt in the front and rear of cars. If the car is old and does not have seatbelts it is not compulsory to have them fitted.
8. Can I wear sunglasses whilst driving at night?
Although it is not illegal to wear sunglasses whilst driving at night, it is not advisable as it is essential your vision remains clear at all times.
9. Does a pedestrian have right of way on a zebra crossing?
Yes they do, it is an offence not to give precedence to a pedestrian on a zebra crossing.
As you approach a zebra crossing:
look out for pedestrians waiting to cross and be ready to slow down or stop to let them cross
you MUST give way when a pedestrian has moved onto a crossing
allow more time for stopping on wet or icy roads
do not wave or use your horn to invite pedestrians across; this could be dangerous if another vehicle is approaching
be aware of pedestrians approaching from the side of the crossing.
10. When can I use the horn in my car?
A horn should only be used when warning someone of danger, not to indicate your annoyance at a manner of driving.
A horn should not be sounded when stationary on a road at any time, other than at times of danger due to another vehicle on or near the road.
A horn should not be used on a moving vehicle on a restricted road (basically a road that has street lights and a 30mph limit) between the times of 11:30 pm and 7:00 am.
11. Can I pick wild flowers growing at the side of the road?
Yes as long as you are keeping them for your own personal use and are not selling them. You cannot, however, pick the whole plant, that would be classed as theft.
The flowers must be genuinely wild (not planted for a commemorative purpose etc) you must exercise caution if you are going to pick wild flowers as you do not want to inadvertently commit an offence.
The same applies for picking wild mushrooms.
12. I’ve heard that if I don’t exceed the speed limit by a certain amount I won’t be prosecuted – is this correct?
Guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) suggests when enforcement action will be taken against speeding motorists – this is usually when the relevant speed limit is exceeded by 10% plus 2 mph.
However, this is for guidance purposes only, a police officer has the discretion to act outside it. Some drivers wrongly interpret it to mean that they can legally exceed the speed limit – this is most definitely not the case.
13. If someone hits you in the face but it doesn’t leave a mark, is it an assault?
Yes, it is an assault. An assault is any act that intentionally or recklessly causes the victim to apprehend immediate and unlawful personal injury or violence. If violence is threatened, there must be the ability to carry out the threat at the time.
In law, an assault does not have to involve physical contact, an assault may involve a threat alone. However, there must be the prospect of the threat being carried out immediately and for the victim to fear that the threat will be carried out immediately.
If physical contact is made, the offence is actually a ‘battery’. Most people who describe an assault, are actually describing a battery
14. Is there a legal requirement to report a crime?
Whilst there is no legal requirement to report a crime, there is a moral duty on everyone of us to report to the police any crime or anything we suspect may be a crime.
15. Someone has thrown a brick through my window, what do I do?
If the suspect is still present, you should call the police on 999. If the suspect has left, you should contact your local police force who will take crime details either over the phone or online. It is important to know the time or times it happened between and the size of the window smashed.
You can contact your local force by calling 101 or using the contact details for your local force.
If the house is a privately owned, you should take steps to replace the glass and secure the house. Details of approved glaziers can be found online; the police will not provide recommendations. If the property is a council house, you should contact the council to repair/replace the window.
16. What is ‘cyber-flashing’?
Cyber-flashing is the sending of obscene pictures to others over peer-to-peer Wi-Fi networks, such as AirDrop.
AirDrop is a feature on iPhones, iPods and iMacs that uses Bluetooth to create a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network between devices. When switched on, it automatically detects supported devices within a radius of 10 metres.
Although AirDrop can be used in a harmless way as it allows people to share photos with family and friends, some people are using the facility to send obscene pictures to strangers, usually whilst they travel on trains or buses. This can take place anywhere where there is a Wi-Fi signal.
At present, there is no specific offence of ‘cyber-flashing’ but this behaviour can potentially fall within the offences of harassment or public nuisance.
If you receive an obscene picture from a stranger in this way, whilst you are travelling on the rail network, take a screenshot of the photo and report the incident to the British Transport Police.
17. I loaned something to a friend but they have not given it back – what can I do?
The refusal to give something back which has been borrowed is not automatically theft. In some cases it might have to be resolved using the Civil Courts and you may need to see a solicitor for advice.
If you have a problem with someone who has borrowed your property and has not given it back, keep a record of all the occasions you have asked for it and then ask a solicitor to send a formal letter asking for the return of the property.
If the property is still not returned, you may be able to justify making a complaint of theft to the police.