So-called ‘arrest warrants’ for high profile figures in UK politics, health, media and the police – such as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, UK Chief Medical Office Professor Chris Whitty, BBC Director General Sir Tim Davie and former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick – that are circulating on social media are “very obviously bogus” in the view of one legal expert.
One Facebook user, who has previously been fact-checked for sharing misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines (here and here) and whose latest post on July 5 has been shared more than 1,400 times (here), published the ‘warrants’ of 15 British public figures, including politicians, health officials and journalists.
The documents are addressed to “all Constables and all Sovereign Men and Women of England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland” and claim to give the power to recipients to conduct an “arrest under ‘Common Law’ and ‘Sections 24.24a of The Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984’,” and to “use force as is reasonable and proportionate to effect said arrest by using the powers given by ‘Section 3 of The Criminal Law Act of 1967’.”
It adds: “You are instructed to arrest on sight and without delay and bring the arrested to the nearest Police station… authorised by, of and for the people.”
The alleged warrants say all 15 individuals are “wanted for the offences of treason, genocide, murder, terrorism, war crimes, violation of human rights, violation of the Nuremberg Code and misfeasance and misconduct in public office”.
The Facebook post’s caption reads: “There is a vast amount of irrefutable evidence and it cannot be deliberately ignored or hidden any longer, Stephen House acting commissioner of The Metropolitan police and all other Chief Constables, do your job, the job we the people pay you to do, your job is to protect us from harm, injury, death and loss. Arrest the known criminals RIGHT NOW.”
However, two legal experts told Reuters the so-called warrants are not legitimate.
The documents are “very obviously bogus”, according to Professor Emeritus John Spencer, of the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Law.
“It’s most unlikely that any of these supposed arrest warrants are genuine. An arrest warrant must be issued by a magistrate and I can’t believe any magistrate would have issued any of them,” he told Reuters via email.
“Furthermore, the issue of an arrest warrant is susceptible of judicial review and if any JP (Justice of the Peace) or District Judge had issued one, I’m sure it would have been, or soon would be, successfully challenged by judicial review.
“Even without an arrest warrant, the police have wide powers of ‘summary arrest’ – i.e., to arrest a person on suspicion of having committed a criminal offence. But again, I think it is most unlikely (to put it mildly) that any police force would summarily arrest any of the people mentioned for any of the offences alleged.”
Likewise, Professor Matthew Dyson, of the University of Oxford’s Faculty of Law, told Reuters via email that the documents “lack many of the basic requirements to be warrants”.
“One example is they give the statutory authority for the arrests as two provisions (s.24 and s.24A) under PACE (The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984). That statute is available on the Government’s legislation website here. As will be obvious, those two sections are titled, and concern ‘arrest without warrant’.
“There are other significant flaws with the documents, from the offences claimed both to exist and to be evidenced, down to the absence of information on which court issued the purported warrant and errors about its geographical scope. If there is evidence of any of the real offences claimed then that evidence should be provided to the police immediately. To take one example, murder, the evidence would need to show that one or more of the persons named killed another human being, intending to kill or intending to cause serious harm.”
Finally, a spokesperson for the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) told Reuters via email: “If somebody suspects that a crime has been committed, they should report it to the police and present any evidence to support their claims. It is for forces to assess the evidence provided to them, and they will determine whether an allegation is credible and has legal basis for further action.”
The Metropolitan Police refused to comment on the post.
False. Legal experts told Reuters the purported warrants are not legitimate.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.