Pre-Arrest Investigation by Mr. Mawusi, RTC Alumnus


Mr. Mawusi, an RTC Alumnus

Mr. Mawusi, an RTC Alumnus

There is urgent need for law enforcement agencies to begin conducting thorough investigation prior to arresting suspects or perpetrators of crime. The current approach which seems to put emphasis on arresting suspects at the very beginning of an investigation or before an investigation is initiated has proven to be ineffective. This approach is also contrary to the concept of investigation. Any arrest which is made without some facts or evidence is likely to endanger the prospects of a successful criminal investigation.


A complaint is an allegation by someone that another person has committed a crime. It is a claim without any proof. An allegation, therefore, cannot constitute reasonable suspicion or provide reasonable grounds for that person to be arrested. Our power of arrest is directly linked to the principle that there ought to be an investigation to establish that reasonable grounds exist for an arrest.

Reasonable suspicion

In many criminal investigations, the standard of evidence that are  required to make an arrest should be enough to establish reasonable suspicion or reasonable grounds. Officers are therefore mandated by law to arrest a citizen if the officer finds reasonable grounds that the suspect committed the alleged offence. A significant number of complaint-based arrests are made daily without warrant by the police in the course of their work. Thus, it is very important to adhere to the provisions of the law in order not to infringe upon the rights of people.

In Ghana, for instance, the law on arrest states in section 10(2)(a) of The Criminal Procedure Code, Act 30 of 1960 that ‘a police officer may arrest without warrant a person whom the police officer suspects on reasonable grounds of having committed an offence’ The power of arrest, therefore, is exercised on the basis that arresting officers or their supervisors have reasonable grounds that the person to be arrested committed or is in a way connected with the alleged crime.

Law enforcement agents in the West African sub-region are reminded to take a critical look at their laws on arrest in order to avoid abuses. They are also urged to conduct result-oriented criminal investigations which are prosecutable.

Advantages of this approach

In all inquiries, the work of investigators is strengthened if they have enough information or facts based on which they do interrogations. Crime investigators are therefore urged to consider the following if they have sufficient facts before they initiate interrogations:

  • The process of interrogation is enhanced and it can be more detailed.
  • Evidence will be obtained before an attempt is made to hide or destroy it.
  • Maximum information can be obtained to make the interrogation more effective.

To place an arrest first and look for evidence later is not a productive approach in criminal investigations. However, rare situations may compel an early arrest but these are an exception and should be a last resort. Officers should be vigilant in pre-arrest investigations so as to obtain information and not to share information. The way forward in criminal investigation management is pre-arrest investigation.

Article submitted by Mr. Mawusi

RTC Alumnus