CAN you still be arrested and charged with a crime over Christmas? In short – yes, you can.

Even though the festive period is a time for winding down before the New Year, the criminal system does not stop and give people a ‘free pass’.

In fact, a lot of crimes do take place across the month of December. According to Dellino Family Law Group, some of the most common crimes over the Christmas period are shoplifting, robbery, identity theft (due to increased credit and debit activity), drunk driving, and domestic violence/assault.

So, what happens if you commit a crime over the Christmas period?

You can be arrested and remanded in custody and the usual police procedures will take place.

Will you be waiting longer in a police cell?

In short, no. Police will follow normal procedures.

In the majority of cases, you can be held in custody without being charged with a crime, for a maximum of 24 hours.

If the police want to question you further after that time, then a further 12 hours can only be authorised by a superintendent or an officer above.

If you have been arrested on suspicion of a very serious crime, such as murder or rape, then you can be kept in police custody for up to 96 hours - but this must be authorised by the magistrates' court first.

So, are courts open?

Magistrates courts (where remand cases are heard) do not open for remand cases on Sundays, Good Friday or Christmas Day.

However, the court will be open 365 days a year to hear applications for a warrant of further detention when the police need to keep a prisoner in custody beyond 36 hours.

Some Magistrates courts will be open on Boxing Day and January 1.

Crown and tribunal courts this year will be closed on Christmas Eve (Saturday, December 24), Christmas Day (Sunday, December 25), Boxing Day (Monday, December 26) and Tuesday, December 27. They will open again on Wednesday, December 28.

They will close again on Monday, January 1.

What are courts like around the Christmas period?

Old Bailey Crown Court reporter, Jack Hudson, who writes for Central News, describes courts as having an ‘end of term vibe’ around the end of December, as many trials prepare to wrap up.

However, along with the lack of decorations, courts run ‘pretty much as usual’.

“It is certainly different,” Jack said. “At the Old Bailey, most of the trials were scheduled to come to an end before the Christmas break so there was definitely an end-of-term vibe with everything wrapping up.

“And a lot of pressure and concern around some trials, if the jury was still out and the logistical challenges if they had to be asked to come back after Christmas.

“We had some verdicts on the last Friday just in time.”

He continued: “The most festive it got in the courtrooms was that on the last day, one of the judges came in without her wig on, which was very odd as she looked almost unrecognisable.

“I think the judges probably struggle with how much to say about Christmas because obviously, you’ve usually got a grieving family in court for whom this is probably the worst Christmas of their lives.

“So it normally doesn’t go beyond wishing everyone has a good break.”

The journalist added that there is a Christmas party held at the court however with a quiz hosted by celebrity Shaun Wallace, a barrister and one of the ‘chasers’ on ITV’s The Chase.

“There is a lot going on,” said Jack. “But no decorations going up sadly. It was somewhat uncomfortable last year when sentencing overran and the victim’s family left court one to see a party being set up in the grand hall, but at the same time court staff, barristers and reporters work hard on difficult cases all year and deserve a party as much as everyone else.”

When asked if he felt sentences were ‘more lenient’ because of Christmas time, Jack said: “I hope not.

“I doubt that would ever have an effect in serious sentences at the crown court, but perhaps in smaller matters at Magistrates Court it could play a role.

Overall, Jack commented that court ran ‘pretty much as usual’.  “Probably just the vibes behind the scenes are different,” he said. “And the normal end-of-term feeling at a workplace.

“Everything in court went on pretty much as usual.”