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UK-Justice
UK-Justice, Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 16193
Experience:  Called to the Bar in 2007
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A warrant was recently issued to search my address for Cannabis.

Customer Question

A warrant was recently issued to search my address for Cannabis. The Police executed the warrant 3pm on Friday 18th January whilst I was at work. They had to destroy my front door to gain access to my home. No Cannabis or any other illegal drugs were found as I have never been in the possession of or used illegal drugs. The Police informed me that the warrant had been issued on the grounds of two pieces of intelligence. They would not tell me what that intelligence consisted of or who it had come from.

The property had to be made secure by the police, so the front door was boarded up. I was therefore denied access to my home until Monday and I had to stay in a Hotel at my expense (£245.75 paid for on my credit card). The Police told me to claim on my buildings insurance through the flats maintenance company and the insurance company would then reclaim the money from the Police. They said that the maintenance company would be able to replace it quickly. The maintenance company is not available at the weekends.

I contacted the maintenance company on Monday and was told that they would not deal with my front door but, I could claim through the insurance. After passed from one company to another I managed to get in touch with the company that deals with any insurance claims. I was told that the insurance company would not pay out up front and I had to pay for the door to be replaced and reclaim the money. I decided to miss out the middle man a claim directly from the Police.

I managed to find an emergency door fitter who fitted a new door the same day at the cost of £1359.60 (paid for on my credit card). I received a receipt for the door via e-mail on Wednesday evening (23rd January).

On Thursday evening (24th January) I went to the Police, as it tells you to do on the “information for the occupier” form, to claim my costs back. I was told by the Police that they could not deal with my claim from the Police Station and I have to go through the Directorate of Legal Services at New Scotland Yard. I told the Police that I wanted to make an official complaint. I was told that no one was available to deal with my complaint and they took my name address and phone number and they said they would give it to the Duty Officer. As of yet I have had no communication.

I took Friday off and went to New Scotland Yard. I asked if I could see someone from the Directorate of Legal Services and was told I needed an appointment. I asked for a phone number to contact someone for an appointment and was given the general number for New Scotland Yard. I phoned the number and I was told that I would have to make my claim by post.

I have sent the originals of the warrant and receipts to the Claims Department of the Directorate of Legal Services by Special Delivery through the Post Office. I have kept photocopies just in case they claim to have lost the originals.

On the 9th February I received a letter from the Directorate of Legal Services which reads as follows:

“Thank you for your recent correspondence.

This office deals with claims against the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in respect of damage caused by officers in the course of their duty.

We fully understand the distress caused to a property owner when entry has to be forced to their premises. However we trust that you understand that police do have to force entry in some circumstances in order to uphold the law. The law controls the occasions when they may do so.

We have studied the apparent circumstances in which the above property was damaged. Here, officers properly executed a search warrant, issued by a Magistrate, under Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Where police force entry lawfully as was the position here, there is no legal liability to compensate in respect of damage necessarily caused.

It appears from our enquiries that the actions of police on this occasion were lawful and regrettably we are therefore unable to offer you compensation in respect of the damage.

We are sorry no to be able to respond in more positive terms.”

My questions are:

I have recently been told that the strong smell of what I thought was stale beer emanating from my next door neighbours flat (there are only two flats in a small vestibule) is actually the smell of Cannabis. Can the police indiscriminately choose between two flats when applying for a search warrant?

How can the police have a warrant issued to search my address when there can be no evidence that I am using drugs there?

Can the police destroy my property under a search warrant issued under false evidence or evidence from vindictive people and walk away leaving me with a large debt?

If the police are not liable for their actions, can I sue the people that gave the false evidence? If I can, must the police give me that information?

Can I insist that the police prosecute the people that gave the false information?

How long have the police got to deal with a complaint? Can they just ignore it?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  UK-Justice replied 3 years ago.
Thanks for your question, I will do whatever I can to help you. Please remember to rate my answer SMILEY FACE OR ABOVE.

Do you have any previous?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


I had a juvenile record for carrying an effensive weapon from 1983 when I was 15. I have no record for any drug related crimes as I do not use drugs.

Expert:  UK-Justice replied 3 years ago.
The police apply for a warrant

They give the information to the court and it is for the court to decide whether to grant a warrant or not.

If the court asked about the quality of the evidence the police officers would have told the court this. The police are not required to reveal to the court who told them or gave them the intelligence.

The court must have been satisifed that it was necessary to grant a warrant.

The police can use reasonable force so in terms of your door yes - because they have legal authority and power of the warrant.

You can Not sue the people who gave the evidence because the police are not required by law to disclose it.

But any costs incurred you can raise a claim with the police who will pass it to their insurers for consideration.

You can ask the police prosecute these people but you have no legal authority to force the police to do so.

The police must consider the complaint with a reasonable time. This means up to 6 months

I hope this helps.



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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I would have question the validity of intelligence. I cannot see how the police can say I am using drugs in my flat when I am not. The fact that I do not use drugs was proved by the search of my flat. I can only see an indiscriminate choice between two flats or evidence from vindictive people. I feel like I am being treated guilty until I am proved innocent.



You say that "any costs incurred" I can raise a claim with the police. How can I do this when the Directorate of Legal Services has already rejected my claim?


 

Expert:  UK-Justice replied 3 years ago.
As for the validity, the court must have been satisfied that there must have been some intelligence even if it later proves to be wrong.

Costs - yes they are liable.

If they refuse to pay issue a small claim in the county court.

It would then be passed to insurers.



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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I have now spoken directly to the Directorate of Legal Services. They continue to say that they are not liable for the damage to my property because the warrant was legally issued and executed. They are saying that making a claim through the small claims court will not make any difference.


 


Can you please quote any points of law or acts of parliament that prove the police are liable for the damages.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Relist: Other.
UK-Justice is not available to answer the quetion.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
I think your expert is probably offline right now.

However, I note that the answer was not that you had a case against them unless you could show the warrant was not legally issued.

The advice you have had from the Director of Legal Services is correct.

The police are not liable for any damage unless you can show the warrant was not lawfully issued and for that reason nobody can give you points of law or acts of parliament to that effect.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

So you are saying that UK-Justice is incorrect in saying that the police are liable for the damages to my front door?


 


How can I prove that the warrant was not lawfully issued when I do not know what the intelligence they are acting on? All I know is that a strong smell of what I thought was stale beer was coming from my neighbours flat, which I have now been told is the smell of Cannibis.


 


When the warrant was executed and no evidence of Cannibis was found, does that not go to prove that the warrant was issued on misinformation of indiscrimate choice of flats.


 


I feel that I am being treated as a criminal although I have done nothing wrong.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
No, it wasn't said that they were liable. What was said is that they would only be liable if the warrant was unlawfully issued.

To be wholly honest, I do not think you do have any realistic chance of a claim here.

There is no suggestion the warrant was unlawfully issued and, in fact, suggestion to the contrary.

You can still ask the force solicitor to consider compensation if it was discovered that the reason for the warrant was wrong but its entirely within their discretion and certainly not something that should be sued upon.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Relist: Other.
Conflicting Answers
Expert:  UK-Justice replied 3 years ago.
Forgive me I was in Court.

From the House of Commons paper dated 17th May 2010:

"If the police refuse to pay compensation, it might be possible to bring a civil claim against them for damages, but this would probably not be easy and specialist legal advice would be needed. Much would depend on whether the court held the damage to be unlawful.

In reaching such a decision, the court might take account of such factors as whether the terms of any warrant had been complied with, whether it was reasonable to damage the property to gain access and whether entry could reasonably have been gained by any other means."

Further there is a document from the City Police which states:

"With regards to compensation for damage to property caused by a forced entry, legal advice has been obtained. This is set out in guidance within the Forced and Rapid Entry Policy file.

Additionally, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act stipulates that the police are not liable for any damage where criminality is evident, all officers must provide this information to any aggrieved party who is considering making any claim.

All claims for repair or boarding up of premises should be considered against the above information. Any officer requiring advice can approach the Chief Inspector Public Order or Inspector, Support Group.

Any invoices received, where criminality is not evident will be submitted, with a summary of events by the investigating officer. This must be addressed to their own BCU Commander.

Individual BCUs are responsible for any repairs as a result investigations under their command. Example, Where Specialist Crime Operations request forced entry, subsequently conducted by Support Group – SCO Business Managers will meet costs if forced is required to pay."

As such where the warrant was granted and no offence took place you should bring compensation.

This is not a criminal matter, but a civil matter in terms of meeting compensation costs.

I hope this clarifies.



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Customer: replied 3 years ago.


The first document you mentioned is actually a Standard Note (SN/HA/5524).


 


The Standard Note also states:


 


"However, statutory guidance states that compensation for such


damage is "unlikely to be appropriate if the search was lawful, and the force used can be shown to be reasonable, proportionate and necessary to effect entry.""



It also states:



"This information is provided to Members of Parliament in support of their parliamentary duties and is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. It should not be relied upon as being up to date; the law or policies may have changed since it was last updated; and it should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice or as a substitute for it."



The second document you mention lays out procedures for City of London Police for forced entry. This would not apply to the Metropolitan Police Service.



The document also states:



"During high risk operations there is a real risk of officers and members of the public being injured, or property damaged. This policy, potentially, saves the force on cost of any speculative claims for compensation from suspects targeted on intelligence led operations. In the past year the force has incurred no cost associated with damage to premises, good record keeping and decision making has negated any opportunity, we have received several claims and managed to shift any costs to occupants of premises. Therefore all paperwork associated with this policy is essential and not in the bracket of bureaucratic burden."



I find it outrageous that as long as the Police keep a traceable paper trail, they can act on any allegation against a person, whether the allegation is true or false. With a search warrant they can damage property trying to gain evidence of that allegation, find no evidence and walk away leaving that person with a large bill for the damage. They can then defend themselves against any claim for compensation because they can prove that they have acted lawfully and followed proper procedure.


 


The person that the allegations are made against cannot defend themselves because the Police do not have to disclose what those allegations are. It seem that, even though the allegation where not proven by a search, the allegation still stands because there was enough evidence of criminality for a justice of the peace to grant a search warrant.


Expert:  UK-Justice replied 3 years ago.
It is a civil matter.

If they break in and dont mind anything under civil (not criminal) they are liable.

There is no way they can break in and have no liability whatsoever.

The JP granted the search so you cant go behind that because it was granted.

However there is nothing stopping you issuing a small claim against the Police.

This can be done online at: www.moneyclai,.gov.uk - a fee is payable but added to the claim.

If your claim is below £5000 then you wont need a Solicitor.

You will have a claim against them - even if in negligence.

They did not need to do a rapid entry, they could have waited until you were there.





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