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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 69379
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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In my absence, my home suffered a forced entry, by the police,

Customer Question

In my absence, my home suffered a forced entry, by the police, under section 17 of the 1984 criminal evidence act. I understand that if they acted within the law there is nothing I can do about this. However, I believe that, as stated within the act, "The powers of entry and search conferred by this section is only a power to search to the extent that is reasonably required for the purpose for which the power of entry is exercised". The officer involved searched through my personal paperwork even after it was apparent that there was no risk to life or limb on the property. Also, the only documentation left for me stated "Police copy. Tear off and retain". Do I have any case against the police on these technicalities?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Hi.

Thank you for your question. My name is Jo and I will try to help with this.

What is the technicality please?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi


The technicality is, as already stated, that the act only provides the power to search to the extent that is required for the purpose for which the power of entry is exercised. Once the officer had established that there was no risk to life or limb on the property, why did he search through my personal documents? I would like to know if this invalidates the entry, constitutes an illegal search or opens the officer involved up to a charge of operating outside of his permitted powers. Also I would like to know if the police are legally obliged to provide any documentation to the homeowner in these circumstances. If the are, they failed to provide the correct paperwork to me.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
No, but that doesn't mean that they don't have other powers of search?

The fact that they entered under S17 doesn't mean that other powers are not triggered when there.

In any event, what is your loss arising?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Your "No" is regarding which of my queries? The question mark suggests that you are asking me if the police have any other powers of search. I'm afraid I don't know. Do you have any suggestions as to which other powers of search they might have invoked? According to the documentation they left me, Section 17 was the only power used. My losses are, not only the physical damage caused to my property and earnings from time off work to secure the property but also the right to the secure enjoyment of my home as outlined in article 8 of the 1988 HRA from the ECHR.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.

I obviously will not know on what basis they acted. I have had no vision of their search documents. It depends whether you were under arrest or relying on other powers in S17

In fairness, they have wide ranging powers uinder S17 here

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/60/section/17

There are also powers under S18 if you were under arrest.

In any event, your losses arise from the entry which would have been lawful under S17. The fact of the search did not give rise to these losses.

Article 8 does not provide that there can never be a search of a dwelling house I'm afraid.

If they have acted beyond their powers then it might be worth a complaint and they might offer something but suing would be dangerous because there is no loss arising.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Jo
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

The search took place in my absence. It was triggered by either a hoax call or miscommunication between the emergency services. It had nothing to do with me personally. The search was to establish whether there was a risk to life or limb on the property. This was the sole reason for the search. The only power invoked for this search was section 17 of the 1984 criminal evidence act, which explicitly limits the scope of the search to what is reasonably required for the purpose for which the entry is exercised. The officer involved operated outside of this remit when, after having established that the property was empty, he searched through personal effects. So, back to my original question, was this a technicality which could open the officer or force involved up to legal action against them? I have, obviously, researched section 17 myself and am now seeking a legal opinion as to whether or not the powers have been violated. I fail to see how any losses I may or may not have suffered have any bearing on the legality (or illegality) of the search.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
It doesn't have any bearing on the legality of the search but it goes to what losses can be claimed.

You only get compensation for your losses in the UK.

If the sole reason for the search was to establish a risk to life or limb then there would not seem to be a justification that I can see immediately for a search of documents although obviously I haven't seen their account for this.

However, there is still no loss arising.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
If they are satisfied that there was a hoax call then they may offer compensation for the losses arising from entry but that is entirely at the discretion of the Chief Constable and they could not be forced to it in court. They acted lawfully at the time of entry and it is that action that caused your losses.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

What triggered the action is irrelevant. That the police invoked section 17 is irrelevant. I understand that this act allows for this search in these circumstances and that the forced entry was legal. I accept that the police were legally entitled and obliged to search the property to establish whether or not there was a risk to life or limb.The issue for me, and the question for which I am seeking an answer, is whether the search of personal effects, which clearly falls outside of what is "reasonably required for the purpose for which the power of entry is exercised" constitutes a contravention of powers.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.

If the sole reason for the search was to establish a risk to life or limb then there would not seem to be a justification that I can see immediately for a search of documents although obviously I haven't seen their account for this.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

So, does the fact that "there would not seem to be a justification that I can see immediately" mean that, potentially, I could have grounds to take legal action against the police? Are you saying that, even though unjustified, I would not have the slightest hope of a successful action? Are you suggesting that you need more information before you can answer my question? If so, what information do you require? Or are you unable to provide me with an answer?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
I'm sorry if I'm being unclear.

I'm not sure how to phrase this differently.

1 They may well, on the facts you present, have exceeded their powers.

2 I do think you have a claim for the reasons above.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thankyou for that. My final question for you. What do you suggest I do to move this forward? Do you suggest that I make an appointment with a solicitor or do you have an alternative suggestion of how to proceed?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
You could always see a solicitor that sues the police. They will usually offer the first appointment for free. Thereafter the difficulty you will face is that there is no loss so probably no claim and therefore no legal aid.

Another alternative is to write to the IPCC and complain.

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