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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I am a local Councillor. On Friday night I was called out

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I am a local Councillor. On Friday night I was called out to a pub in my constituency by the female partner of the pub landlord because the police had arrested the landlord. The lady was in a state of stress and alarm and wanted some support because she felt the Police were acting overbearing and frightening.
I went to the pub and the police were insisting the lady wait for four hours - until 6AM - when they wanted to return and confiscate the CCTV.
I explained from the outset that I was not any sort of lawyer and advised her to contact a lawyer for legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
Since she was clearly stressed and exhausted I asked the Police if she could lock up and return the next day to help them with their enquiries. They refused and insisted she must wait hours until they returned. They said if she did not do so they would break down the door and confiscate the CCTV anyway.
I was concerned for her wellbeing and I did find their attitude was overbearing and intimidating as she had said so I sat with her while they were there. After they left she decided to lock up and go home anyway.
At 6Am they continually phoned her until she answered and then insisted she come back out. She called me and asked me to be there also, which I did.
Throughout this whole event I was absolutely polite and professional. I asked the Police questions and tried to support her. At no point did the Police ask me to leave, but it was very clear that they were unhappy that I was there. It seemed to me that they wanted to have a distraught lady to deal with so it would be easier for them to get what they wanted.
The lady asked the Police to leave and come back the next day and said she did not have the authority to let them in, nor to allow them to search or confiscate goods. They said that didn't matter and they could do it anyway, and proceeded to do so. At no time did anybody get in their way or obstruct them.
I have four questions.
(1) Was the Sergeant within his rights to insist the woman stay there all night rather than return the next day?
(2) Was he correct when he told me that if she was not there they could break in and take the CCTV anyway, without needing a warrant?
(3) I was threatened with arrest for "obstructing" them on three occasions, even though I was sitting peacefully in a chair doing nothing to obstruct them, that I was polite and professional throughout, and that all I was doing was advising the lady as her Councillor to get legal advice as soon as possible and trying to offer moral support because I was concerned for her wellbeing?
(4) Was their seizure of the CCTV legal - given that she had told them she did not have the authority to let them into the premises, that she would like them to leave and that they did not have her permission to search? I know they have a general power of seizure, but I thought it was modified by their needing to be on the premises by consent if they didn't have a warrant?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Hi.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
Why did you become involved in this?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I am the local Town & District Councillor and I know the owners of the pub. The owners are Eastern European and the lady I was helped speaks reasonable, but not perfect English. She wanted some support.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
On your specific points
1 He can demand that she remains but he can demand immediate access to the property. Otherwise some people would just dispose of anything incriminating while the police are away.
2 Yes. They can rely on PACE. They don’t need a court ordered warrant in these circumstances
3 If you were invited to help by this lady and you were questioning the actions of the police then that is obstructing. It is a very easy offence to commit. All they have to show is that you made their job harder in any way and that can be verbal.
4 Yes. They don’t need her permission or that of anybody. This is a police search.
The days have warrants have mostly gone. There are some exceptions like the Misuse of Drugs Act. For most offences they can rely on PACE and even the warrants that are required under PACE can be issued by a senior officer.
Also, to be wholly honest, unlawful actions by the police aren’t really very useful. There was a time when you could get evidence excluded if you could show it was obtained unlawfully but those days have gone I’m afraid.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Jo
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
No, that's fairly clear, thanks. It's a little terrifying that they can threaten to arrest you simply for being somewhere and asking them some polite questions though.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Yes, obstructing is an offence easily committed. It would be OK if they applied it to the right type of facts but they regularly don't.
Mind you, you can go a long way down that road. If the public had any idea of what most domestic violence amounts to they would be appalled that the police even attend at them.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Your advice seems to be different to what I read here http://findlaw.co.uk/law/criminal/your_rights/500466.htmlBut what you've said matches what the Police said. I just think its a shame. Anyway, thanks for your help!
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
I wouldn't take much notice of these sites. They don't take into account the way facts can be manipulated.
I realise that you are a councillor and have a duty to the public but try not to get involved with people who are playing the victim. All that ever happens is that you expose yourself to risk and they walk away scot free.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for your advice. In this instance, I know these people and I don't think she was playing the victim. I was horrified and shocked by the way the Police acted and the way the Police spoke to her and also to me. I genuinely never would have expected them to be so overbearing and unreasonable.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
The police can be unreasonable sometimes. I completely understand.
That is her problem not yours.
I don't know why men always feel an obligation to sort out the problems of women. I am a long standing criminal hack and, take it from me, most of the men of a perfectly law abiding nature who end up in the dock are placed there because they were sorting out the problems of women who should be doing it themselves.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Nothing to do with her being female. I try and help any constituent who asks for help.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
I know and I understand you are in a difficult position. Just bear in mind that you can be helpful without placing yourself at risk.
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