The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Guest Blogger

As promised, here is Peter Hargreaves' unedited post:-

Search Warrants

Am I alone in thinking that powers to search our homes and offices are now far too extensive and are rather too often being applied in an extremely heavy-handed and brutish manner?

In Semayne’s case (1604) 5 Co Rep at 91b – it was stated that “The house of everyone is to him as his castle and fortress.” In 1767, William Pitt stated that - “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown.”

A couple of years ago, Henry Porter writing in the Guardian had this to say – How the Englishman’s home ceased to be his castle . Porter began by reminding us of the 250 officers used in a raid on the home of two Muslim brothers in Forest Gate, London. He also drew attention to the massive extension of powers of entry and search which Parliament has placed on the statute book and he highlighted the very subtle ways in which this has been done - (I call it “legislative legerdemain”) - so as to avoid any real debate in Parliament.

A year ago, in the Redknapp case, the Police searched the property of Harry Redknapp at 6am with the Press in attendance – (a “tip-off” or “leak”). They searched under the authority of a warrant which turned out to be unlawful – see Redknapp v City of London Police Unfortunately, the Redknapp case suggests that the warrant was granted far too readily by the court which surely ought to be a rather more robust “guardian of the gates” in these matters.

Then we have the arrest of Mr Damian Green MP in connection with a Police investigation into leaks from within the Home Office. Of course, Mr Green has been a political thorn in the side of the government over immigration policy. However, both the arrest and the search of Mr Green’s home and offices (including the one in the House of Commons) seem to be particularly heavy-handed and this shows, yet again, the heavy manner used by the Police – a “sledgehammer approach” – which is disproportionate to the situation they are investigating. Mr Green would have had his fingerprints taken and DNA sampled and these will be retained indefinitely. Even worse, Mr Green’s daughter may find herself on the Merlin database since she was at home when the Police search took place.

It remains a fundamental principle that the authorities require legal authority to enter property. That is often a warrant issued by a J.P. Just what processes do J.P.s use – what questions are asked and what records are kept or are warrants just granted (as many people appear to think) on the nod.

(fixed to restore the hyperlinks in the original - ed)