The law on the powers of entry, search and seizure, developed through both common law and statute are primarily found under sections 8-23 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984

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The law on the powers of entry, search and seizure, developed through both common law and statute are primarily found under sections 8-23 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) and the procedures can be found under Code B of PACE. The powers have been restricted by an early principle recognised by the courts: ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’ (Entick v Carrington). This principle demonstrates an entry into an individual’s house or onto their land contrary to the owner’s consent may not be lawful. Mr Justice Donaldson in Swales v Cox, provides that although the expression may be ‘trite’, it has importance in the history of this country and still does today. Thus for the police, powers of entry, search and seizure should only be necessary to help an investigation of a criminal offence.

Pre-PACE, these powers were ill defined through common law. In Entick v Carrington the court held that invasion of another person’s private property would amount to trespass. From this a number of statutes were passed, for example, under s.20(c) of the Taxes Management Act 1970 there were powers presented for Inland Revenue officials to enter private premises, however these powers seemed wide spread and were described by Lord Scarman as:

 ‘a breath-taking inroad on the individual’s right of privacy and right of property’ 

The Royal (Philips) Commission sought further consistency with regard to the management of the powers of entry, search and seizure whereby the power would be provided by a magistrate, PACE was then set into force.

Under s.8 a police officer must reasonably suspect that an indictable offence has been committed as demonstrated in R v Chief Constable of Warwickshire, Ex parte Fitzpatrick. An ‘indictable offence’ for the purpose of entry, search and seizure may include stolen property under s.26 of the Theft Act 1968, controlled drugs under s.23 Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, activity under schedule 5 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and other offences stated through various legislation.

Where there is reasonable suspicion, the constable may have grounds to apply for a warrant and search for material which may under s.8(1)(b) be of significance to the investigation and could be used  under s.8(1)(c) as evidence in relation to that offence. If the items are subject to ‘legal privilege’ they cannot be in the warrant (R v Inner London Sessions Crown Court, Ex p. Baines & Baines). The exceptions are if the item(s) should not be in the possession of that person or under s.10(2) if the items are being held for criminal purpose as demonstrated in R v Central Criminal Court, Ex p. Francis and Francis the material may be taken with the correct application to do so. The case of Bramley further demonstrates that the police are not entitled to seize any materials subject to legal privilege for the purpose of finding something they may take. Under s.11 ‘excluded material’ including personal records, human DNA, tissue or fluid (R v Singleton)and other journalistic material held in confidence cannot be removed subject to a warrant and under s.14 any material held in confidence attained through work or any other material created for journalistic purposes may not be subject to the warrant. However s.9(1) allows the police to apply to a circuit judge rather than a magistrate in order to access excluded materials and special procedure materials if there is reasonable suspicion, if it is in the public interest (demonstrated in R v Central Criminal Court, Ex p. Carr) and finally, if all other methods have been tried and have failed. This shows that a man’s home and his possessions are protected through statute; however, where the authorities may need to investigate more thoroughly the police may, on application, access more personal documents.

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Following Bramley ss. 50- 66 Criminal Justice & Police Act 2001 enables the police to seize material and sift through it elsewhere rather than at the premises where it may not be ‘reasonably practical’ to do so demonstrating that the sanctity of a person’s home has developed through statute where it is not considered as important as it may have previously been when investigating a crime.

Under common law; where a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe a breach of peace is likely to occur, he may exercise his common law power to enter premises without a warrant as demonstrated in ...

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