West Law Report

KHAN v COMMISSIONER OF POLICE OF THE METROPOLIS

Last Updated: 7:17PM BST 11/06/2008
Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Pill, May and Moses LJJ June 6, 2008
Police powers and duties – Reasonable belief – Right to respect for private and family life – Search and seizure – Statutory interpretation Reasonable belief that premises owned or occupied by arrested person – Lawfulness of search – Literal interpretation of s. 18(1) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 – S. 18(1) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 – s. 32 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 s. 8 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 – Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 – s. 3(1) Human Rights Act 1998 European Convention on Human Rights 1950 Art. 8 European Convention on Human Rights 1950

FACTS

The appellant police commissioner appealed against a decision of the judge that a police search of the home of the respondent (K) had not been conducted lawfully. Following his arrest, a suspect (M) had given false details to the police, including K’s home address as his own. Purporting to act under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 s. 18(1), police officers entered and searched K’s home in the middle of the night despite K’s objections and the presence of members of his family. Nothing relevant to the investigation of M was found. K issued proceedings against the commissioner. The judge found that the requirements of s. 18 of the Act had not been met, as there was no evidence that M had ever owned or occupied K’s premises, so that the police search had not been lawful. K was awarded damages for trespass. The commissioner contended that s. 18(1) of the Act should be interpreted to make a search lawful where a police officer had a reasonable belief that the premises had been owned or occupied by the arrested person. It was submitted that a literal interpretation of s. 18 was unworkable, as the police could never be sure of a property’s ownership or occupation when the decision to search it needed to be made.

ISSUE

Whether the police search of K’s home had not been conducted lawfully.

HELD (appeal dismissed)

There was no justification for reading s. 18 of the Act otherwise than in accordance with its plain words. Premises had to be occupied or controlled by the person under arrest if a search under s. 18 was to be lawful, and the absence of those requirements was not unimportant or irrelevant. Other powers of entry were available to police under s. 32 of the Act, or by obtaining a search warrant under s. 8 of the Act. Both of those sections referred to the necessity for “reasonable belief”, and its omission from s. 18(1) had not been accidental. Further, Parliament had revised the operation of powers under the Act and made certain amendments to it by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, but it had not taken the opportunity of qualifying the requirements of occupation and control in s. 18(1). Further, under the Human Rights Act 1998 s. 3(1), the 1984 Act had to be read in a way that was compatible with an individual’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights 1950, and giving the words in s. 18(1) of the Act their ordinary meaning accorded with the right to respect for private and family life under art. 8 of the Convention. The judge had, accordingly, been correct in his conclusion.

Rajeer Shetty (instructed by Bircham Dyson Bell) for the appellant. The respondent appeared in person.

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