West Law Report

Search warrant against solicitors unnecessary

Posted in Times Law Report by mrkooenglish on December 5, 2008

From The Times
December 4, 2008
Search warrant against solicitors unnecessary

Queen’s Bench Divisional Court
Published December 5, 2008
Regina (Barclay and Others) v Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and Others

There was no basis for the police seeking a search warrant against a firm of solicitors rather than proceeding by production order, as solicitors were under a duty to the court not to dispose of relevant material.

The Queen’s Bench Divisional Court (Lord Justice Keene and Mr Justice Griffith Williams) so held on November 21, 2008, when allowing a claim by Faisaltex Ltd and two other companies, for judicial review of a search warrant issued by Judge Robert Brown at Preston Crown Court on March 31, 2008 but refusing those claimants and others permission to proceed with claims for judicial review of several other search warrants.

LORD JUSTICE KEENE said that the claims challenged search warrants obtained and executed in relation to office premises of a firm of solicitors, an accountant, three companies, and the five homes of members of closely-related families who controlled those companies.

There had been no basis for the police conclusion that proceeding against the solicitors by production order might seriously have prejudiced the investigation within paragraph 14(1)(d) of Schedule 1 to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The same result did not follow in relation to the accountant because of his closer connection with the families and their business.

Another ground was that a search warrant could not properly authorise seizure of a whole computer or hard disk, because it would contain irrelevant material. That ground failed because a computer and its hard disk were within the wide definition of “material” in section 8(1) of the 1984 Act: see R (Kent Pharmaceuticals Ltd) v Serious Fraud Office (The Times November 18, 2004; \ 1 WLR 1302).

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