Can I challenge a search warrant?
From an era before a search warrant, in Entick v Carrington (1765), a case concerning the entry to and searching of premises, the court ruled:
“…if this is law it would be found in our books, but no such law ever existed in this country; our law holds the property of every man so sacred, that no man can set his foot upon his neighbour’s close without his leave.”
Entick v Carrington is probably the earliest case law concerning the law of search and seizure. It is a legal power since described as a ‘nuclear option’ in the court’s arsenal in the case of R (Mercury Tax Group) v HMRC  EWHC 2721. But, of course, it is certainly not the last word. Over the last few years, there has been a substantial body of developing case law designed to ensure that this most potent state intrusion into the lives of individuals and business is exercised lawfully and proportionately.
Why does it matter?
First and foremost, core constitutional principles are at stake.
These include the power of the state to enter private property. Very often this is done during a dawn raid and with other family members present. As a result the powers should not be used lightly, particularly during what is normally the very early stages of a criminal investigation.
Because of this, the case of R (Mills) v Sussex Police and Southwark Crown Court  EWHC 2523 (Admin) held that warrants should only be sought as a “last resort and should not be employed where other less draconian powers can achieve the relevant objective”.
The taking of documents, files, computer servers and systems can have a profound reputational impact on businesses when staff see what is happening. They and clients lose confidence in the business. The inability to carry out ‘business as normal’ can put the survival of any business at risk and can place an unbearable burden on the individuals involved.
Can I challenge a search warrant?
The powers of search and seizure under a search warrant are spread out over a great many legislative provisions. The key message is to take our legal advice as soon as you are aware that anything might happen or has already happened.
What is clear is that warrants are very often granted on an erroneous basis. The applications show scant regard for the legal principles involved in the issue of the search warrant.
Drawing a warrant too widely is a frequent issue as is demonstrated in the case of R (F, J and K) v Blackfriars Crown Court and Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis  EWHC 1541 (Admin).
Police officers are duty bound to provide the court with full and frank disclosure, highlighting any material which is potentially adverse to the application. This includes a duty not to mislead the judge in any material way. The judge must then apply a rigorous critical analysis to the application so that they can be satisfied that the evidence provided justifies the grant of the warrant and give reasons for their decision.
In Redknapp v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis  EWHC 1177 (Admin) the court ruled:
“The obtaining of a search warrant is never to be treated as a formality. It authorises the invasion of a person’s home. All the material necessary to justify the grant of a warrant should be contained in the information provided on the form. If the magistrate or Judge in the case of an application under s.9, does require any further information in order to satisfy himself that the warrant is justified, a note should be made of the additional information so that there is a proper record of the full basis upon which the warrant has been granted.”
There are various avenues of legal redress available, including judicial review. Early intervention may result in the return of documents and property, and in some instances, a claim for damages might be possible.
How we can assist
Please contact us if you know that your premises are about to be searched or have been. Keep any paperwork that you are given. We will be able to give you expert legal advice on the legality of the search including the issue of the search warrant.
Alternatively please use the contact form below.