Edwin Buckett successfully defends the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis in the Court of Appeal

28 Apr, 2020

In a reserved judgment handed down on the 28th April, 2020  Lord Justices McCombe, Holroyde and Phillips dismissed the appeal by the Westminster College of Computing Limited against the order of Mr Justice Murray, striking out a claim for trespass to land and goods, which arose out of the execution of a search warrant on commercial premises.

The Appellants were suspected of issuing for reward, false documents which enabled foreign nationals to obtain, by deception, leave to remain in the UK.

The police obtained a search warrant under Section 8 of PACE 1984 and executed it in the absence of the business owner himself, seizing a large amount of property which was later returned to the Appellants. No criminal proceedings were brought against any individual.

The Appellants contended that there were triable issues on Sections 16(6) and (7) of PACE, because the warrant had not been given to a person in charge nor left in a prominent place in breach of those sections. The Judge held that although there was a conflict of evidence between the police and the Appellants on this, the claim should nonetheless be struck out because the Appellants account was “too weak” and not squarely pleaded.

Had the Court of Appeal not agreed with that approach, the case was set to determine whether breaches of Section 16 of PACE always render the actions of the police unlawful in warrant cases.

Surprisingly, after over 35 years of the existence of PACE, there is no binding decision of the Court of Appeal on this issue and the  matter remains unresolved since R-v-Longman [1988] 1 WLR 619.

The Court was also going to decide whether the Lumba principle applies in warrant cases such that the Appellants would only be entitled to nominal damages if a breach of PACE were established.

Those two big issues must now await consideration in another Court of Appeal case.

Edwin was represented the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and was instructed by Matt Smith of Plexus Law (Manchester).


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