Understanding Search Warrants

Speaker: Leo Seelig
Chambers: 2 Harcourt Buildings

Leo Seelig
2 Harcourt Buildings

This seminar will cover

Warrant Categories
There are three broad categories of warrants:
• For obtaining evidence of criminal offences.
• For obtaining evidence of other unlawful activity (e.g. s.28 Competition Act 1998).
• For remedying a dangerous situation (e.g. s.135 MHA 1983).

PACE Warrants
The most commonly used provision : Section 8 PACE 1984.

Can be granted by a magistrate who decides there are reasonable grounds for believing the criteria are satisfied. In complex investigations, applications are regularly made to Crown Court (and with good reason : Chatwani).

Application is ex parte.

A s.8 warrant is used to search for material which is likely to be relevant evidence and of substantial value to the investigation of an indictable offence that has been committed and to which one of the ‘accessibility conditions’ apply; s.8(1).

The Accessibility Conditions (s.8(3))
• It is not practicable to communicate with the person entitled to grant entry.
• It is not practicable to communicate with the person entitled to give access to evidence.
• Entry will not be granted without a warrant.
• The purpose of the search may be frustrated / seriously prejudiced unless the police can secure immediate entry to the premises.

Applicant’s Obligations
Criminal Procedure Rules 2015
Current Rules are as amended October 2019.
Part 47 : Investigation Orders and Warrants. Part 3 deals with investigation warrants under:
• S.8 PACE 1984 – r.47.28
• S.2 CJA 1987
• Any other power – r.47.34

Statutory Safeguards
Statutory safeguards : ss.15, 16, PACE Code B.
Section 15
Statutory Safeguards
Section 16 provides:
• For others under the supervision of a constable to be authorised by the warrant to take part in the search / seizure; s.16(2)-(2B).
• For the expiry of a warrant 3 months from the date of issue; s.16(3).
• For requirements in respect of ‘all premises’ warrants; s.16(3A)-(3B).
• For requirements for endorsing the warrant upon its execution, and its return to the appropriate court officer; s.16(9)-(11).
Examples of non-fatal / technical breaches:
Methods of Challenge

Full speaker’s notes are accessible in our Past Papers library on our website

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