New case law sec 17 powers

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New case law sec 17 powers

Post by JEA » Sun Mar 21, 2010 1:06 pm

If your force is like mine, you'll use sec 17 to gain entry to premises for concerns for welfare. Elderly and infirm person hasn't been seen for days, can't be traced, won't answer the door etc... This has saved lives in my force, but the following case law on PNLD may mean you are not acting in the lawful execution of your duty! A concern for welfare does not meet the threshold of "saving life and limb".
C2321 R v Syed 2010

The police received a phone call from S's neighbour to the effect that there was a disturbance ongoing at S's house, believed to be screaming and shouting. The police arrived at the address and there was no sign of a disturbance. The door was answered by a young Asian male who did not speak English and near to him was an elderly Asian female who also did not speak English. S then came to the door and spoke to the officers.
The officers explained that they had received a telephone call about a disturbance at the address. S explained that he and his brother had been having an argument. The officers asked S if it was the same brother who had answered the door or if there was another brother inside the house. S then became very evasive and would not answer the question.
The officers then explained to S that they had a power of entry without a warrant under section 17 of PACE. They explained it that they could enter premises if there were concerns for a person's welfare. S said they had no power to enter the house and refused them entry. At this time there were no signs of any disturbance within the house. S reacted by spitting in the face of one officer and headbutting the other.
S was convicted of assaulting an officer in the execution of his duty. S appealed stating that the officers did not have a right of entry into the property in the circumstances and were therefore not acting in execution of their duty.
The question before the court was - could a court properly conclude that police officers had been acting in the execution of their duty when they purported to exercise their powers under section 17 of the PACE to use force to enter premises without a warrant when -
They had received information from an operator stating that a report had been made that a verbal argument had taken place at the premises;
The caller did not disclose that any of the occupants had been injured or harmed in any way;
The occupants showed no physical sign of injury;
The occupants made no complaint of having sustained a physical injury;
The occupants made no suggestion that any other person had caused or sustained physical injury at the premises;
There was no visible sign of damage having been caused at the property;
The occupants made no complaint of damage having been caused at the property;
The occupants did not disclose that any criminal offence had been committed at the property;
The defendant explained to the officers that he had simply had a verbal argument with his brother;
This was not contradicted by the other occupants of the address;
The officers had no information to suggest that this was not the case.
Appeal allowed
The court agreed with a previous case Baker v Crown Prosecution Service [2009] EWHC 299 (Admin), that the term danger to life or limb was outdated but nevertheless indicated that it was a serious matter and that there should be a fear that something has happened or may happen which would involve serious injury to a person. The court agreed with the findings in the Baker case which stated -
"The expression 'saving life or limb' is a colourful, slightly outmoded expression. It is here used in close proximity with the expression 'preventing serious damage to property'. That predicates a degree of apprehended serious bodily injury. Without implicitly limiting or excluding the possible types of serious bodily injury, apprehended knife injuries and gunshot injuries will obviously normally be capable of coming within the subsection."
The court held that concern for welfare was not sufficient to enter properties using section 17, it was too low a threshhold. The court did sympathise with police and took the view that they would be damned if they did and damned if they did not. If something serious had happened, or was about to happen, and they did not do anything about it because they took the view they had no right of entry, no doubt there would have been a degree of criticism after the event. However Parliament had set the level high as it was a very serious matter for a citizen to have their house entered by the police without a warrant.
In this case, the court held that the officers had not been acting in execution of their duty and so S's conviction must be overturned. They further stated that perhaps if it had been a charge of 'simple' assault there may have been different considerations.

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Re: New case law sec 17 powers

Post by typecastboy » Sun Mar 21, 2010 5:09 pm

No wonder officers get so peeed off with the job. They were doing the right thing as they saw it, and got injured in the process.
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Re: New case law sec 17 powers

Post by PI & GI » Sun Mar 21, 2010 5:38 pm

Typical load of poo, we all have to cover our backsides for the 0.001 percent when it gets disputed that the officer was acting as he/she saw fit at the time,
i say let the 's' suffer in silience then they might complain that the police did not do anything. bloody ludicrous!

Let us do our job mr and mrs jo public, if you need help or the evidence suggests that a concerned party has called the police for YOUR welfare then let it be, surely you would rather ur door be knocked in and a short chat to an officer about the concerns raised would suffice, yes ok, 'invasion of privacy HRA rubbish' well ok, then lets not bother with 90 year olds then. WHAT A LOAD OF POO, I'm sorry but in the cases mention, the jury needed a kick in. This made my blood boil. :sltee: :slroll: :slbx:

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Re: New case law sec 17 powers

Post by Big Brother » Sun Mar 21, 2010 5:41 pm

So what would have happened if they just took the guy's word for it, walked away and it turned out someone inside was dead?

Sorry, but the courts have really cocked things up here. I remember a few years back we had a phone call about a possible disturbance in a house, young girl had been heard screaming on an open line before it went dead.
We got to the house and we could see movement inside but they wouldn't come to the door. Just as we were about to force the door it was opened and we could see it was just a misdial. The point is however that without knowing for sure that people inside are ok, the police should retain their right to enter in circumstances such as these.

As for concerns for welfare, every time I've been called to one of these I've ended up forcing the door open to be confronted with either a corpse or a seriously ill person. I couldn't see the person, I couldn't hear their cries for help. According to this judge I should have walked away.
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Re: New case law sec 17 powers

Post by Marlon » Sun Mar 21, 2010 8:42 pm

Thanks JEA.

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Re: New case law sec 17 powers

Post by steven » Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:26 am

I don't believe it. What a total farce.

Why have the courts taken that decision?
This will only serve to create more confusion.
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Re: New case law sec 17 powers

Post by overthinker1977 » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:45 pm

Cheers for that.
Thats a loads of balls!! :slra:

The officers couldn't asertain if lives were at risk because they hadn't spoken to all the occupants!! The nob wouldn't let them in or even answer their questions!!!
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