The police are entitled to enter your home for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from drugs searches to public order offences. However, there is widespread confusion about your rights and the law when faced with a police raid, and officers are not allowed to discriminate against any individual and must be accountable for their actions.
If the police wrongly raid your home, they may have infringed your right to privacy and family life, which is protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and enshrined in UK law under the Human Rights Act 1998.
If you’re concerned the police may have wrongly raided your home or broken the rules around search warrants, causing you to suffer as a result, this article will provide guidance about your rights and the police powers of entry and search of premises
What powers do police have to enter and search premises under UK law?
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) is in place to ensure that police powers to enter and search your home under a warrant are not abused.
The PACE Act states that, in certain circumstances, the police are allowed to enter a home and search it to either arrest a person, seize items in connection with an offence, or both.
The police can enter and search your home:
- With your consent.
- After the arrest of you or someone else linked to your property.
- Under a search warrant.
- Under terrorism legislation.
What are the police raid procedures WITHOUT a warrant?
The police don’t always need a warrant to search your home. They have a number of different powers they can use to enter and search your home, both with and without a warrant.
In general, the police CANNOT search your home, or car, without a warrant unless:
- They obtain permission of the person concerned (written consent is needed to make the search lawful).
- A delay in obtaining a warrant is likely to see justice defeated (E.G: evidence removed or destroyed).
The police CAN enter without a warrant if they:
- Need to stop a crime which is in progress.
- Can prevent a crime they suspect is about to happen.
- Can save a life, prevent serious injury or prevent damage to a property.
- Need to sort out a disturbance.
- Hear distressed cries or a cry for help.
- Need to enforce an arrest warrant.
- Are invited in by the occupant.
- Are in close pursuit of someone they believe has committed, or attempted to commit, a serious crime.
- Need to arrest you or if you’re already under arrest.
What are the police raid procedures WITH a warrant?
Search warrants can only be granted by a Justice of the Peace sitting in a magistrates’ court, following a written application by the police.
The police don’t need to show a warrant before entering your home if it could aid the escape of a person they want to arrest or enable evidence to be destroyed. A warrant must be shown ‘as soon as practicable’ and you have the right to keep a copy.
If the police HAVE obtained a warrant they must:
- Carry out a search within three months of the date the warrant was issued.
- Only enter premises on one occasion only (unless warrant states otherwise).
- Make a search at a reasonable hour – unless it hinders the search’s purpose.
- Request entry by consent first (subject to certain exceptions).
- Identify the officers involved and explain the purpose and grounds for the search.
- Only use reasonable and proportionate force to enter if it is necessary.
- Give the home occupier a copy of the warrant and a Notice of Rights and Powers. If not there, the documents must be left in a prominent place.
- A search may not continue after the items specified in the warrant have been found, or after the officer in charge is satisfied they are not there.
- Take due consideration for the property and privacy of the occupier – using no more disturbance than is necessary.
- A friend, neighbour or other person must be allowed to witness the search if the occupier wishes – unless the officer in charge has reasonable grounds to believe it would seriously hinder the investigation or endanger officers.
- Premises which have been entered by force must be left secure.
If the police raid procedures are not followed correctly, you may be able to claim compensation for any pain or suffering you experienced as a result.
What happens if the police raid the wrong address?
When the police raid a property, they must have “reasonable” grounds for suspecting they will find evidence relating to an offence.
However, this can sometimes mean they raid the ‘last known address’ of a suspect – even though they no longer live there.
If this happens to you and your home is wrongly searched by mistake, you may be entitled to compensation as the PACE Code of Practice says “everything possible should be done at the earliest opportunity to allay any sense of grievance”.
Are police raid procedures different for a shared house?
In a shared property, the police are only allowed to search areas that are reasonably required to locate evidence, such as shared communal spaces or a person’s room.
If you live in a rental property, the police cannot conduct a search solely on the basis of your landlord’s consent. But they are allowed to gain consent from a housemate or family member, who is entitled to permit entry.
Can you film the police during a raid on your home?
If you want to, you are perfectly entitled to film the police whilst a search of your home is taking place, but in doing so you must not obstruct officers.
Even if they threaten to, the police cannot seize your camera unless they believe it contains evidence of an offence.
The police damaged my property, who pays?
If the police search an address in error, they must pay to repair any damage which is caused – including damage to a door.
If the search is lawful and the force used was reasonable, proportionate and necessary to gain entry, the occupier of the premises is responsible for any repair bills which result from the police forcing entry.
If you are a tenant in a rented property, your landlord may ask you to pay or seek to take the costs from your deposit.
When the police leave, the officer in charge must make sure your premises are secure by arranging for the occupier or landlord to be present. If either of these parties are unavailable, any appropriate means can be used to temporarily secure a property.
Why you may be able to seek damages against the police
If you believe you have suffered because the police abused their search powers, our expert Civil Liberties lawyers can advise you about the options available.
Whether or not a search ends in a charge, you may be able to bring a civil claim for damages if a raid was conducted unlawfully.
This might be because of a defective search warrant or if certain measures were not followed correctly. The use of unnecessary or excessive force could also be classed as an assault.
Unfortunately, a simple mistake like raiding the wrong home can have far-reaching consequences for the victims involved – such as financial insecurity, reputational damage and, in extreme circumstances, even the loss of a home.
It is something we see far too often in our work at Hudgell Solicitors, and we have recovered damages for many people who have had their homes wrongly raided due to police errors.
Depending on the strength of your case, we could help you make a complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), ask for an investigation to be carried out into the circumstances and help you to access the justice you deserve.