An Englishman’s Home Is Still His Castle, Court of Appeal Rules

‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’ is not just an empty aphorism. In one case which proved the point, the Court of Appeal ruled that an early morning raid by Environment Agency (EA) officers on a businessman’s home was unlawful.

HouseThe man ran a waste composting business which was one of a number under investigation by the EA in respect of alleged unauthorised waste activities. After obtaining a warrant from magistrates, a number of EA officers, accompanied by police, entered his home and took a large number of documents away with them.

The EA made disputed claims that the man had been confrontational, aggressive and uncooperative in the course of the investigation and that the unannounced raid was necessary to avert a real risk of evidence being removed or destroyed. The man mounted a judicial review challenge to the way in which the warrant had been executed but had his complaints rejected by a judge.

In upholding his appeal against that decision, the Court found that, pursuant to Section 108 of the Environment Act 1995, the officers only had power to enter his home after giving him at least seven days’ notice. Although the giving of such notice had the potential to defeat the object of the raid, the wording of the Act allowed no other conclusion. Although it was possible that the Parliamentary draftsman may have made a mistake, there was no justification for watering down the special protection conferred by the Act on homeowners.

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