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Case Update – concerning the legality of an arrest

26 January 2021
Mr and Mrs Norman (Claimants 1 and 2 respectively) brought a judicial review claim after Essex Police obtained warrants to search their home, Ropers Farm, where they were subsequently arrested. It was believed that Claimant 1 was involved in a complex fraud using various investment vehicles.

R (on the application of Norman) v The Crown Court at Chelmsford, The Chief Constable of Essex Police [2020] EWHC 3456 (Admin)

The search warrants were quashed by the Court and valuable assets which had been unlawfully seized were returned. However, the claim that the arrests were unlawful did not succeed. While Claimants 1 and 2 were found to be innocent of the offences, the Court refused their claim for a declaration that their arrests were unlawful.

Prior to the search warrants being obtained, an informant provided intelligence to Essex Police that Claimant 1 was running a fraudulent investment vehicle. A review of HMRC documents by the police also revealed very little income declared despite a luxury lifestyle. However, it would later transpire that the informant's information was inaccurate. 

Upon obtaining warrants to enter Ropers Farm to search the property, the police officers arrived at the property at 7.30am and Claimant 1 was arrested at 7.37am on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. It was noted that the grass had foot prints in the dew and bags of cash were found in hedges at the property. Upon further investigation it was noted that there were women's trainers with grass clippings on them and the heels down (suggesting they had been put on in a hurry) and the only adult female awake at the time was Claimant 2. Based on this, Claimant 2 was also arrested on suspicion of frustrating the police's investigations and subsequently on suspicion of being involved in fraud. It was believed she had hidden cash to frustrate the enquiry. 

The police officer's witness evidence stated that the arrests were made to prevent any collusion and to properly interview the claimants at a police station.

The key questions in determining the legality of the arrests were whether the police officers had reasonable grounds for suspecting that the claimants had committed the offences, and whether they had reasonable grounds to believe the arrests were necessary.

As regards the warrants obtained, it was conceded by the Police that they should be quashed due to procedural errors, including the offences not being particularised, insufficient disclosure and the fact that each page of the warrant was not marked with court approval.

The Law

To make a lawful arrest, section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 ('PACE') and the revised Code G of PACE must be followed.

Section 24(2) of PACE requires the officer to have reasonable grounds for suspecting an offence has been committed. Section 24(4) requires that an officer can only exercise an arrest if one of the reasons set out in section 24(5) is satisfied. In this case the reason was that under section 24(5)(e): to allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question.

Code G(2C) requires that the officer should consider the arrest is the practical, sensible and proportionate option in all the circumstances. Code G(2F) requires that the officer must consider whether the arrest is necessary in order to carry out the interview. They must consider the suspect's voluntary attendance as a practicable alternative.

The test for reasonable grounds is established as suspecting the commission of an offence and suspecting the offender is guilty of that offence. Suspicion is defined as a state of conjecture or surmise where proof is lacking. 

Further it is also established law that the requirement for necessity cannot be simply that it is desirable or convenient. 

The questions that an arresting police officer must ask themselves were  considered in Parker v Chief Constable of Essex [2018] EWCA CIV 2788:

  1. Did the arresting officer suspect that an offence had been committed? This is established based entirely on the findings of fact as to the officer's state of mind.
  2. Did the officer have reasonable grounds for that suspicion? This is the objective test set under Section 24 PACE.
  3. Did the officer suspect the person was guilty of the offence? Again this is based on the findings of fact as to the officer's state of mind.
  4. Did the officer have reasonable grounds for suspecting they were guilty of the offence?
  5. Did the officer believe that for any of the reasons mentioned in section 24(5) PACE it was necessary to arrest the person?
  6. Were there reasonable grounds for that belief?

Decision

It was found that both arresting officers had reasonable grounds to suspect that the offences had been committed and each had reasonable grounds to believe an arrest was necessary. Dingemans LJ stated that, by the time of the arrest, the police had already reasonably suspected that Claimant 1 was engaged in substantial fraud given the information received. Further, due to the investigation at the house and the evidence obtained, it was considered that the officers had reasonable grounds to arrest Claimant 2 in order to prevent collusion. 

Analysis

The police officers had complied with section 24 PACE and were able to clearly demonstrate that they believed, and had reasonable grounds for suspecting, that Claimant 1 and Claimant 2 had committed the offences, and that it was reasonably necessary to arrest them both.  

Authors: Oliver Bramley

Further Reading

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