you need a warrant officerI am usually the first one to defend the UK’s unwritten Constitution. Then I read stories like the following and wonder if it really will take a single, codified document for the Executive to get the message.

“Police are removing valuables from unlocked cars to shock motorists into being more careful.

Officers are taking everything from handbags to satnavs, and leaving a note telling drivers their property is at a local police station.

The scheme is being tried out in Richmond, which has a disproportionately high level of thefts from cars – up 40 per cent in a year. Police from the area’s Safer Neighbourhood teams are being told to look out for cars with open windows or doors.

If they find valuables on display they will try to find the owner nearby, but if they cannot they will take the goods to Twickenham police station. Drivers who leave their car unlocked but with nothing on display will get a letter telling them to be more careful.

 

The project has the backing of Richmond council, which agreed to it after a surge in thefts to 300 between April and July, a fifth of which were from unlocked cars”. (Source)

But wait, there’s more! “Exeter Police have taught home-owners how insecure their houses are by ‘burgling’ 50 homes”. (Source)

Let’s talk about liberty: it is the legal postulate that underpins our Constitution. It’s why we have a Separation of Powers.

Entick v Carrington is one of the sources of our Constitution – and Authority for the principle that the Executive can take no action unless it has been expressly granted the power to do so.

Police powers are delineated in PACE. ¬†Please would someone from Richmond or Exeter show me the bit in Code B of PACE that authorises a without permission by the owner entry and seizure to “educate the public”.

I won’t hold my breath, as I may be waiting a long time.

Our Constitution is based upon the Rule of Law – not “the end justifies the means”. Do we really need to carry a pocket-sized British Constitution with us at all times to keep the Executive in check?

In the meantime, perhaps Richmond and Exeter will consider sending letters to home and car owners with crime prevention advice, rather than trespassing on their property and rights.

H/T to Garrulous Law

UPDATE

30 January 2016

Coventry City Police have taken “upstream thinking” to the next level with their #stoleninseconds¬†campaign of walking into to unlocked houses to make the point.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

@HackneyMPS (police) argued that police do have the power to enter peoples’ unlocked homes to leave Burglary advice under s17 of PACE.

Negative.

Entering an unlocked premises to leave unsolicited crime prevention leaflets is not, as has been suggested to me by whoever was running @HackneyMPS’s Twitter feed, “of saving life or limb or preventing serious damage to property“.

The case of Syed v DPP [2010] EWHC 81 (Admin), QBD refers.

The power is for saving life or limb or preventing “serious” damage. “Concern for welfare is too low a threshold for entry under s17(1)(e)”

The remedy for trespass (and that’s what this is) is in the Civil courts.