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 Police broke law by chasing suspect into home

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PostSubject: Police broke law by chasing suspect into home   Thu Oct 02, 2008 5:48 pm

Published Date: 02 October 2008
By BRIAN FERGUSON
A MAJOR review of how police search residential homes is set to be ordered after a woman found guilty of obstructing police in "hot pursuit" of a suspected vandal had her conviction overturned.
Appeal Court judges ruled that two Grampian Police officers had no right to enter and search Jacqueline Gillies's home without a warrant when they spotted the man they sought inside her flat as she tried to close the door.


Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) said it would be studying the case and would advise forces on whether operational procedures needed to be changed.

Gillies, 23, of Elgin, Moray, had told two police officers looking for James Scott – whom they believed to be her boyfriend – that he was not there. When they returned a short while later to ask if she would agree to them searching the flat for him, she refused, but they spotted Scott behind her in the hall.

Gillies then shouted, "He's not going anywhere" and tried to close the door. One of the police officers, Janice Wink, put her foot in the doorway to prevent Gillies shutting it.

The officers then forced open the door by pushing against her weight and Gillies was trapped between the door and the wall. Gillies was fined £100 for obstructing police officers, but took the case to the Justiciary Appeal Court.

The judges ruled the officers had no legal right to enter Gillies's home, as the current law states that the police are only allowed to force entry to premises when they are trying to make an arrest for serious crime. In this case, the police were only seeking to interview Scott about an alleged vandalism.

John Scott, a lawyer who specialises in human rights, said last night: "There was certainly not enough here to justify knocking someone's door in."

An Acpos spokesman said: "There will be a thorough review of this case, including taking legal advice, although the process is likely to take several months."

Lord Reed also said that granting police the authority to enter private property simply to detain someone would infringe the European Convention on Human Rights.

He added: "We are of the opinion that the police officers possessed no authority to enter her house on the occasion in question. It follows that they were acting unlawfully and that she was entitled to close her front door so as to prevent them from entering her house.

"It is not for the courts to alter the balance between individual rights and the powers of public officials."

Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood, who convicted Gillies, said: "I was left in no doubt the purpose of the appellant in closing the door in the officers' faces was to obstruct them in execution of their duty."

At the appeal stage, advocate depute Neil Beardmore argued that the police were entitled to enter Gillies's house.

Although officers possessed no statutory right to enter private premises to carry out a detention, they did have the power at common law in circumstances of urgency, he said.
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PostSubject: Re: Police broke law by chasing suspect into home   Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:23 pm

This is the Court opinion on the above case.

http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2008HCJAC55.html
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