Police Broken Door
A perhaps surprisingly common question we get is what is the position where the police break down a tenant's door? Who should pay?
Whether compensation is appropriate depends on the circumstances in each case. Compensation for damage caused when effecting entry is unlikely to be appropriate if the search was lawful, and the force used can be shown to be reasonable, proportionate and necessary to effect entry. If the wrong premises are searched by mistake everything possible should be done at the earliest opportunity to allay any sense of grievance and there should normally be a strong presumption in favour of paying compensation.
Therefore, the first thing to establish is whether the entry was lawful and necessary damage.
If it was, then no compensation will be payable. Suppose the tenant's actions caused the police to enter, particularly a breach of tenancy (for example, using the premises for illegal or immoral purposes). In that case, it is submitted the tenant will be liable for the costs of repair. If, however, the tenant is in no way at fault, the position becomes unclear.
In a question by one of our members (which instigated this article), the reason for the police breaking the door was:
... the Police ... were given information that he may have tried to kill himself. The information was false and malicious, sent via a text to his sister who called Police...
Here, it is submitted it was the tenant's actions that caused the damage, and it would seem the police had done nothing wrong because they were acting on the information given. Imagine the outcry if the police had done nothing and indeed he had tried to kill himself?
In almost all cases, the landlord's buildings insurance should cover the repair cost; in particular, this could be used if it is unclear who is at blame. The excess could then be recovered from the party at fault, so in the example given above, it is submitted the tenant should be pursued for the whole amount or insurance excess if insurance is used.
Was it lawful entry?
The power of search is only the power to search to the extent reasonably required for the purpose for which the power of entry is exercised [s.17(4) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984].
The list of circumstances when forced entry may be used is contained in section 17 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which is quite lengthy so not repeated here.
But, in brief, it covers all arrestable offences and includes saving life or limb or preventing serious damage to property. In addition, other enactments may specifically allow forced entry (for example, gas providers where gas is suspected to be leaking etc.)
Leaving the premises
If premises have been entered by force, before leaving, the officer in charge of the search must make sure they are secure by:
- arranging for the occupier or their agent to be present, or
- any other appropriate means
[para 6.13 PACE "B"]
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