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Warrant seizure appeal dismissed

News | Mon 9th Oct, 2017

On the 19th June 2008, police executed a search warrant as part of “Operation Swale” at premises belonging to the Westminster College of Computing Limited and another.

They seized material which needed a small lorry to take away. After about 1½ years, a decision was made not to prosecute them and the property seized was returned, on separate occasions, over the following 2 years.

The Claimants brought High Court proceedings claiming damages in excess of £3m, maintaining that the police had unlawfully retained (or destroyed) their property or wrongfully restored it to others who had also been investigated.

After a 3 day trial before Master McCloud, the Master in a 15 page judgment, found that whilst the police records indicated a degree of human error, that not all of the goods had been signed for when returned and that some items were not properly recorded, nonetheless, the Claimants failed to establish that the police did not return everything as they had operated a fairly robust system.

The Claimants appealed to the High Court Judge on the basis that the Master failed to deal with all the items alleged to have not been returned, which were listed in Scott Schedules and had adopted a broad brush approach.

On 4th October 2017, Laing J. rejected the Claimants appeal, applying the principles in English-v-Emery Reimbold & Strick Limited [2002] 1 WLR 2409 and concluded that the Master was not obliged to deal with each and every item alleged to have been taken. There was no doubt how the Master resolved the issues and why the Claimants claim had failed.

Edwin Buckett represented the Metropolitan Police who were the Respondents to the appeal, instructed by Matt Smith of Plexus Law.

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