Dijen Basu QC and Cicely Hayward successfully defend West Midlands Police against a challenge to search warrants authorising seizure of electronic devices

Judgment (redacted, as there are reporting restrictions in place) has been handed down by the High Court (Lord Justice Gross & Mr. Justice Ouseley) in R (A & ors) v Central Criminal Court & Chief Constable of West Midlands Police [2017] EWHC 70 (Admin).

On 20 May 2016, Dijen Basu QC appeared before the Central Criminal Court on behalf of the police in order to obtain Sch 1 PACE search warrants authorising the search for, and seizure of, mobile telephones and SIMs belonging to the Claimants, the alleged offences underlying the warrants being conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and offences contrary to s.40D of the Prison Act 1952.

The warrants were executed by officers from 3 forces early the next morning and the Claimants were each arrested. Their phones were seized.

‘A’, ‘B’, ‘D’ and ‘E’ sought judicial review and Dijen Basu QC and Cicely Hayward represented the force. The Court permitted the force to retain all items seized to enable their contents to be downloaded and, following a sift, reviewed by the investigation team.

The claims of ‘A’ and ‘B’ were dismissed in their entirety. However, as the officers had not shown ‘D’ and ‘E’ the warrants before being let into their homes, the Court held that they were entitled to a declaration that there was a breach of s.16(5)(b) in the execution of their warrants, but declined to quash the warrants or the seizure of their phones.

Among other things, at §70, the Court addressed the tension between the effective investigation and prosecution of crime and the protection of LPP material, Lord Justice Gross asking, “What is to be done when an investigation legitimately targets material contained on a mobile phone or computer but there are reasonable grounds for believing that LPP material is also to be found on that phone or computer?”.

The Court rejected the proposition advanced on behalf of D and E that the warrant should specify the particular contents of the phone that were sought, holding (§85) that it was “imperative that a warrant is capable of simple and practical execution as is clear on its face”; the better place for a description of the contents or classes of contents sought was in the warrant application.

The Court has made anonymity orders, as well as an order pursuant to s.4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 postponing publication of any report of the proceedings, so far as it relates to certain specified topics, until criminal proceedings against others are concluded.

The redacted judgment can be read here