Georgina Wolfe successful in Divisional Court challenge to a search warrant

In R (Brookfield Aviation) v Guildford Crown Court, Chief Constable of Surrey Police and the Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] EWHC 3465 (Admin), the Claimant sought permission to challenge the issue and execution of a search warrant by Surrey Police. In a rare reserved and fully reasoned judgment, the Divisional Court (Beatson LJ and Cranston J) refused permission, finding that the Claimant had failed to make out its challenges to a search warrant.

The Claimant was an aviation resources leasing company providing pilots to airlines such as Ryanair. It was being investigated by the German authorities for withholding salaries and tax evasion. The German authorities had made a request for mutual legal assistance to the UK Central Authority. The Secretary of State directed Surrey Police to apply for a warrant which was duly obtained and executed. The Claimant challenged the warrant on three grounds: (1) the test of dual criminality required by s16 of the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 was not met; (2) a search warrant was not necessary and the police could have obtained a production order and (3) the judge had failed to give reasons.

The Divisional Court held (1) that the test of dual criminality had been met because dishonesty could be inferred from the allegations made by the German authorities. There were substantial grounds for believing that the conduct described would amount to an offence under UK law. (2) A search warrant was necessary. The German international letter of request showed that the Claimant had failed to cooperate and the German court had issued a search warrant and asked the British police to execute it. The officer’s analysis that a search warrant was necessary was reasonable and appropriate. (3) While there had been a regrettable failure to give reasons, this did not render the warrant unlawful.

The full judgment can be found here.

Georgina Wolfe acted for the Chief Constable of Surrey. She regularly appears for police forces in judicial review proceedings.