Call for police to search houses without a warrant

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SCOTS police are calling for the right to enter and search houses without a warrant.

The proposal comes from officers from Strathclyde Police Federation, who say the changes would bring their powers in line with those of officers in England and Wales.

In a motion tabled at the Scottish Police Federation conference in Aviemore this week, officers called for an urgent review of legislation.

Prosecutors currently have to ask permission from a sheriff before a warrant is granted, which officers say is ‘dithering and inefficient.’

Strathclyde Police Federation’s Secretary David Kennedy said the current system meant police risk losing evidence from delays in a warrant being granted.

He said: “This is a case of bringing legislation in line with the powers police have in England and Wales.

“I understand civil liberties groups will have concerns, but this is about giving officers more power to carry out their jobs on a day-to-day level.

 

Drugs

“If you get somebody for shoplifting, in Scotland you can’t go and search their car without a warrant, but in England and Wales officers can.

“I believe that also extends to searching their homes.

“Now, if there’s a big shoplifting gang, they may well have learned of the arrest and will have got rid of the goods by the time the police have a warrant to search their premises.

“Another example is you have reason to believe there are drugs within the premises, but by the time you have got a warrant from the fiscal, they could have been destroyed.”

 

Surveillance

But John Scott QC, a vice president at the Society of Solicitor Advocates, said the checks and balances of the current system were necessary.

He said: “An awful lot of things can be authorised by senior police officers at the moment, for example in relation to surveillance.

“The senior police officers I know welcome oversight and if a sheriff issues the warrant, they are completely covered.

“If there’s no warrant and something goes wrong in court with evidence, they’ve got nowhere to hide.

“Early involvement of the fiscal, increasingly common in the way serious crimes are approached, means the prosecution can guide the police, saying’ this is what we’re going to need.’

“Actions the police were going to take that would have caused problems with inadmissibility of evidence are avoided and it works well.”

 

Trials

He added some trials in England and Wales were lengthier due to repeated reviews of officers who acted without warrants.

One former senior police officer said: “The current system we have provides a scrutiny which is absolutely crucial to the justice system.”

The motion will be debated this week after being raised by a sergeant at Strathclyde Police.

Strathclyde Police Federation, which represents 7,200 members, placed it on the meeting’s agenda.

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