Can we conduct a further house search under section 18, following information from the detainee?

03 June 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

We have conducted a house searched under section 18(1) of PACE. Following the first search that was negative, the detainee gave more detailed information regarding where items were located.

Do we have the authority to re-enter and search the house again?

Answer: 

Section 18 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 creates a power to enter and search certain premises after someone has been arrested for an indictable offence and provides a power to seize relevant items:

'18(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, a constable may enter and search any premises occupied or controlled by a person who is under arrest for an indictable offence, if he has reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is on the premises evidence other than items subject to legal privilege, that relates -

(a) to that offence; or
(b) to some other indictable offence which is connected with or similar to that offence.'

In some circumstances there may be a requirement to issue another section 18 authority for different premises that are occupied or controlled by the arrested person. However, in our view, the original section 18 authority would remain in force for the original property, while the detainee remains under arrest. There appears to be nothing within the legislation that would prevent a further section 18 search on the same premises being authorised and carried out, as long as all of the requirements of the section are met.

It should be noted that section 18(3) states 'the power to search conferred by subsection (1) above is only a power to search to the extent that is reasonably required for the purpose of discovering such evidence.' Whether a further search would be considered to be 'reasonably required' will depend upon all the circumstances in the particular case. If the further search is found to be an abuse of power, there is a risk that evidence seized may be deemed inadmissible, which may be avoided by applying for a section 8 warrant instead. If a further search is authorised, the full reasons for it should be recorded.

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