Lawfully on the premises and powers of seizure

30 September 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question: 

Officers are searching a premises of a missing person when they find knives, offensive weapons and evidence of drug offences, can the items be seized under section 19?

Answer:

Section 19 of PACE provides a power to seize property from a premises when a constable is lawfully on the premises. Items may only be seized if the constable has reasonable grounds for believing:

the evidence is in relation to an offence or has been obtained in consequence of committing an offence; and

is necessary to seize it in order to prevent the evidence being concealed, lost, altered or destroyed.

Evidence in relation to an offence means facts to support an investigation and is not to be confused with relevant evidence which means admissible evidence at court. There is no definition for the term 'lawfully on the premises' within the Act, therefore the ordinary meaning should be applied being 'a way which is allowed or permitted by law'. This includes where the officer has been given permission by the owner of the premises, where the constable has entered the premises for the purpose of arrest under section 17, or when the constable has a warrant.

We are therefore of the opinion providing the constable was 'lawfully on the premises' such items could be seized under section 19 providing the above criteria has been met.

Please note that although section 19 of PACE provides a power of seizure, it provides no power to search. If the search of the premises was carried out with consent, please note the provisions in relation to this, under PACE Code of Practice B, section 5.

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