Recovery orders and the power to enter and search premises

12 October 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication


Do recovery orders give officers a power to search a whole premises for a child or does this need to be stated in the order?


Section 50 of the Children Act 1989 makes provision for recovery orders, and details who can apply for them (50(4)); what the purpose of making the recovery order is (50(3)); the details the recovery order must include (50(5)); and on what basis the court can grant the order (50(1)).

When making an application, a person who has parental responsibility for the child under a care order or emergency protection order; or where the child is in police protection, the designated officer, can request that the court includes an authorisation in the order for a constable to enter any premises specified in the order and search for the child, using reasonable force if necessary (50(3)(d)). As per subsection 50(6) should the court then deem that there are reasonable grounds for believing the child to be on the premises, then they may grant this power under the recovery order. Where this power has been granted, the recovery order will specify the details of the premises to which it applies.

A recovery order can include a power to enter and search premises, but not all will. You will need to check the details of each order. Where the order details specific premises, then as per subsection 50(3)(d), the authorised constable can enter and search the premises for the child, using reasonable force if necessary. This would include a search of the whole premises.

Where premises are not specified in the recovery order and therefore no power is afforded to an authorised constable to enter and search, the following alternative powers could be considered:

Section 46 of the Children Act 1989

This section provides that a constable has the powers to take a child 'into police protection' for up to 72 hours, if he or she has reasonable cause to believe that a child would otherwise be likely to suffer a significant harm if he or she did not remove the child to suitable accommodation and keep them there, or take reasonable steps to prevent the child's removal from a hospital or other place where the child is being accommodated. This provision can only be used where the police officer has found the child as there are no powers of search attached.

The police do not acquire parental responsibility under Section 46 but must do what is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the child's welfare, having regard in particular to the length of time the child will be in police protection.

Section 17 of PACE

The police have powers to enter and search premises without a warrant for the purpose of saving life or limb. The police may arrest without a warrant any person who has committed any offence where the arrest is necessary to protect the child from that person.

Section 8 warrant
Should the relevant provisions of this section be met, then the constable could apply for a warrant.

To read more legislation about this, login to the legal database. 

Back to Legal Questions