Police access to property
28 July 2022
During the COVID pandemic, and as a result of recent SARs, we have noted an increase in coercive control being used by those posing a risk of abuse. There are a number of situations when police may be contacted to access a property:
- If a person is believed to have a mental disorder, and there is suspected neglect or abuse: under Section 135(1) of the MHA, a magistrates court has the power, on application from an approved mental health professional, to allow the police to enter premises using force if necessary and if thought fit, to remove a person to a place of safety if there is reasonable cause to suspect that they are suffering from a mental disorder and (a) have been, or are being, ill-treated, neglected or not kept under proper control, or (b) are living alone and unable to care for themselves.
- Power of the police to enter and arrest a person for an indictable offence: Section 17 of PACE. An indicatable offence is one where a defendant has the right to trial by jury in a Crown Court.
- Common law power of the police to prevent, and deal with, a breach of the peace. Although breach of the peace is not an indictable offence the police have a common law power to enter and arrest a person to prevent a breach of the peace. (A breach of the peace may occur where harm is done or is likely to be done to a person, or to his property in his presence, or he is in fear of being harmed through assault, affray, riot or disturbance)
- If there is risk to life and limb: Section 17 of PACE gives the police the power to enter premises without a warrant in order to save life and limb or prevent serious damage to property. This represents an emergency situation and it is for the police to exercise the power. However, it is not enough that the police should have a general welfare concern about somebody in order to use this power of entry, which may only be used in cases of emergency, not general welfare.