HC Deb 07 December 1972 vol 847 cc1651-3
8. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the requirements to be followed by police officers in applying for a search warrant.

Mr. R. Carr

The provisions in the relevant statutes vary in detail; but, in general, the police must satisfy a justice of the peace by information on oath that there are reasonable grounds for the issue of a search warrant in any particular case.

Mr. Cox

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. He is no doubt aware of the wide criticism that is made of the apparent ease with which certain police officers can obtain search warrants. Therefore, is it not time that a system of reporting back to the magistrate who signed the warrant was introduced? This would go a long way towards easing the fears of many people that many officers can, on demand, obtain search warrants without afterwards having to justify their reasons?

Mr. Carr

I am not quite sure that I have understood what the hon. Gentleman is asking, but I shall certainly study his question in HANSARD. However, the House would be wrong in imagining that the police are in some way abusing this

years ago. I want to see how it goes on this occasion—but as the coming New Year's Eve heralds another year of achievement by the Conservative Government I am sure that there will be suitable celebrations, whatever the anomalies of the law.

Following is the list:

right. They have to go before a magistrate on oath—and a magistrate has considerable powers to question police officers and to satisfy himself that the request is justified. It would be very wrong of me to criticise magistrates in the exercise of their duty.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

In view of the concern that has been widely expressed recently, will the right hon. Gentleman look into the question of the extent to which magistrates are taking the opportunity, which the right hon. Gentleman quite rightly said exists, of really going into the facts before they authorise a warrant?

Mr. Carr

Yes, I will, but I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will know that the Lord Chancellor issued guidance—instructions, I think I might say—to all those responsible for the training of justices of the peace in this matter. I shall certainly consider the matter and satisfy myself that magistrates are aware of their rights and duties.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is it not a smear on the police to say that certain officers, whom the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox) does not specify, are getting round the law in this matter? Is this not regrettable at a time when the police ought to have the fullest possible support?

Mr. Carr

Certainly if any such smear were made I would reject it utterly, because whoever else is to blame in this it is not the police, for asking. They have a perfect right to ask. It is the duty of magistrates to examine and grant applications, but if warrants are granted the police certainly cannot be blamed.

Forward to