[COURT OF APPEAL]
GHANI AND OTHERS v. JONES
[1969 G. No. 2947]
Police - Powers - Retention of documents - Passports - Refusal to return documents and passports handed to police - Police suspicion of murder and belief in evidential value of documents - No evidence of reasonable grounds of belief or that owners concerned in murder - Whether police entitled to retain documents and passports - Owners' right to relief.
Injunction - Mandatory - Interlocutory - Retention of documents and passports by police claim by owners - Relief sought substantially same as claimed in action - No reason to delay enforcement of right - Whether order should be granted.
Police officers inquiring into a woman's disappearance searched, without a warrant, the house of her father-in-law. At their request he handed to them documents including the passports of himself, his wife and daughter, the plaintiffs living in the house. The plaintiffs, who were Pakistanis, later asked for the return of the passports and documents as they wished to visit Pakistan. The police refused to return them. The plaintiffs brought an action against the defendant, a senior police officer, for a mandatory order for the delivery up of the passports and documents, an injunction restraining their detention and damages for detinue.
On the plaintiffs' interlocutory application, the police gave affidavit evidence of their belief that the woman had been murdered and that they would apprehend those concerned. They said that in the event of charges being preferred some of the documents would be of evidential value and others of potential evidential value. The defendant said that the plaintiffs could help the police inquiries and that if they left the United Kingdom they might not return. No one had been arrested or charged with the murder. Talbot J. ordered the return of the documents and passports.
On the defendant's appeal:
Held, dismissing the appeal, that the police had not shown reasonable grounds for believing that the documents were material evidence to prove the commission of a murder, nor for believing that the plaintiffs were in any way implicated in or accessory to a crime, and since their affidavits did not justify their retention of the documents, they should be ordered to return them forthwith.
Per curiam. There is no power to issue a search warrant for murder (post, p. 705D).
The common law does not permit the police to ransack anyone's house, or to search for papers or articles therein, or to search his person, simply to see if he may have committed some crime (post, p. 706G-H).
Where police officers enter a man's house by virtue of a warrant, or arrest a man lawfully for a serious offence, they are entitled to take any goods which they find in his possession or in his house which they reasonably believe to be material evidence in relation to the crime for which he is arrested or for which they enter. If during their search they come upon any other goods which show him to be implicated in some other crime they may retain them, provided they act reasonably and detain them no longer than is necessary (post, p. 706A-B).
The wish to prevent the plaintiffs leaving the country pending police inquiries is not a legitimate ground for the retention of the passports by the police (post, p. 709F).
Observations on requisites to be satisfied in order to justify the taking of an article when no one has been arrested or charged (post, pp. 708G-709C).
Decision of Talbot J., post, p. 695;  3 W.L.R. 1158;  3 All E.R. 720 affirmed.
The following cases are referred to in the judgment of Lord Denning M.R.:
The following additional cases were cited in argument in the Court of Appeal:
The following cases are referred to in the judgment of Talbot J.:
The following list of additional cases cited in argument before Talbot J. is supplied by the courtesy of counsel:
APPEAL from Talbot J., infra.
A summons, taken out by Abdul Ghani, the first plaintiff, Razia Begum, his wife, the second plaintiff, and Kaniz Radhma, a spinster and daughter of the first and second plaintiffs, the third plaintiff, in an action against Alan Jones, a detective chief superintendent of the Metropolitan police, the defendant, was heard in chambers and judgment was delivered in open court.
The facts are fully stated in the judgments of Talbot J. and Lord Denning M.R.
Anthony Lester for the plaintiffs.
Anthony Lewisohn for the defendant.
August 28.TALBOT J. read the following judgment. In this summons I have been asked to give my judgment in open court. In it the plaintiffs are asking for a mandatory order that the defendant, a detective chief superintendent of the Metropolitan police, do deliver up certain documents belonging to them and their passports, which they allege are wrongfully detained by him. The first and second plaintiffs are husband and wife, and the third plaintiff is their daughter. Proceedings were commenced by a writ issued on August 13, 1969, in which is made this claim for the mandatory order and also a claim for damages.
The matter arises in this way: the police are investigating the disappearance of one Mastoora Begum, the wife of Mohammed Sharif, a son of the first and second plaintiffs. This lady arrived in the United Kingdom on June 22, 1967, and has since disappeared. Inquiries lead the police to believe that she has been murdered and that the crime is believed to have been committed in 1968. No one has been arrested or detained, though the police believe they will apprehend those concerned.
On June 13, 1969, the defendant and other police officers visited the first plaintiff's house and questioned him about the disappearance of Mastoora Begum. They searched the house, though, as I understand, they did not have a search warrant. They asked for the passports of the first plaintiff and of his wife, the second plaintiff, and he (the first plaintiff)
handed them to the police officers. The police officers took away the passports, and also five letters and a notebook.
On June 19, 1969, the police again visited the first plaintiff's house and asked him for the passport of his daughter, the third plaintiff. This also was handed over to them.
Then the time came when the plaintiffs wanted their documents back, and in particular their passports. They asked for them and did not get them back. They then instructed solicitors and the solicitors wrote letters, four in all, the last being on August 14, asking for the return of these documents, but received no reply.
The plaintiffs want their passports back for a holiday in Pakistan. The police - that is the defendant and detective sergeant Laing - in their affidavits say they believe that in the event of charges being preferred, some of the documents will be of evidential value and others certainly of potential evidential value. That is set out in the affidavit of detective sergeant Laing. In the affidavit of the defendant he says he believes the documents referred to to be important documents in themselves; and he went on to add that in so far as the passports were concerned, he believed that all three plaintiffs could be of considerable assistance to his inquiries, and that if they left the United Kingdom they might not return.
Pausing there, that final reason given by the defendant, that the passports are required to prevent the plaintiffs leaving the country, is no longer relied upon as a valid reason for retaining these documents.
The letters and notebook belong to the first plaintiff, or to the first and second plaintiffs. The passports belong to the governments issuing them. The plaintiffs, however, as possessors of these passports, have a right to them.
The first point which is clear is that the defendant detains these documents and passports from the plaintiffs, and the burden is upon him to show that he lawfully detains them. The second point is this: has the defendant shown that he has a right to retain these documents? The third point is: if he has not any such lawful power, ought the court, in the exercise of its equitable jurisdiction, to order their return at this stage of the proceedings.
The first question involves a consideration of police powers to seize papers which they believe may be of material evidential value in possible criminal proceedings. It is an important consideration that police authorities should not be hindered in their investigations of a crime. It is certainly of equal importance that individual rights and liberties should not be infringed and taken away unless there is lawful reason for so doing.
Powers of the police to seize goods and documents were fully examined by the Court of Appeal in Chic Fashion:s (West Wales) Ltd. v. Jones  2 Q.B. 299. As long ago as 1765, in Entick v. Carrington (1765) 19 State Tr. 1029, it was decided that a general warrant authorising a search for seditious papers was illegal. The powers of the police in such cases must be derived either from a statute or from the common law. There is no statutory power which would authorise the defendant in this case to do what he is doing, and therefore I must determine whether the common law authorises his action.
In 1800, in Price v. Messenger (1800) 2 Bos. & P. 158, seizure of goods not referred to in a search warrant was held lawful because the officer reasonably, though mistakenly, believed that they were included in the warrant.
In 1827, in Crozier v. Cundey (1827) 6 B. & C. 232, seizure of goods not mentioned in the warrant but which were likely to provide evidence of identity of those goods which were mentioned was held lawful.
In Dillon v. O'Brien and Davis (1887) 16 Cox C.C. 245, it was decided that where a man was arrested on warrant, a constable was entitled to take property found in his possession which was likely to form material evidence in his prosecution for a crime. Similarly, in Elias v. Pasmore  2 K.B. 164, it was decided that a constable arresting a man called Harrington for sedition was entitled to seize documents which were in his possession and which would form material evidence against the plaintiff in that action, Elias, on a charge of inciting Harrington to commit the crime of sedition.
"... when a constable enters a house by virtue of a search warrant for stolen goods, he may seize not only the goods which he reasonably believes to be covered by the warrant, but also any other goods which he believes on reasonable grounds to have been stolen and to be material evidence on a charge of stealing or receiving against the person in possession of them or anyone associated with him."
That there are limitations on police powers in respect of property which they believe to be connected with a crime is shown by Reg. v. Waterfield  1 Q.B. 164, decided by the then Court of Criminal Appeal in 1963. Two police constables had information about a car being involved in a serious offence and tried to detain the car, though not charging or arresting the two men in it, and it was held that though there was a duty on the constables to preserve for use in court evidence of a crime, that duty did not authorise them to prevent the removal of the car in the circumstances.
It was in Reg. v. Lushington, Ex parte Otto  1 Q.B. 420 that it was laid down that constables have a power and duty to retain for use in court things which may be evidence of crime and which have come into their possession without wrong on their part. In that case there were proceedings for extradition and the articles had been produced by the owner under a subpoena duces tecum.
How then do these decided cases assist in this case? Let us take the main points of the evidence. There is suspected the serious crime of murder; the plaintiffs' documents came into the hands of the police because they were handed to them by the first plaintiff; no one has been arrested or detained for the crime, and the plaintiffs are not shown by any evidence before me to be concerned in that crime; the police believe that the documents will be of evidential or potential evidential value, though no grounds are shown to support this belief; the plaintiffs particularly want their passports and their detention amounts to a restriction on their free movement from this country, a restriction which is laid upon persons who are not charged with any offence or shown to be implicated in the suspected
offence. These are the relevant circumstances, and I hope I have not omitted anything.
The question, narrowed down, therefore, is this: have the police common law powers to detain documents, which they believe will be useful evidentially in a suspected crime, from the owners, who have not been charged or arrested or shown to be implicated in the suspected crime?
The cases I have been referred to relating to search warrants limit the powers to keep the goods or papers found on the search to those connected evidentially with stolen property and which are believed, on reasonable grounds, to be so connected in order to support a charge against the owners or those associated with them. The other cases relate to the right to retain documents in proceedings which have been begun and which may form part of the evidence in those proceedings.
Taking all these matters into account, I am persuaded that there is no right vested in the police at common law to retain documents and passports belonging to persons not shown to be concerned in the suspected crime and where no reasonable grounds of belief that these documents will be useful evidentially in some crime are shown. To decide otherwise would be to accord to the police powers to take charge of property which they believe might be of evidential value irrespective of any connection the owners might have with the crime.
The final point concerns the equitable jurisdiction which I have to exercise. It is exceptional to grant, before trial of the action, an interlocutory injunction which gives substantially the relief claimed in the action, and in particular to make a mandatory order. Furthermore, before doing so, the court must be quite clear that the right exists. In this case, my opinion being that the defendant has no right to keep these documents from the plaintiffs, and as the legality of his actions has to be tested at the time of his refusal to deliver up - that appears in the Chic Fashions case - I can see no reason to delay enforcement of what I believe to be the plaintiffs' rights. The order will therefore go.
Solicitors: Lawford & Co.; Solicitor, Metropolitan Police.
L. N. W.
The defendant appealed.
The grounds of appeal were: (1) that the judge was wrong in law in holding that police officers had no common law powers to detain documents which they believed would be useful evidentially in a suspected crime, unless the owners of the documents had either been charged or arrested, or had been shown to be implicated in the suspected crime; (2) that the judge was wrong in law in holding that it was incumbent on the police officers to disclose in their affidavits, sworn for the purpose of interlocutory proceedings, the grounds for their belief that the documents were of evidential value in connection with the suspected crime; (3) that the judge was wrong in the exercise of his equitable jurisdiction in granting to the plaintiffs the relief claimed upon an interlocutory application.
John Leonard Q.C. and Anthony Lewisohn for the appellant defendant. This is a murder investigation by the police. The original point of taking the plaintiffs' passports was to prevent them getting out of the country. It is conceded that this is no justification. The passports were handed to the police voluntarily. Their retention is justified by their potential evidential value. The best evidence rule requires the production of the originals.
1. Police officers who lawfully acquire possession of articles which they have reasonable grounds to believe may be of evidential value in a criminal investigation can retain them until the articles are used in evidence or for a reasonable time. 2. A bare statement that a defendant has reasonable grounds for belief is a sufficient answer to an interlocutory application for the return of articles so acquired. 3. If the police are wrong and they have no reasonable grounds for retaining the articles they are liable in damages.
Suppose A borrows a knife from B, stabs someone with that knife and having so committed murder disappears and cannot be found. The knife is traced by the police who take it away before A is discovered. B demands the return of the knife. It would be absurd if the police were bound to return the knife to B, who may be implicated as an accessory. It is sufficient if it is reasonably needed as evidence.
Articles can be taken as an incident to a search warrant although not included in it: Chic Fashions (West Wales) Ltd. v. Jones  2 Q.B. 299. Cases reviewed in that case establish the power of the police to retain articles which may be used in evidence, e.g., Dillon v. O'Brien and Davis (1887)16 Cox C.C. 245. In Elias v. Pasmore  2 K.B. 164 the documents were on the premises but not in the possession of Hannington.
The statutory power of search is contained in section 26 (1) and (3) of the Theft Act, 1968. Impeding police inquiries in the case of murder could amount to an offence under section 4 of the Criminal Law Act, 1967. The right to retain articles cannot depend on whether a charge is ultimately made against anyone, or upon whether a conviction is obtained: see per Lord Denning M.R. in Chic Fashions (West Wales) Ltd. v. Jones  2 Q.B. 299, 312. The "best evidence" rule must be complied with; the original document must be produced if possible.
The restrictions on the powers of the police are: (1) the retention must be for a reasonable time; (2) one has to balance the interests of the individual who owns the article and the seriousness of the case. The current situation with regard to crime and the police must be regarded. The interlocutory order made means that the police have not had time to complete their investigations. Pringle v. Bremner and Sterling (1867) 5 Macph. H.L. 55 illustrates the principle of the interests of the state in prosecuting criminals.
The principle contended for does not depend on the fact that she documents were voluntarily handed over; the police obtained them lawfully. It is conceded that there must be a limit on what can be done without a search warrant. One cannot get a search warrant in a murder case.
The limitation on the powers of the police in Reg. v. Waterfield  l Q.B. 164 went too far. The question there was whether the police were acting in the course of their duty. Reg. v. Lushington, Ex parte Otto  1 Q.B. 420 lays down the principle of the power of the police to
retain articles lawfully in their possession which may be evidence of a crime.
[Edmund Davies L.J. referred to articles by Professor P. J. Fitzgerald, "The Arrest of a Motor Car" (1965) Criminal Law Review, p. 23, and by Professor E. C. S. Wade, "Police Search" (1934) 50 Law Quarterly Review, p. 354.]
In summary, any discussion as to the right of the police to seize goods is irrelevant. The police could not have got a search warrant in this case. The only common law right to a search warrant was in the case of larceny. There are two functions of search warrants for stolen goods. One is to provide evidence; the other is to recover goods. The right of the police is independent of the outcome of the investigation. The right to retain possession must have a point of termination. If there is no charge or prosecution that must be at the point, which had not been reached here, when a reasonable time has elapsed.
Anthony Lester for the plaintiffs. It is conceded that the burden is on the defendant to show that he lawfully detained the plaintiffs' goods. The detention must be justified at the time of the taking or at the time of the request for the return. The defendant here took as a bailee but lie committed a trespass when he refused to return the goods. Halsbury's Laws of England, 3rd ed., Vol. 38 (1962), para. 1283 defines detinue. If the detention is to be justified, the taking must also be justified. It must be the same justification in each case.
There are eight elements in this case which make it unusual: (1) there has been no prosecution; (2) no arrest; (3) no application for a search warrant; (4) no suggestion by the defendant that the documents were the fruits or instruments of any crime; (5) no allegation that they were evidence of any crime committed by the plaintiffs; (6) no suggestion that they were necessary and material evidence against anyone; (7) the passports have unique characteristics in that they affect liberty of movement and, like driving licences, they speak as to very few facts; (8) it is admitted that, in the circumstances of this case, the police would have no right to search for or seize documents. There are competing interests here: of the community through the police and of the individual citizen. It is necessary to have a clear standard at common law, especially since there are no safeguards in any written constitution.
As to the illustration of the knife given for the appellant, as the law now stands the police would have to return the knife. One can only search or seize by virtue of a warrant, a search warrant or warrant of arrest. A warrant of arrest would allow the taking of articles as evidence if they were in the possession of the person arrested. Warrants of search and arrest give safeguards; there must be reasonable grounds for suspicion.
The stolen goods cases. In Price v. Messenger (1802) 2 Bos. & P. 158 a search warrant protected goods specified in the warrant and also goods reasonably believed to have been specified. Crozier v. Cundey (1827) 6
B. & C. 232 shows that though the terms of the warrant can be extended this must not be unreasonable. The cases are reviewed in Chic Fashions (West Wales) Ltd. v. Jones  2 Q.B. 299. The Theft Act, 1968, goes beyond that case.
There are three special features at common law in the case of stolen goods: (1) ex hypothesi they may not belong to the person from whom they are taken; (2) they are stolen; (3) there is an interest in their being returned to their true owner.
The need for a search warrant provides four safeguards: (1) a sworn statement made to a magistrate; (2) a deposition of reasonable belief that the goods were stolen and were in possession of a particular person at a particular place; (3) if the warrant was improperly granted, the citizen can be protected; (4) the warrant limits the extent of search and seizure.
In warrantless searches the police must have reasonable grounds for belief that the items seized are either the fruits of a crime committed by a person from whom they are taken or instruments of such a crime or necessary or material evidence of such a crime. The principle of reasonableness is inherent in the search warrant situation.
Other search warrant cases. In Pringle v. Bremner and Stirling (1867) 5 Macph. H.L. 55, the search went beyond the warrant. Lord Chelmsford indicated that the legality of the seizure would depend upon the outcome of the proceedings. Reliance is put on Gordon v. Chief Commissioner of Metropolitan Police  2 K.B. 1080, 1094, where the coins were not shown to be material evidence. One can only search or seize by virtue of a warrant, a search warrant or warrant of arrest. These warrants give safeguards; there must be reasonable grounds for suspicion. The irony of the plaintiffs' present position if the police contention is right is that they have less protection than if there were a warrant. There have been cases where the property has been returned pending the trial.
King v. The Queen  1 A.C. 304 reinforces the importance of complying with a search warrant. It shows that if the warrant is exceeded there is an illegality. It also illustrates how different is the stricter American view as to the admissibility of illegally obtained evidence. As we have looser rules as to admissibility, we should have stricter safeguards as to obtaining evidence. Reg. v. Barnett (1829) 3 C. & P. 600 is one of the many cases showing that money or goods taken which are not material to the charge must be returned. The test is: is it material to the charge?
Arrest warrant cases. One can hardly imagine a clearer case than Dillon v. O'Brien and Davis (1887) 16 Cox C.C. 245 where the doctrine of hot pursuit arises. This was the only case relied upon in Elias v. Pas more  2 K.B. 164 for a much wider proposition. It is essential that the person concerned from whom the property is taken is the suspected criminal. Parliament, as late as 1967, has addressed its mind to these problems and has set out the limits: see sections 4 (1) and 2 of the Criminal Law Act, 1967, and also section 26 of the Theft Act, 1968. This is the answer to the knife point. It is very significant that Parliament has gone no further. One must not extend the law beyond the safeguards applied to accused persons. To allow the police the wide powers which they claim, where there is no arrest or charge, is highly dangerous. Reliance
Elias v. Pasmore  2 K.B. 164, 173, is expressed very widely and is inconsistent with Dillon v. O'Brien, 16 Cox C.C. 245. If pressed it would be contended that Elias v. Pasmore was wrongly decided. It was a case involving sedition and the documents were conceded to be relevant. If Elias v. Pasmore  2 K.B. 164 was based on the width of the principle of Horridge J., at p. 173, it was wrongly decided. Professor Wade's article, "Police Search" in 50 L.Q.R. 354, is a valuable criticism of that case. The present case goes beyond Elias v. Pasmore in that there has been no arrest. Although Reg. v. Waterfield  1 Q.B. 164 is in the plaintiffs' favour in that it is the only case in English law in which the police have taken property without a warrant and had to give it back, the reasons of the court were not fully given and it should be limited to its own circumstances. It is very far from the present case, although it is the one case where there was no warrant. The doctrine of "hot pursuit" may sometimes apply. The police would not get a search warrant here.
The American authorities. Boyd v. United States (1886) 116 U.S. 616 showed that constitutional provisions for the security of person and property, such as the Fourth Amendment dealing with the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures" should be liberally construed. We have the same standard as the American Fourth Amendment, although we do not go so far. If there is any doubt as to the law it should be resolved in favour of the citizen. The importance of the fundamental right secured by the Fourth Amendment was emphasised in Weeks v. United States (1914) 232 U.S. 383, 392, 393. No English case has been found which is inconsistent with Weeks v. United States. In The Warden of Maryland Penitentiary v. Hayden (1967) 387 U.S. 294 the seizure was allowed; previously the instruments of a crime could be seized, but not the evidence. Chimel v. State of California (1969) U.S. (23 L.Ed 2d 685) shows how far American law goes in protecting the accused.
All the American cases concerned the accused person. It would never have occurred to them that the same safeguards should not apply to a person not even accused, [Reference was made to Christie v. Leachinsky  A.C. 573, per Viscount Simon at p. 584.]
In seizing goods, either one must have a warrant, or, if there is no warrant, there must be the same safeguards as if there was a warrant. The plaintiffs must be given reasonable grounds for the retention of the property at the time of the taking or the request. Retention cannot be justified without reasons being given.
In summary, the two issues of search and seizure should be kept separate. The question of the legality of searches depends upon the entry onto property. If there is no warrant, the same safeguards must be observed as are contained in actual search warrants.
As to seizure, on the cases the citizen or the police can only seize property pursuant to a search warrant or warrant of arrest or a Christie v. Leachinsky  A.C. 573 arrest. It is essential that the legality of what has been done can be tested. The burden is on the police authority to justify. In Elias v. Pasmore  2 K.B. 164 there was a warrant. It is conceded
that in search and arrest cases, searches and seizures have been allowed beyond the warrant, but subject to the necessary conditions which the warrant contains. These are cases where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the articles seized may be material evidence for the trial in respect of a crime for which the warrant was issued or some similar crime was committed by a person from whom the article was taken. So far as third parties are concerned outside those implicated, they would be liable to produce evidence on subpoena and if they destroyed the evidence they would be liable under the Criminal Law Act, 1967. To extend the power of search and seizure to innocent third parties would be to deprive persons not accused of any crime to a greater restraint than if there were a warrant. If they cannot be seized without consent, they cannot be retained against the owner's will. The American Fourth Amendment sets out the principle of the Entick v. Carrington position, 19 State Tr. 1029. That case has stood for two centuries. It should still stand.
The documents here relate to personal liberty. It is not suggested that they are material evidence. The police cannot unlawfully retain property on the basis of the best evidence rule. If ever there was a case which did not require an extension of police powers it is this. The documents were handed over voluntarily.
Leonard Q.C. in reply. It is fundamental to this case that the documents were handed over voluntarily. Entick v. Carrington, 19 State Tr. 1029 is very far from the present case. It is conceded that if the police had entered the house without permission, it would have been unlawful. It is a very different matter where they were given permission. The mischief that the common law has been guarding against is the entry into a man's house and turning over his papers. As there was no trespass, provided the police have some need to retain the documents, they can keep them. Prima facie the police are committing a tort, but the documents are being kept for their evidentiary value. The police might be embarrassed by having to disclose reasons for their value as evidence.
Chic Fashions (West Wales) Ltd. v. Jones  2 Q.B. 299 makes it clear that provided the police have the right to go on the premises, they have the right to go beyond the warrant and seize other goods: see per Lord Denning, at p. 313. The element of criminal association is not necessary. The limitations are a reasonable belief that a felony has been committed and that it is material evidence. The interests of the citizen must be set against the seriousness of the offence.
[Lord Denning M.R. Have the police got to say why the goods or documents are reasonably required?]
No. Common sense must be relied upon. The fact that the retention of the passports immobilise the holders is an advantage to the police. It is inherent in the judgments in Chic Fashions (West Wales) Ltd. v. Jones  2 Q.B. 299 that the police may sometimes be justified in seizing property where there is no prosecution. A subpoena duces tecum is no help to the police where proceedings have not yet begun.
Reg. v. Waterfield  1 Q.B. 164 unreasonably hampers the activities of the police. It was either wrongly decided or depends on its own particular facts. In King v. The Queen  1 A.C. 304, Lord Hodson,
The common law is a developing organism. Reasonable grounds for believing that a criminal offence has been committed and that the goods or documents are of reasonable evidentiary value is the test.
October 29. The following judgments were read.
LORD DENNING M.R. On June 22, 1967, a woman named Mastoora Begum came from Pakistan to England to join her husband here. His name was Mohammed Sharif. They lived together in a house in Oxford with the husband's father and mother, whose names are Abdul Ghani and Razia Begum. In November, 1968, the wife disappeared. No one has seen her since. In April, 1969, the husband left England and went back, presumably to Pakistan. The husband's sister then came to England and stayed with her father and mother at the same house in Oxford.
The police made inquiries about the disappearance of the wife which led them to the belief that she had been murdered. On June 13, 1969, two detective officers from Scotland Yard - Chief Superintendent Jones and Detective Sergeant Laing - went to the house in Oxford where the husband's father and mother and their daughter were living. The father asked the officers in. One of them questioned him about the disappearance of his son's wife. The other searched the house. The police asked the father for their passports. He handed them his own and his wife's passports. They took them away. They also took some letters received from other members of the family. On June 19, the police returned to the house and asked for the daughter's passport. Her father gave it to them.
In July, 1969, the father instructed solicitors to ask for the return of the passports and other articles. The police refused to return them. On August 13, 1969, the father and mother and the daughter issued a writ against the chief superintendent, the defendant, and served with it a statement of claim asking for a mandatory order that the defendant do forthwith deliver up the passports and letters. Detective Sergeant Laing made an affidavit, saying:
"The information I have obtained as a result of my inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the said Mastoora Begum leads me to believe that she has been murdered and that the crime was committed in 1968 and I am of opinion that the inquiries now being undertaken will lead to the apprehension of those concerned in her murder.
In the course of the inquiries Chief Superintendent Jones and myself acquired possession (inter alia) of the passports of the three plaintiffs, two letters from Mr. Ghani's daughter, Nassim Akhtar, and three letters from his nephew, Subba Saddique. I believe that in the event of charges being preferred some of the documents will be of evidential value and others certainly of potential evidential value."
As to the husband's sister, the affidavit said that she "was not in the United Kingdom at the time of the disappearance of the said Mastoora Begum, but there has been conduct on her part which was designed to impede police inquiries."
Detective Chief Superintendent Jones concurred in that affidavit, and said:
"I believe that the documents referred to therein to be important in themselves, but insofar as the passports are concerned, I also sincerely believe that all these plaintiffs can be of considerable assistance to me in my inquiries, and that, if they leave the United Kingdom, they may not return."
Neither affidavit alleged any belief that any of the plaintiffs was implicated in the suspected murder. Talbot J., held, ante, p. 698C-E, that the police had no right to retain the passports or letters and made a mandatory order for their return. The police officers appeal to this court. The case raises matters of importance on which there is very little direct authority in our books.
The first thing to notice is that the police officers had no search warrant. The reason is simple. No magistrate - no judge even - has any power to issue a search warrant for murder. He can issue a search warrant for stolen goods and for some statutory offences, such as coinage. But not for murder. Not to dig for the body. Nor to look for the axe, the gun or the poison dregs. The police have to get the consent of the householder to enter if they can: or, if not, do it by stealth or by force. Somehow they seem to manage. No decent person refuses them permission. If he does, he is probably implicated in some way or other. So the police risk an action for trespass. It is not much risk.
The second thing to notice is that the police officers kept the passports and letters without the consent of the holders. Mr. Leonard suggested that they took them with consent. This is a little far-fetched. Here were two police officers asking a Pakistani for the passports of himself and his wife. Of course he handed them to them. It would look bad for him if he did not. He bowed to their authority. Even if he consented to their looking at the passports, he did not consent to their keeping them. Even if he did consent to their keeping them, it was only for a while: and he could withdraw it at any time. As in fact he did. So it is all the same. They detain the passports without his consent.
The third thing to notice is that no one has been arrested for the murder or charged with it. The police officers believe that the woman has been murdered. They say so. In addition, although they do not say so, they must, I think, suspect that these three may in some way be implicated in it. Otherwise they would not hold on to the passports or papers as they do. But they have not arrested anyone or charged anyone. I can understand it. It would not be right for them to make an arrest or lay a charge unless the grounds were pretty strong.
So we have a case where the police officers, in investigating a murder, have seized property without a warrant and without making an arrest and have retained it without the consent of the party from whom they took it. Their justification is that they believe it to be of "evidential
value" on a prosecution for murder. Is this a sufficient justification in law?
I would start by considering the law where police officers enter a man's house by virtue of a warrant, or arrest a man lawfully, with or without a warrant, for a serious offence. I take it to be settled law, without citing cases, that the officers are entitled to take any goods which they find in his possession or in his house which they reasonably believe to be material evidence in relation to the crime for which he is arrested or for which they enter. If in the course of their search they come upon any other goods which show him to be implicated in some other crime, they may take them provided they act reasonably and detain them no longer than is necessary. Such appears from the speech of Lord Chelmsford L.C., in Pringle v. Bremner and Stirling (1867) 5 Macph., H.L. 55, 60 and Chic Fashions (West Wales) Ltd. v. Jones  2 Q.B. 299.
Accepting those cases, I turn to two cases where the police acted against a man without the authority of a warrant or of an arrest. The first is Elias v. Pasmore. It is reported in  2 K.B. 164, but the facts are given more fully in (1934) 50 T.L.R. 196. Police officers there entered a house in Great Russell Street, of which Elias was the tenant. The police officers had only a warrant for the arrest of a man called Hannington. They had reasonable ground for believing that he had been guilty of sedition by attempting to cause disaffection among the police. They knew he was in the house. They entered and arrested him. They had no search warrant, authorising them to search the house. No search warrant is permissible to search for seditious papers. That is plain ever since since Entick v. Carrington (1765) 19 State Tr. 1029. Whilst there, however, they searched the place, seized a number of seditious papers and took them to Scotland Yard. These papers implicated, not only Hannington, but also Elias. They showed that Elias had been inciting Hannington to commit sedition. The police prosecuted first Hannington and second Elias. The papers were used at the trial of Elias. Both men were convicted. Elias afterwards said that the police had no right to take his papers and brought an action for their return and for damages for their detention. Horridge J. rejected the claim. He said  2 K.B. 164, 173: "The interests of the state must excuse the seizure of documents, which seizure would otherwise be unlawful, if it appears in fact that such documents were evidence of a crime committed by anyone."
I confess that I think those words "by anyone" go too far. The decision itself can be justified on the ground that the papers bowed that Elias was implicated in the crime of sedition committed by Hannington. If they had only implicated Elias in some other crime, such as blackmail or libel, I do not think the police officers would have been entitled to seize them. For that would be a flat contradiction of Entick v. Carrington, 19 State Tr. 1029. The common law does not permit police officers, or anyone else, to ransack anyone's house, or to search for papers or articles therein, or to search his person, simply to see if he may have committed some crime or other. If police officers should so do, they would be guilty of a trespass. Even if they should find something incriminating against him, I should have thought that the court would not allow it to be used in evidence against him if the conduct of the police
The other case is Reg. v. Waterfield  1 Q.B. 164. Two men named Lynn and Waterfield assaulted a man in King's Lynn. Lynn wounded another man. They drove off in Waterfield's car. Lynn drove it dangerously and ran into a brick wall. They parked it in the Market Place and went off. The police sergeant was anxious to examine it so as to obtain evidence of the collision with the wall. He told two police constables to keep watch on it and not let it go as he wanted to examine it. He told them it had been involved in a serious offence. At 7.30 p.m. Lynn came back and wanted to drive the car off. The police constable told him it had to remain where it was. Waterfield, the owner of the car, then came up and said to the police officer: "You cannot impound my car." He told Lynn to drive it away. One of the police officers stood in the path of the car. Waterfieid said: "Drive at him, he will get out of the way." Lynn did drive forward. The officer jumped aside. The car was driven away.
Lynn was charged with assaulting the police officer in the execution of his duty, and Waterfield with commanding it. The jury convicted them both. They appealed. The Court of Criminal Appeal (consisting of Lord Parker C.J., Ashworth J. and Hinchcliffe J.) allowed the appeal, and said, at p. 171:
"It is to be noted that neither [Lynn nor Waterfield] had been charged or was under arrest and accordingly the decision in Dillon v. O'Brien and Davis (1887) 16 Cox C.C. 245, does not assist the prosecution.
It was contended that the two police constables were acting in the execution of a duty to preserve for use in court evidence of a crime, and in a sense they were, but the execution of that duty did not in the view of this court authorise them to prevent the removal of the car in the circumstances. In the course of argument instances were suggested where difficulty might arise if a police officer were not entitled to prevent removal of an article which had been used in the course of a crime, for instance, an axe used by a murderer and thrown away by him. Such a case can be decided If and when it arises. ..."
The court did, however, go on to certify, at p. 172, that a point of law of general public importance was involved, namely,
"... whether at common law a constable, without making a prior charge or arrest, has the duty to detain as prospective evidence any property found in a public place and which he has reasonable grounds to believe to be material evidence to prove the commission of a crime."
The police did not ask for leave to appeal to the House of Lords. Lynn and Waterfield had been convicted on other grounds. No doubt the police at King's Lynn did not wish to put the ratepayers to the expense of an appeal, simply to clear up the law.
The decision causes me some misgiving. I expect that the car bore traces of its impact with the brick wall. The police had reason to believe that Lynn and Waterfield were implicated in a crime of which the marks on the car might be most material evidence at the trial. If Lynn and Waterfield were allowed to drive the car away, they might very well remove or obliterate all incriminating evidence. My comment on that case is this: The law should not allow wrongdoers to destroy evidence against them when it can be prevented. Test it by an instance put in argument. The robbers of a bank "borrow" a private car and use it in their raid, and escape. They abandon it by the roadside. The police find the car, i.e., the instrument of the crime, and want to examine it for finger prints. The owner of the "borrowed" car comes up and demands the return of it. He says he will drive it away and not allow them to examine it. Cannot the police say to him: "Nay, you cannot have it until we have examined it?" I should have thought they could. His conduct makes him look like an accessory after the fact, if not before it. At any rate it is quite unreasonable. Even though the raiders have not yet been caught, arrested or charged, nevertheless the police should be able to do whatever is necessary and reasonable to preserve the evidence of the crime. The Court of Criminal Appeal did not tell how Reg. v. Waterfield  1 Q.B. 164, is to be distinguished from such a case. The court simply said, at p. 171, that the police constables were under no duty "to prevent removal of the car in the circumstance." They did not tell us what was the "circumstance" which took it out of the general rule. It may have been sufficient. I do not know.
Other instances were put in argument to test the position when no one had been arrested or charged. Edmund Davies L.J. drew from his unrivalled experience and told us that the great train robbers, when they were in hiding at Leatherslade Farm, used a saucer belonging to the farmer and gave the cat its milk. When seeking for the gang, before they were caught, the police officers took the saucer so as to examine it for finger prints. Could the farmer have said to them: "No, it is mine. You shall not have it?" Clearly not. His conduct might well lead them to think that he was trying to shield the gang. At any rate fit would have been quite unreasonable.
What is the principle underlying these instances? We have to consider, on the one hand, the freedom of the individual his privacy and his possessions are not to be invaded except for the most compelling reasons. On the other hand, we have to consider the interest of society at large in finding out wrongdoers and repressing crime. Honest citizens should help the police and not hinder them in their efforts to track down criminals. Balancing these interests, I should have thought that, in order to justify the taking of an article, when no man has been arrested or charged, these requisites must be satisfied:
First: The police officers must have reasonable grounds for believing that a serious offence has been committed - so serious that it is of the first importance that the offenders should be caught and brought to justice.
Second: The police officers must have reasonable grounds for believing
that the article in question is either the fruit of the crime (as in the case of stolen goods) or is the instrument by which the crime was committed (as in the case of the axe used by the murderer) or is material evidence to prove the commission of the crime (as in the case of the car used by a bank raider or the saucer used by a train robber).
Third: The police officers must have reasonable grounds to believe that the person in possession of it has himself committed the crime, or is implicated in it, or is accessory to it, or at any rate his refusal must be quite unreasonable.
Fourth: The police must not keep the article, nor prevent its removal, for any longer than is reasonably necessary to complete their investigations or preserve it for evidence. If a copy will suffice, it should be made and the original returned. As soon as the case is over, or it is decided not to go on with it, the article should be returned.
Finally: The lawfulness of the conduct of the police must be judged at the time, and not by what happens afterwards.
Tested by these criteria, I do not think the police officers are entitled to hold on to these passports or letters. They may have reasonable grounds for believing that the woman has been murdered. But they have not shown reasonable grounds for believing that these passports and letters are material evidence to prove the commission of the murder. All they say is that they are of "evidential value," whatever that may mean. Nor have they shown reasonable grounds for believing that the plaintiffs are in any way implicated in a crime, or accessory to it. In any case, they have held them quite long enough. They have no doubt made photographs of them, and that should suffice.
It was suggested that a mandatory order should not be made for their return. The case, it was said, should go for trial, and the officers made liable in damages if they are wrong. But I think their affidavits fall so far short of any justification for retention that they should be ordered to return them forthwith. I cannot help feeling that the real reason why the passports have not been returned is because the officers wish to prevent the plaintiffs from leaving this country pending police inquiries. That is not a legitimate ground for holding them. Either they have grounds for arresting them, or they have not. If they have not, the plaintiffs should be allowed to leave - even if it means they are fleeing from the reach of justice. A man's liberty of movement is regarded so highly by the law of England that it is not to be hindered or prevented except on the surest grounds. It must not be taken away on a suspicion which is not grave enough to warrant his arrest.
I would, therefore, dismiss the appeal.
EDMUND DAVIES L.J. Having already had the advantage of considering the judgment delivered by the Master of the Rolls, I have to say that I agree with it and cannot usefully add anything. I accordingly concur in holding that this appeal should be dismissed.
Sir GORDON WILLMER. I also agree.
Solicitors: E.O. Lane; Lawford & Co.
A. H. B.