By Jamie Bryson
In another huge embarrassment for the PSNI, it appears that the written notice provided to a person whose home has been searched and/or had property seized contains reference to a piece of non-existent legislation.
Under the PACE Notice of Powers and Rights, legally required to be provided to the subject of a search or seizure, the PSNI- at point 4- make reference to the Police Property Act 1987. No such legislation exists.
The actual legislation they presumably are seeking to refer is the Police Property Act 1897, as amended by the Police Property Regulations (NI) 1997.
The relevant power however effectively resides within Section 31 of the Police (NI) Order 1998 by virtue of the fact Sch 6 makes clear that particular piece of legislation repealed the 1897 Act in Northern Ireland.
This epic error- uncovered by Unionist Voice- has went unchecked for a countless number of years, and indeed the false and legally illiterate notice of rights will have been handed to literally thousands upon thousands of citizens.
The relevant portion of the notice advises that ‘any person claiming property seized by the police may apply to a Magistrates’ Court under the Police Property Act 1987 for its possession’. Except you can not make any such application, because there is no such legislation.
The error is even more humiliating as FOIs the PSNI have themselves published, and which can be easily found via a google search, show that the PSNI have been referring to the ‘Police Property Act 1987’ and advised that the Police Property Fund is set up under Section 2 of the aforementioned non-existent legislation.
The PSNI’s own internal service procedures on the ‘seizure, retention and disposal of evidence related property’- which you can read HERE
– at page 4 sets out the legal basis for the relevant procedures. Here the PSNI refer to Police (Property) Regulations (NI) 1997, within which the interpretation notes make clear that references to the Act is a reference to the Police Property Act 1897.
However, they appear to have then missed the fact that the Police (NI) Order 1998 repealed the 1897 Act, making their entire guidance a dogs dinner.
PACE Codes of Practice Code B (C) 6.7 (iii) also makes clear in relation to the search of premises that the officer shall provide a notice which explains the rights of the occupier, and the owner of the property seized. In the case of the PSNI the notices provided are legally inaccurate and reference a non-existent piece of legislation.
Accordingly there could arguably be a case made that every single PSNI search under PACE has been in breach of Code B of the code of practice.
This issue will again raise serious questions in relation to the competence of the PSNI, and indeed those who have signed these legally inaccurate warrants.
It is suspected the PSNI will argue this was simply a typographical error. That, however, does not change the fact that this false notice has been circulated for many years and not once has anyone spotted the glaring error contained within it.
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