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Seizure of premises
When the police have authority to search premises they normally have a corresponding right to seize whatever the search is meant to yield.
‘Premises’ has a very wide meaning and includes tents and caravans for instance. It might be necessary to seize the whole ‘premises’ and the police have power to do this.
When the police are lawfully on any premises, including when they are there with your consent, they have wide powers to seize anything on the premises, including a vehicle, if they have reasonable grounds for believing that:
- It has been obtained as a consequence of the commission of an offence.
- It is evidence in relation to any offence; and
- It is necessary to seize it in order to prevent it being concealed, lost or damaged, altered or destroyed.
‘Anything’ includes fingerprints.
If the police find something which they have reasonable grounds for thinking is something they are authorised to seize and it is not possible at the time to determine whether it is actually such a thing, they can seize as much of it as is necessary to make that determination. However they must be very careful not to remove more than is strictly necessary.
The police can also seize material they have no power to seize if it is attached to something which they do have power to seize and they are not able to separate the two.
The police may require computerised information coming within these categories, to be produced in a form that allows them to remove it. Excluded material and special procedure material are not protected from seizure once the police are lawfully on the premises. No power however, authorises the seizure of material reasonably believed by a constable to be legally privileged unless it is attached to an object they have a power to seize and it is not possible to separate them.
The police have limited rights to photograph or copy any document or other article they have the power to seize.
If you request it, the police must provide a record of seized items within a reasonable time. Lawfully seized articles may be retained so long as is necessary, for example, for production in court, but the articles cannot be kept for use as evidence in a trial or for forensic examination if a photograph or copy would suffice.
Under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 there are special provisions that relate to the retention of items seized where their status cannot be determined or where they are attached to items that can lawfully be seized.