Not at all illegal
IT IS NOT ILLEGAL for police officers, in possession of search warrants, to search premises in the absence of the owners or occupiers. Anyone who states otherwise is either unenlightened of this fact or is purposely misleading others.
This is in response to a story appearing in the SATURDAY SUN on November 19 under the heading Cops Must Stop Illegal Searches, Says Lawyer.
In the story attorney at law Arthur Holder is reported to have said, “Police executed a search warrant and found drugs. Executed a search warrant where? Who gave them permission to enter?…No one was at home.”
He added, “The warrant was illegally conducted because no one was home.” He is also reported to have suggested that someone could have planted the drugs.
There are certain restrictions in the execution of search warrants but certainly the prohibition of executing them in the absence of occupiers is not one of them.
It is preferable that search warrants be executed in the presence of owners or occupiers of premises, but conditions sometimes necessitate conducting them in their absence. There are guidelines to be followed under such circumstances.
On such an occasion, an endorsed copy of the warrant should be left in a prominent or appropriate place on the premises. Endorsement simply means writing the date and time of execution, by whom executed and what property, if any, was found on the premises.
It would be the essence of stupidity for police officers to abort searches of premises because of the absence of the occupier. This may obviously alert the occupier and frustrate the objective of the search. It may also endanger the lives of the police officers should they leave and later return to the premises.
Dramatisation may be good in our courts, but it should never be used to mislead members of the public. It can leave them with an unfounded feeling of violation of their rights, especially if coming from persons to whom they look for representation and guidance.
– MCDONALD WOODROFFE