Chic Fashions (West Wales) Ltd v Jones

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date12 December 1967
Judgment citation (vLex)[1967] EWCA Civ J1212-1
Date12 December 1967
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Chic Fashions (West Wales) Limited
J. Ronald Jones

[1967] EWCA Civ J1212-1


The Master of The Rolls

(Lord Denning)

Lord Justice Diplock And

Lord Justice Salmon

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Civil Division

From His Honour Judge Rowe Harding Llanelli County Court

Mr Norman Francis (instructed by Messrs Lewin, Gregory, Mead & Sons, Agents for Mr Richard John, Glamorgan County Hall) appeared as Counsel for the Appellant.

Mr Simon Goldblatt (instructed by Messrs Lewis Cutner & Co.) appeared as Counsel for the Respondents.


In 1965 and 1966 thieves broke into several shops and factories and stole ladies' clothes valued at £30,000. The stolen goods were of various makes, including "Ian Peters", "Mornessa", "Mansfield" and "Blanes". In March 1966 the police received information that clothes of these makes were being sold at certain shops in Cardiff and Llanelly. These shops were owned by Chic Fashions and controlled by the managing director, Mr Jack Raeburn. The goods were being sold at less than trade prices. On 26th March, 1966, an "Ian Peters" garment was exhibited for sale at the Cardiff branch of Chic Fashions. Now it so happened that a few weeks earlier the factory of Ian Peters in Leicegter-shire had been broken into and goods stolen. The police suspected that these stolen goods had found their way to the shops of Chic Fashions. So they arranged to search all their shops at one swoop: also Mr Raeburn's home and his parents' home. On 30th March, 1966, police officers went before the Magistrates in the various towns and obtained search warrants. A typical example is the search warrant for the shop of Chic Fashions in Llanelly. It was in these terms:


Petty Sessional Division of LLANELLY

To each and all of the Constables of the (said) County INFORMATION has this day been laid before me, the undersigned Justice of the Peace, by John Owen Evans of No. 8 Regional Crime Squad that the following goods, to wit, ladies' coats, skirts and suits? knitwear, jumpers and skirts the property of Ian Peters limited have lately been feloniously stolen, taken, and carried away out of the factory at Star Works, Mountsorrel Lane, Rothley, Leicestershire, and that he hath reasonable cause to suspect, and doth suspect, that the said goods, or some part thereof, are concealed in the shop of Chic Fashions Limited, at Stepney Street, Llanelly, in the said County of Carmarthen (hereinafter called the Accused).

You are therefore hereby authorised and commanded forthwith, with proper assistance, to enter the said shop of the Accused in the daytime, and there diligently search for the said goods, and if the same, or any part thereof, shall be found upon such search, that you bring the goods so found before the Magistrates' Court sitting at the Town Hall, Kidwelly in the said County to be disposed of and dealt with according to law.

Dated the 30th day of March, 1966.

Justice of the Peace for the County First aforesaid".


Armed with this warrant, the police on the morning of 31st March, 1966, went to the Llanelly Branch of Chic Fashions. As soon as the shop opened at 9 a.m. they entered and searched the premises. They did not find any garments of "Ian Peters" make such as were specified in the search warrant. Jut they found garments of other makes of the kinds which had been stolen previously, such as "Mornessa", "Mansfield" and "Blanes". These bore signs that the labels had been removed and they bore prices much less than the trade prices. The police thought that these were stolen and seized them. There were sixty-five items altogether they seized.


The police saw Mr Raeburn the same day. He said that the goods were "cabbage". He explained what this meant. The manufacturers used to supply cloth to sub-contractors for them to make up a number of garments. After fulfilling the order, the sub-contractors had surplus cloth left over. They were allowed to use this surplus cloth for their own benefit and to make up garments with it for sale, but they had to see that the manufacturers' label was removed. As the sub-contractors got the surplus cloth for nothing, they could sell to the retailers at less than manufacturers' prices.


Mr Raeburn's explanation was accepted by the police. They returned the goods to the shop on 2nd April, 1966.


The Company now sue the Chief Constable for damages. To save expense, the parties have agreed to limit the issue to the question whether the police officers were justified in taking away and retaining the 65 items of clothing. They have also agreed the following facts:-


(i) None of the 65 items of clothing taken away and retained was within the description of the search warrant issued on the 30th March, 1966.


(ii) None of the said 65 items was stolen.


(iii) None of the said 65 items was used as evidence upon theprosecution of a criminal charge.


(iv) The said 65 items were lawfully acquired by the plaintiffs in the course of their business.


(v) In taking away and retaining the said 65 items of clothing, the police officers believed upon reasonable grounds that the said 65 items were stolen goods end would form material evidence upon the prosecution of a criminal charge.


It comes to this, therefore: The police officers hold a search warrant entitling them to enter the shop to search for ladies' garments which had been recently stolen from the factory of Ian Peters ltd. When the police entered the shop and searched it, they found none of the goods that had seen stolen from fan Peters Ltd. But they found 65 items of clothing, not mentioned in the warrant, which they believed upon reasonable grounds were stolen and would form material evidence on a criminal charge. The question is: Were the police entitled to seize goods not mentioned in the warrant but which they believed on reasonable grounds to have been stolen?


You might have thought that this question would have been settled long ago. But, strangely enough, there is very little authority upon it. Our English law has always bad great regard for the integrity of a man's home. In 1604 Lord Coke declared that "every man's house is his castle" (see Semayne's Case (1604) 5 Coke's Reports, p. 91a, end Third Institute, p. 73), and his aphorism has cone down the centuries. It was given dramatic force by William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, when he declared that: "The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail - its roof may shake - the wind may blow through it - the storm may enter - the rain may enter - but the King of England cannot enter - all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement", see brougham's Statesmen in the Times of George III, First Series.


Exceptions, however, have had to be made to this principle. They have been made in the public interest. No man's house is to he used as a hiding place for thieves or a receptacle for stolen goods. If there is reasonable ground for believingthat there are stolen goods in the house, information can be laid before a Magistrate on oath: and the Magistrate can then issue a search warrant authorising a constable to enter the house and seize the goods. That case was the only exception permitted by the common law. In no other case was a constable allowed to enter and search a man's house. Even if a constable suspected that counterfeit coins were being made there, or banknotes forged, he could not ft common law obtain a search warrant to enter. In the celebrated case of Entick v. Carrington (1765) 2 Wilson K.B. p. 276, 19 How. State Trials, p. 1029, Lord Halifax, the Secretary of State, issued a warrant authorising a search to be made for seditious papers. it was held to be unlawful. Lord Camden said at page 291: "We can safely say that there is no law in this country to justify the defendants in what they have done; if there was, it would destroy all the comforts of society: for papers are often the dearest property a man can have. This case was compared to that of stolen goods. Lord Coke denied the lawfulness of granting warrants to search for stolen goods, 4 Inst. 121, 122, though now it prevails to be law; but in that case the justice and the informer must proceed with great caution; there must be an oath that the party has had his goods stolen, and has strong reason to believe they are concealed in such a place: but if the goods are not found there, he is a trespasser".


Since that time further exceptions have been made by statute. In a great many eases now Acts of Parliament permit Magistrates to grant search warrants so as to enable the police to enter and see if a house is being used for unlawful purposes, such as coining, betting, and so forth. But with none of these are we concerned today. We have to deal with stolen goods, for which the common law always allowed a search warrant to be granted. There is, to be sure, a statute on the matter, Section 42 of the larceny Act, 1916, but, so far as concerns stolen goods, it does little more than state the common law. It says that: "If it is made to appear by information on oath before a justiceof the peace that there is reasonable cause to believe that any person has in his custody or possession or on his premises any property whatsoever with respect to which any offence against this Act has been committed, the justice may grant a warrant to search for and seize the same". That section deals with goods mentioned in the warrant. It does not say whether the constable can seize goods not mentioned in the warrant. To solve this question we must resort to the cases.


At one tine the Courts held that the constable could seize only those goods which answered the description given in the warrant. He had to make sure, at his peril, that the goods were the very goods in the warrant. If he seized other...

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