Recent Judicial Decisions

AuthorJohn Wood
Published date01 April 1985
Date01 April 1985
Subject MatterArticle
WOOD, C.B.E., LL.M.,
The University
Legal Correspondent
the Police Journal.
Reynolds v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner
2W.L.R. 93. Court of Appeal
This was a civil action for damages from police action in procuring
a search warrant, executing it
seizing documents. A series of
fires had occurred in East Anglia. Arson was suspected. Abuilding
bought in 1970for £16,000 had been insured in 1973for £550,000.
was destroyed by fire later the same year. A search warrant was
obtained under the Forgery Act1913 and the officers went to
Birdwell Hall to arrest Reynolds and effect a search. The officers
said that they were looking for forged documents and evidence.
Their instructions were to take all documents relating to the
destroyed building. Reynolds was arrested halfan hour before they
left. Sacks of papers were taken away. The papers were returned
two days later. No prosecution was brought against Reynolds.
The appeal challenged the trial Judge's ruling that the police had
reasonable and probable cause to suspect the existence of forged
documents in the plaintiffs house.
also challenged the police right
to remove the large quantity of documents and subsequently to
check them. The check should have preceded taking.
The first need was quickly dealt with. Crime was suspected.
Reynolds was to be arrested. The trial Judge was right to ask
whether the plaintiff had in the circumstances shown that the police
had lack of reasonable and probable case to procure the warrant -
v. N.E. Railway Co. (1886) II App. Cas. 247. The police
made it clear in evidence that they anticipated the presence of
unreasonably high builders' estimates on work to be done. The
Judge had taken that into account.
The warrant applied to "any forged material, documents or
instruments". This it was accepted extended largely to other goods
which might be used in evidence against aperson arrested. Two well
known cases, Chic Fashions Ltd. v. Jones (1968) 132
[1968] 2 Q.B.299 and Ghani v. Jones (1970) 134
166;[1970] I
Q.B. 693 make this clear. The point here in issue was the
thoroughness of the police in their wholesale seizure of papers.
Certainly by those that were obviously innocent were left, but the
detailed sorting took place at the police station. To do the sorting at
the house would "have required several officers to be there for some
days". In a similar case, Elias v, Pasmore [1934] 2K.B. 164, the
Judge justified the seizure on the grounds that the documents were
subsequently used in court. In Chic Fashions. Lord Denning, MR,

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