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29/11/2009

An Englishman's room is his castle

Thomas v Director of Public Prosecutions QBD October 23, 2009 (apparently only reported in the Times, although I swear I saw it somewhere else too).

This was an appeal by way of case stated against conviction for obstructing a police officer. Mr Thomas lost his appeal, but along the way, the High Court reached some conclusions about the status of rooms in this accommodation for the homeless.

The question was whether the police, having attended to arrest another occupant, had the power to search the Defendant’s room. The property was a three bed flat. It was used as temporary accommodation on a daily basis. The terms of the individual licences were that each occupant had their own room, with a number and a lock, and could share the communal areas.

The Court held that, as there was no decisive test as to when a place of occupation was divided into separate dwellings, it was to be decided on the facts of each case. On the present facts, the terms of occupation and the physical arrangement indicated that each room was a separate dwelling. The Defendant had a sufficient degree of occupation and privacy to exclude the police. The police therefore had no power to enter the defendant’s room.

Unfortunately for Mr Thomas, the struggle with a police office at issue occurred when he attempted to enter the room of the man the police had come to arrest, so it was not in his room or related to the police searching it. Appeal dismissed.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

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