Philobiblon: A question for the lawyers

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A question for the lawyers

One of those moments that produce disquiet: I was taking Champ out for a walk this morning, wrestling with the rather difficult external security door of the flats.

Two Community Support Officers were walking past. When they saw me they immediately changed direction and walked through the door I had opened into the (secured) lobby of the flats. (They didn't speak to me, or make any attempt to speak to me, although we were virtually face-to-face.)

I didn't challenge them at the time; it was one of those things that happen in an instant, but having thought about it I don't think they have the right to walk straight into private property without permission. Shouldn't they need, like presumably the police, a search warrant?

Living in central London, I see huge numbers of these CSOs - they seem to spend their time strolling the streets doing nothing in particular, and it can surely only be a matter of time before there is some scandal over criminal behaviour by them. We all know there are plenty of crooked police; there will surely be burglars (or worse) who think a CSO uniform would come in right handy.

And of course there are the civil liberties implications ...

A bit of research shows: "A constable has no general right of entry into private property except to prevent a breach of the peace and to prevent the commission of an offence which he believes to be imminent or likely to be committed."

I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the lobby of a block of flats is private property, albeit communal private property. The more I think about this, actually, I think I'm going to query this ... I'll report what I find (if of course I can find someone responsible.)

UPDATE: 26/1 Well I did get a response on my voicemail this morning, and it seems that they do have permission from the council housing department to enter the block, and there is a purpose for it; someone has complained that youths are smoking cannabis in the stairwells. In which case it is fair enough, although I still found their manner a little odd.


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