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June 26, 2015

Hargreaves v Brecknock MC & Powys CC Trading Standards Department [2015] EWHC 1803 (Admin)

This case (judgment 24 June 2015) demonstrates the need for precision when asking a Magistrates’ Court to exercise powers that it is less familiar with. It also provides an example of how an excess of caution can sometimes create its own problems. The Divisional Court was critical of Trading Standards and the Magistrates Court.

Trading standards officers sought a warrant under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. They incorrectly used a PACE pro forma. They applied for the warrant quoting Regulation 21 & Regulation 22 in circumstances where no warrant was actually needed as their powers under Regulation 21 were sufficient (the premises not being used exclusively as a dwelling).

During the application before the Magistrates Court there was no proper record of additional information provided in support of the warrant. Neither the application nor the actual warrant were clear as to the specific grounds under Regulation 22 being relied upon.

The Divisional Court confirmed that the powers under Regulation 21 included a power to search (R (on the application of Helidon Vuciterni) v Brent MC [2012] EWCA 2140) and the power to search and seize extended to documents.

No permission was required to video record a search.

Although the Divisional Court quashed the warrants due to the failings in the application, as the seizure was within Regulation 21 no material was ordered to be returned.

Confirmation that the Regulation 21 powers are broad and that care must be taken when seeking to utilise Regulation 22.

Alan Fuller