They refer to it as the ‘Enforcer’ or more jokingly ‘The Big Red Key’, but 16Kg of reinforced steel is no laughing matter when it’s used to smash down your front door…
The battering ram is just one tool among many that the police use to force entry into people’s homes; alongside levering tools, cutting equipment, lock manipulation and impact tools. You only have to click on the links to see the full list of hardware the police stock in their armoury.
The question is though, what right do the police have to use any of this hardware to invade your home, when you lawfully refuse to allow them in?
In our article ‘Never Allow the Police Into Your Home‘ we deal with a number of reasons why allowing the boys in high-viz green to cross the threshold of your doorstep is a very bad idea. Because, just like Vampires, the moment you invite them in they are suddenly bestowed with a range of powers that could make getting rid of them again very difficult.
If you haven’t read the article then take a look, as you’ll find it dispenses with the myth that the police have an automatic right to enter our homes. But as many people have experienced so often with the police, what the law SAYS and what the law DOES can be two very different things…
ENTRY WITHOUT A WARRANT
Section 17 of the Police And Criminal Evidence Act 1984 allows the police to enter and search a premises in order to carry out an arrest warrant. This section also gives police the powers to enter and search premises without a warrant in order to catch a person unlawfully at large, or to protect the public from injury or harm.
If the police have no reasonable suspicion that you are harbouring a criminal and no reason to believe that they need to force entry to rescue life and limb, or that a crime is taking place, then they have no right to demand to be let in.
But too many police officers have little regard for the law and often interpret the public’s refusal of entry as a challenge to their authority. And even though you may be TOTALLY IN THE RIGHT and have a potentially successful lawsuit as a result of their unlawful entry, what use is it when they are bashing your door to splinters and storming through your house looking for something – anything – they can arrest you for at that moment?
So here are some tips on how to deal with police officers who won’t take ‘NO’ for an answer when you rightfully refuse them entry into your home:
1. RECORD EVERYTHING
We cannot stress this enough, but no matter what encounter you have with the police ALWAYS record it. How else will you be able to counter the fictionalised version of events the police might spin if you are subsequently arrested?
You don’t have to push a video camera up to the window or through your letterbox. Just recording audio from behind your door is enough. And always TELL the police that you are recording (even if you aren’t). The police hate to be scrutinised and you may notice an almost immediate change in their behaviour simply because they know that you will have irrefutable evidence if the time comes.
2. ASK THEM WHAT CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITTED
If the police are threatening to break down your door because you won’t open it, ask them exactly what crime it is they believe you have committed. If they have no just cause they will usually say something along the lines of: “We just want to check that you are okay”, “We want to make sure nothing is going on inside”, or “We’ve had a report that you’ve been arguing.”
Suspicions and allegations are not a crime. Make it clear to the police that as they have admitted that no crime is being committed – and you have recorded them saying as such – they have no lawful reason to crash through your door. You will be amazed at how often this method alone stops the police forcing entry.
3. TELL THEM YOU WILL FIND OUT WHAT ‘JUST CAUSE’ THEY REALLY HAVE
The police are notorious for creating crime where non exists, simply so they can enforce their will. If they don’t have just cause for breaking down your door they may claim that they believe somebody inside needs rescuing. They know it’s a lie and so do you, so DON’T fall for it.
Ask what information they were given that brought them to your door. Then remind them that under the Data Protection Act you have a right to access any police radio communications that were made in advance of the police arriving. As radio communications falls under the provisions of ‘personal data’ you can find out exactly what was said to bring the police to your door. You can also obtain a copy of the incident log too. And if you later find out it contradicts what the police told you, you can have a complaint upheld against them.
So make it clear from the beginning that if they lie to you, then you will obtain a copy of both the radio traffic and the incident log when they have gone. You may find the police backing down very quickly at the idea of being caught lying, or at least they may admit to the truth of what little just cause they truly have.
4. KEEP THEM TALKING
In most cases police threats to break down your door are just a crude bluff. Although we don’t advise talking to the police – certainly not about any allegations that may have been made – reminding them of your rights, the law, the data protection act and your willingness to sue them in civil court if they force entry should be more than enough to keep them at bay. Most police officers are so arrogant they will happily stand and argue with you for any length of time, if to do so means their ego will be stroked.
However any police officer who is willing to stand on your doorstep for 10 – 20 minutes arguing about why you are wrong and they are right, has no continued defence of immediacy. In other words, if they’re happy to stand on your doorstep arguing technicalities with you then they can’t lay claim to having a sense of urgency to come busting through your door.
Remind them of this fact. You’ll probably get a baffled silence in response.
5. CALL THEIR BLUFF
If the worst comes to the worst and the police refuse to listen to reason – as is often – then stand back and invite them to make a dramatic entrance. Just point out that not only will they be paying for the door and breakages, you will pursue a claim in the civil court for assault and trespass. And it goes without saying that you will make an official complaint against each officer that unlawfully storms into your home.
Whenever the police forcefully enter somebody’s home and FAIL to make an arrest, they have to pay for the damage as soon as they are invoiced. Failure to do so leaves them open to a much higher compensation claim in the civil courts where they may have to pay aggravated damages too. Worst of all, if any subsequent complaint for unlawful entry is upheld, then the officer concerned will have a permanent black mark against his record which could affect his chances for promotion in the future, as well as put him at risk of disciplinary action.
There is NOTHING more important to a police officer than his reputation, so always use the threat of complaint and court action if they refuse to listen to reason and insist on attempting an unlawful entry into your home.