V5.233 Power to enter and search
Search warrant issued by a justice of the peace
The power to search premises in respect of relevant investigations'1 is conferred by a warrant issued by a Justice of the Peace (JP)2 in accordance with the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, ss 8 and 153 (PACE 1984). Ministerial undertakings have been given on a number of occasions that the power is to be used only in serious cases of suspected evasion4. HMRC appears to regard a case as serious where the actual or potential amount of tax involved exceeds £10,000, and confine applications for warrants to cases where other methods of investigation are either unlikely to succeed or, when tried, have failed5.
A search warrant is unlawful unless it is issued and returned under a statutory procedure6. Generally, a JP may issue a warrant only where he is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for belief in respect of specified matters7 – in particular that an indictable offence has been committed and that the premises which are the subject of the warrant contains material of value to the investigation of the offence. As a general rule, a warrant may only be issued where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the materia does not consist of, or include, items subject to legal privilege, excluded material8 or 'special procedure material9', ie journalistic material, or material in the possession of a person who:
• acquired or created it in the course of any
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