Chatwani & Others vs. the National Crime Agency [2015] Lloyds Rep FC 659

IPT/15/84/88/CH

The Complainants, members of the Chatwani and Tailor families, sought a declaration that an authorisation for property interference and for the installation of covert listening devices at the headquarters of companies owned and/or controlled by the Complainants was unlawfully obtained, and sought the return of the material obtained by the Respondent under those warrants, and destruction of work product derived from them.

Officers had entered the premises of the Complainants with the benefit of the search warrant, and searched for and removed items. Those of the Complainants who were present were arrested and interviewed at the police station, and eight separate listening devices were installed covertly in five different locations. The premises were securely protected by CCTV cameras. It would not have been possible to affect covert entry without the powers given by the search warrant, so that the opportunity was taken, at the time when they had lawfully entered the premises, to disable the CCTV, in order that the devices could be installed in “a sterile environment”, so as to enable their installation without being observed.

The Respondent’s plan was to execute the search warrant, arrest the Complainants and interview them, without revealing the totality of the case which the Respondent had against them, and then release them to return back to the premises, which would by then have been fitted with the listening devices.

The Tribunal concluded that, detailed as the property interference application was (as compared with the search warrant), it was deficient in an important respect, namely that it failed to record that there was indeed a likelihood of capture of LPP material, given the nature of the Plan (which was itself not fully disclosed.) Given the responsibility upon the Authorising Officer and the relevant Commissioner to consider such applications, those applying for them must take care, and greater care than was taken in this case, to comply with their vital duty of candour.

The Tribunal found in favour of the Complainants, and ordered that the Property Interference Authorisation be quashed. The Tribunal at first determined that the Complainants should not be awarded their costs, but due to the Respondent’s failure thereafter to comply in timely fashion with the Tribunal’s orders, an order for costs was later made against it. This was the first time the Tribunal has made an order for costs.

Judgment dated : 20 Jul 15