RSPCA, Regina (on The Application of) v Colchester Magistrates’ Court: Admn 11 Mar 2015

Cases brought by the RSPCA under the 2006 Act were dismissed after evidence was not admitted. They now appealed. Search warrants had been obtained for one purpose but, the defendants had argued, that purpose having been satisfied, the search which continued had been unlawful, and that evidence drawn from that activity should not be admitted. There had been mistakes as to the Acts under which allegations were contemplated.
Held: The application was refused. The breach was significant even if it was in good faith. A breach which is significant is not made insignificant by good faith. The authorities suggest that a significant breach should normally lead to the exclusion of the evidence.
Beatson LJ said: ‘the District Judge found that the Council officers and the RSPCA inspector, who took part in the execution of the warrant and did not know the purpose for which it was issued. They wrongly understood that it was issued to enable them to search for evidence of animal cruelty. Because of that they went further than the purpose for which the warrant was issued. Because they went further than the boundaries of the warrant, the admonition against tunnel vision does not help the claimant in this case. The principle of legality is an important principle in the public law of this country . . This was a case in which applications were made for warrants pursuant to three statutes. A warrant was only issued pursuant to one of those statutes but those who executed the warrant proceeded as though a warrant had been granted under one of the other statutes as well. They then sought to seek to defend what they did on the grounds that serious ill animals were in fact found. It was in truth an argument that the end justifies the means.’


Beatson LJ, Blake J


[2015] EWHC 1418 (Admin)




Animal Welfare Act 2006, Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 78


England and Wales

Criminal Evidence

Updated: 20 May 2022; Ref: scu.547076