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asked Her Majesty's Government:
What steps the police are required to take before a magistrate can sign a warrant for the police to search private premises; and
How many search warrants have been executed by the police in (a) England, (b) Wales and (c) Northern Ireland in the last 12 months.
Section 15 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the PACE Code of Practice B set out the requirements for a constable when seeking a warrant to enter and search premises. In making the application, the police must specify in writing the enactment under which the application is made, the premises to be searched, the object of the search, the grounds for the application, the grounds for either limited or unlimited repeat entries, where applicable, and that there are no grounds to believe that the material sought is not of a status precluded from seizure under the warrant.
A constable must take reasonable steps to ensure that information justifying the application is accurate, recent and not provided maliciously or irresponsibly; ascertain as specifically as possible the nature of the articles concerned and their location; make reasonable enquiries to establish if anything is known about the occupier, the premises and whether the premises have been searched previously; obtain written authorisation for the application from an officer of inspector rank or above; and, if there is reason to believe a search might have an adverse impact on police community relations, the officer in charge should consult the community liaison officer before or as soon as possible after the search.
Information is not collected centrally on the number of search warrants executed by the police.