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Entick v Carrington [1765] EWHC KB J98

An individual’s rights over their property

Facts

On 11th November 1762 the defendant and three other named individuals entered a property belonging to the claimant and spent four hours there searching all of the rooms, breaking open boxes and going through all of the claimant’s possessions. They then removed one hundred charts and one hundred pamphlets from the property. The defendants asserted that they were lawfully entitled to enter the property because they were doing so under a warrant from Lord Halifax, who was a member of the Privy Council and Secretary of State, with a view to finding certain seditious papers and that such warrants had been granted and enforced since the time of the revolution. The claimant sued in trespass.

Issue

The issue in this circumstance was whether the defendants were trespassing when on the claimant’s land, but ultimately the issue related to whether a private individual’s right to protect their land was greater than the executive’s right to enter it.

Held

It was held that the defendants were trespassing on the claimant’s land. An individual has the right to prevent access to his land to anybody unless the access is granted by the law. It is only if the law permits an agent of the state to do something on the land of an individual that they will be able to do so. If the law is silent, any entry onto the land is a trespass. The state is therefore subject to the same position on trespass as would be the case for an individual. Any entry onto land without licence of the land owner is forbidden.


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