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Obstructing or Hindering Execution of Search Warrant

Obstructing or hindering the execution of a search warrant is an offence under section 52 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 that carries a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You obstructed or hindered a person, and’
  2. The person was executing a valid search warrant under the Act at the time.

The powers that relate to search warrants are outlined in Part 5, Division 2 of the Act.

Section 47A within Part 5 authorises a person who is executing a search warrant to enter the subject premises and search it for things connected with a particular searchable offence that is contained within the warrant.

The section provides that a person who is executing a covert search warrant is also authorised to:

  1. Conduct the entry and search without the knowledge of any occupier,
  2. Enter adjoining premises without the knowledge of the occupier of that premises if necessary,
  3. Impersonate another person for the purposes of executing the warrant, and
  4. Do anything else that is reasonable to conceal the search from any occupier.

Section 67 of the Act requires a person who is executing a search warrant, other than a covert search warrant, to give notice of the warrant to the occupier of the premises as soon as practicable on entry.

A person who is executing a search warrant may:

  1. Seize and detain anything mentioned in the warrant, or anything of the kind,
  2. Seize and detain anything suspected on reasonable grounds to be connected with any offence, and
  3. Search any person in or on the premises who is reasonably suspected of possessing anything in the warrant.

You are not guilty of the offence of obstructing or hindering the execution of a search warrant if you establish, on the balance of probabilities, that you had a reasonable excuse for your conduct.

General legal defences to the offence include duress, necessity and self-defence.

If you are able to raise evidence of a general legal defence, the onus then shifts to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defence does not apply to the circumstances of the case.

You are entitled to an acquittal if the prosecution is unable to do this.

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