McLeod v. the United Kingdom (Application no. 24755/94)

Key paragraph(s) can be found below the document.


55. The Court considers that, since Mr McLeod’s solicitors genuinely believed that a breach of the peace might occur when their client removed his property from the former matrimonial home, the police could not be faulted for responding to their request for assistance. In this regard, it notes that the domestic courts accepted that a situation that might begin as a domestic quarrel could develop into a breach of the peace (see paragraph 18 above).

56. However, the Court observes that, notwithstanding the facts that the police were contacted in advance by Mr McLeod’s solicitors and that the solicitor’s clerk offered to return to his office and collect the court order (see paragraph 12 above), the police did not take any steps to verify whether Mr McLeod was entitled to enter her home on 3 October 1989 and remove his property. Sight of the court order would have indicated that it was for the applicant to deliver the property, and not for her former husband to collect it, and moreover that she had three more days in which to do so (see paragraph 11 above). Admittedly, the court order would not have enabled the police officers to ascertain the correctness of Mr McLeod’s genuinely held belief that an agreement had been made between himself and his ex-wife allowing him to remove his property from the former matrimonial home on 3 October 1989 – a belief that was communicated to the police officers upon their arrival (see paragraph 12 above). Nonetheless, given the circumstances of the interference, and the fact that the applicant was not present and that her mother lacked any knowledge of the agreement (see paragraph 13 above), the police should not have taken it for granted that an agreement had been reached superseding the relevant parts of the court order.

57. The Court considers further that, upon being informed that the applicant was not present, the police officers should not have entered her house, as it should have been clear to them that there was little or no risk of disorder or crime occurring. It notes in this regard that the police officers remained outside the property for some of the time, suggesting a belief on their part that a breach of the peace was not likely to occur in the absence of the applicant (see paragraph 14 above). The fact that an altercation did occur upon her return (see paragraph 15 above) is, in its opinion, immaterial in ascertaining whether the police officers were justified in entering the property initially.

58. For the above reasons, the Court finds that the means employed by the police officers were disproportionate to the legitimate aim pursued. Accordingly, there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.


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