Seizure of vehicles & sound equipment
The Criminal Justice Act
Clauses 57 and 59.
The power to seize and remove vehicles applies when a direction has been given under clause 56 or clause 58, (see CJA (Home Office Press Release) but only when the person in charge “has failed to remove” it from the land to which the direction applies.
There is no new power to remove vehicles on the road. The section may be used whether or not the vehicle owner has been arrested, and even where the owner is not present. There is no power to seize property other than vehicles, but anything carried on the vehicles is included. Vehicles seized under this provision are subject to clause 62.
The a direction has been given under clause 58, the police have power to enter land and seize sound equipment as well as vehicles (whether in use or not, and whether belonging to the organisers of the event or not), but not if belonging to the occupier. This applies only when a direction has been given under clause 58 and only on the land covered by the direction.
Sound equipment seized under clause 59 may be forfeited by order of a court after conviction of any person in whose possession it was; its owner will not be able to recover it without proving that he or she had “no reason to suspect” that it would be used at the gathering. Even if no one is charged it may be retained (under clause 62) until a decision not to prosecute is taken (which may well take months).
Seized vehicles may be retained until all charges made for their impoundment and retention have been paid. Since it is suggested that the total cost of operating the pounds (estimated at five hundred thousand pounds) will be raised from those charges, they will clearly be such to prevent most such vehicles being recovered. There will be a provision for their destruction, for which the owners will then be liable to pay a further charge. Since there are only to be five pounds in the country, owners wishing to recover vehicles may have to travel considerable distances as their own expense.
This clause insofar as it applies to living vehicles, is probably in breach of Article 8 (right to privacy) and Article 14 (right to family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and in all cases in breach of Article 1 of the first Protocol (right to property).
The police may impound unroadworthy vehicles under the Road Traffic Acts. This includes vehicles that are on the road as a result of being towed off a site during an eviction, as well as those which are stopped on the road.
There were no existing powers to seize sound equipment, although this is often done, usually on the grounds that it is required as “evidence” or “to prevent a beach of the peace”. The intervention of a solicitor usually resulted in its return. If such a seizure resulted in financial loss, it was possible to sue the police for damages.