Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Friday, 23 October 2009 18:20 UK

Homeless man's room 'is castle'

Royal Courts of Justice
A High Court judge said homeless people may be particularly vulnerable

A homeless man has as much right to call his hostel room his "castle" as anyone else, the High Court has ruled.

Omar Prince Thomas objected after his private bedroom in a south London hostel was entered and searched by police without his permission in 2007.

Those with rooms in hostels were "as much entitled to the protection of the law as those living a more settled, conventional life", the court found.

The decision by two senior judges overturned an earlier ruling.

Mr Justice Openshaw said Metropolitan Police officers raided the hostel in Lewisham in January 2007 to arrest a burglary suspect, Matthew Hamilton.

The officers told Thomas they were entitled to search his room, as well as Hamilton's, as they lived in the same premises.

Police 'trespass'

Each of the occupants had "a licence to occupy" the three-bedroom flat on a daily basis at a cost of £5.05 a day. Their bedrooms were individually numbered and could be locked.

At issue was whether each bedroom could be classed as a "separate dwelling" or not, thereby limiting the police's powers of entry and search.

The High Court said there was a "sufficient degree of exclusive occupation" to make each bedroom a separate dwelling, disagreeing with an earlier ruling by Blackfriars Crown Court.

Mr Justice Openshaw said the officers "should be treated as though they were trespassers and were not, all the time they remained in his room, acting in the course of their duty."

He said that homeless people living in local authority hostels may be "particularly vulnerable" and need the protection of the law even more than others.

Lord Justice Elias said the fact that each homeless individual had a licence to use a room, if only temporarily, "gives them the right to say 'my home is my castle' as much as anyone else".

However, the judges refused to quash a conviction given to Thomas for wilfully obstructing an officer in the execution of his duty, because the offence happened after the officers had left Thomas's bedroom.



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