Page last updated at 18:37 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Police assault conviction quashed over forced entry

A man who spat at one policeman and headbutted another has had his assault convictions quashed because officers had forced entry into his home.

Shaheed Syed, of Hurst Street, Cowley, Oxford, was found guilty in April 2009 of two counts of assaulting a police officer in the execution of his duty.

Police had been called to Mr Syed's home after reports of a disturbance.

But the High Court said the convictions could not stand due to rules police had to adhere to set down by Parliament.

Mr Syed had been found guilty by Oxford magistrates.

Sitting at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Collins and Mr Justice Silber said that the convictions could not stand.

'Life or limb'

"I appreciate and have some sympathy for the problems faced by police officers in such situations," Mr Justice Collins said.

"In a sense they are damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

"But it is important to bear in mind the high threshold set by Parliament because it is a serious matter for a householder to have his home entered by police officers by force and without consent."

The judge said Parliament had laid down that officers could only enter a home by force if they suspected an imminent threat to "life or limb", or serious damage to property.

Three officers attended Mr Syed's home after being notified of a noisy dispute by a member of the public.

But when they arrived, all was quiet and there was "no sign of anything untoward", the court heard.

The court was told that officers said Mr Syed was "evasive" and reluctant to let them in.

After he said he had had a row with his brother, the officers informed him that they had power to enter the property, without a warrant, to confirm the "welfare" of the occupants.

Mr Justice Collins said Mr Syed responded by spitting in one officer's face and headbutting another.

In quashing the assault convictions, the judge said: "Concern for welfare is not sufficient to justify entry - it is altogether too low a test."

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