Letter written to my MP
Thank you for taking the time to read my email.
On Wednesday, 25 May 2016, at approximately 815am, I left for work. My husband had left earlier with the kids for the nursery drop off. When I arrived at work and checked my phone, there were numerous missed calls, frantic emails and Facebook messages from my neighbours.
“Hi J, please call. The police need to reach you. H (No 19)”
“Hi J, This is M your neighbour from number 17. There are policemen looking for you outside your house. They have tools to force the main door. They need your phone number to contact you.”
I immediately rang my neighbour who lives in No 21, she’s a close friend as well and she proceeded to relay to me what had happened.
The police arrived in vans, right after I left, fully prepared to force their way into my home with a search warrant. They banged on the door repeatedly and realised there was no one home. Fortunately before they proceeded to break down the door, one of them jumped over my fence and found that the back door had been left unlocked. They entered through the back, and searched the premises. My concerned neighbours had obviously came out to the street and found my home surrounded by a large group of policemen trying to get into my house.
Why? That’s a good question.
Apparently there was an anonymous tip off that my home was potentially a cannabis farm. All because I had foiled up the windows in my daughters’ bedrooms.
I looked this up and lo behold, there was a BBC article about the tell-tale signs of a potential cannabis farm (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17896081):
Proof of “setting up shop”
You need ventilation and (a lot of) lighting equipment for irrigation, grow bags, soil to grow cannabis. Not exactly your usual gardening equipment. Also, the criminals would obviously try to move into the rented premises during odd hours.
Firstly, we own our home. We also have a boisterous toddler and a young baby. We wouldn’t be able to walk down the street quietly even if we tried. We moved our furniture and belongings into the house in the middle of the day on a Saturday and we even had neighbours from behind our street come by to say hello.
Coming and going at odd hours or behaving like you’ve something to hide
On Mondays to Fridays, we leave the house, in bright daylight with both children in tow, between 8-9am. Sometimes we get stuck in our corridor and the whole street can probably hear my daughter refusing to put on her jacket or shoes or both. I come home, with both (usually noisy) children between 530-630pm. We’re always opening and closing our garage, to store our double buggy.
Anyone who is walking by during that time would have had ample opportunity to see that we do not have any dodgy equipment in our garage and that we are not trying to hide anything. During the weekends, we balance our time at home cooking, cleaning, feeding and napping the kids, and going out for weekend adventures, or a meal. We even have gatherings where friends come over for food and more recently, we threw a birthday party for my eldest daughter.
Other obvious indicators of a cannabis farm:
Strong and sickly sweet smell of cannabis
There isn’t any sweet smell coming from our house. Unless you’re referring to my cooking. And we have neighbours on our left, surely they would have noticed otherwise?
Covered up windows
So this seems to be the only indicator that we are a family growing weed in our upstairs bedrooms. Let me explain. If you have kids, you would do absolutely anything to make sure they slept until at least 7am in the morning. We blacked out their rooms for this very reason. Because they sleep better in the dark, especially when it starts to get light very early these days!!
Unusual levels of heat (from the lighting that is required to grow cannabis) which may lead to unusual levels of condensation
Once again, no indication of this whatsoever on our premises! This can be spotted by thermal imaging cameras which I assume the police would have access to.
Rubbish bins filled with compost and soil in plastic bags
Our rubbish bins are right in front of our house. It doesn’t take a genius or even a policeman to realise that we recycle (like a normal citizen) and we do not have large amounts of questionable compost and soil being thrown out. Unless you count a shed load of nappies as questionable.
I am writing to you because I believe that there were no reasonable grounds* for the issue of the search warrant. If a plainclothes policeman were to visit my street at least once (before the raid) and observed the comings and goings of my family, AND noted the absence of any of the indicators I’ve listed above, he or she would have concluded that there were no reasonable grounds to search our home. I have no quarrel with how the search was conducted but I am puzzled as to why a search warrant was justified in the first place.
You may argue that there was no harm done at the end of the day. It is only by sheer luck that I left the backdoor opened. It is only by providence that my kids were not at home (otherwise they would have been frightened out of their minds or at worst, hurt). However, the shoe marks the police left behind on our cream carpets are blatant reminders that our privacy and our home have been invaded. We are law abiding, tax paying, responsible and decent people and we came home that Wednesday to a piece of paper saying “Warrant to Enter and Search Premises” issued under: Section 23 Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.We are traumatised by this ordeal and we are embarrassed. It may even have been a racial prejudice or a personal grudge that led to the tip off.
Anonymous tip offs aside, two questions remain:
- Surely the police have a responsibility to ensure due process was taken before the search warrant was requested?
- Surely the deputy judge who was signing off on the warrant would reviewed the (lack of) evidence put forward as “reasonable grounds” to suspect that we had drugs in our bedrooms?
I’m sure the ample police resources (funded by us, the taxpayers!) that were directed to raid a house of an innocent family of four could have been better utilised elsewhere.
As the MP for our neighbourhood, how do you ensure that in the future the due process or investigation is carried out before a search warrant for drugs is issued on family homes? We want the assurance that no other innocent family would have to go through what we went through.
I look forward to your response.
Thanks and Regards,