Hours after she read an application for a search warrant by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) in open court, thereby alerting the affected party, Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan’s action has come under scrutiny by a number of persons within the legal fraternity.
Magistrate McLennan raised eyebrows on Tuesday, after she dealt in the aforementioned manner with an application made by SOCU in relation to a search intended for the home of Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall.
SOCU had planned to raid Nandlall‘s home to retrieve 15 LexisNexis Commonwealth Law Reports in his possession, and for which the state is claiming ownership.
The law books are subject of a criminal case that Nandlall is facing. He was arrested and charged earlier this year.
On Tuesday, SOCU officials reportedly went to the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court where they applied to Magistrate McLennan for a search warrant.
However, in what was described as highly unusual situation, the application by SOCU was read in open court by the Magistrate, before she reportedly ordered the officials from SOCU to return in the afternoon to uplift the warrant.
Hours later, Nandlall turned up at his home with a court order which he insisted bars SOCU and the police from searching his property until the outcome of a pending case.
Those familiar with the procedure have since expressed concerns that the application was read in open court.
Some persons have even stressed that the act defeats the purpose of the search warrant, noting that it interferes with the surprise element that exists with such orders.
Several legal minds weighing in on the matter noted that while the Chief Magistrate is empowered by law to handle such applications, the ethics employed by the Magistrate in dealing with the matter are up for debate.
Sources close to the issue have suggested that given nature of the order, in practice, “the issuance of a search warrant should be treated with much sensitivity”.
Sources also noted that “by reading the application to the court before the order is granted, the Magistrate essentially alerted the affected party of the intended search on the premises, thereby allowing time for the affected party, if necessary, to cover his tracks.”
Kaieteur News understands that once an application for a search is made to the Court, the issue is treated with urgency.
It is usually granted as soon as the Magistrate or Judge is satisfied that by proof upon oath, there are reasonable grounds for the search.
The Summary Jurisdiction Procedure Act Chapter 10:02 of the Laws of Guyana, deals with the issue of search warrants.
In its simplest terms, the law outlines that once a Magistrate is satisfied by proof upon oath that there are reasonable grounds, the warrant is granted to a police or law enforcement agent to conduct searches on a specified property in which it is believed that matters of evidential value were used or are intended to be used in the commission of a crime.
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