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General principle:

A case dealing with law of trespass, although appearing at first to deal with a matter restricted to private law, may also raise constitutional issues.


Entick v Carrington (1765) 19 St Tr 1030


The King’s messenger trespassed on the applicant’s property. This case seemed to be, prima facie, a simple case of application of trespass law. The writer John Entick, who was accused of printing seditious content in his publication The Monitor, was the impetus for the legal action that resulted from this case. Officials from the government, including Nathan Carrington, broke into Entick's house and took his personal belongings, including his books and papers, in order to compile evidence to use against him.


The particular circumstances of the case had a constitutional resonance as it was concerned with protecting the individuals’ rights from state restrictions. The judge decided that the government authorities had violated the law when they searched Entick's house since they did not have a warrant or any other kind of legal authorization to do so. The case established the notion that the government cannot search or take a person's property without a warrant, and that people have the right to be safe in their homes. This right was established as a result of the case.


While identifying constitutional issues, one should not draw conclusions solely based on traditional distinctions between private and public law. If the rule of law is equated with adherence to the requirements of formal legality as demonstrated in Entick v Carrington, the statute is deemed to be sufficient to justify the action. Yet it can be hard to distinguish such statutory powers from that arbitrary authority deemed incompatible with the rule of law. The case is historically important because it laid the groundwork for the significance of the rule of law as well as the notion of individual liberty. It is generally mentioned as a milestone case in the evolution of English constitutional law and is considered to be one of the essential instances in the history of civil liberties. In addition, it is considered to be one of the most important cases in the history of the civil rights movement.

Entick v Carrington


As mentioned briefly earlier, the arbitrary protection of citizen rights is another flaw in having an uncodified constitution. This is because the rights of the citizens are not entrenched in a Constitution. Instead it exists in the form of a statutory act (Human Rights Act 1998) that can be very easily repealed by a simple majority n Parliament. According to A.V. Dicey the rule of law is the best protector of fundamental rights and a Bill of Rights is unnecessary so long as there are courts. This coupled with Parliament’s legislative power constitute UK’s fundamental rights. This is illustrated by the case of Entick v Carrington. In this particular case, the King’s Chef Messenger was ordered by the Secretary of State to search Entick’s residence by force. Entick was suspected of writing and publishing seditious material. Entick sued for trespass. The court held that the Secretary of State had no right under statutory or common law to issue a warrant for search and found in favour of Entick. It is argued that while A. V. Dicey is right to a certain extent, his point on courts upholding citizens’ rights does not always hold true.

Entick v Carrington

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