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Justice for businessman subjected to a police raid just because of someone else’s traffic violation

Buck v. Germany  | 2005

Justice for businessman subjected to a police raid just because of someone else’s traffic violation

The search and seizure in question had been ordered in connection with a minor contravention of a regulation purportedly committed by a third person … Court concludes that the interference cannot be regarded as proportionate

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, April 2005

Background

Jürgen Buck ran a small business in a town near Frankfurt. One day his home and offices were suddenly raided by a team of four police officers. They confiscated a range of documents. According to Jürgen, because he lived in a small town of 10,000 people, his reputation and business suffered as a result of a people suspecting him of criminal activity.

However, the only reason for the search was that Jürgen’s son was being investigated for speeding (which he denied). As the car was registered to Jürgen’s company, the police decided to raid not only the company offices, but also his home, to find out who might have been driving.

Ultimately the raid and the documents that were seized were useless to the case, as Jürgen’s son was simply identified by a photograph taken by a speed camera.  

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court ruled that the speeding investigation had been for a petty offence of minor importance. The investigation was not against Jürgen himself, but against his adult son. Given this, the police raid on Jürgen’s home and office in the middle of the afternoon had been disproportionate – particularly as it was unnecessary for the investigation.

Follow-up

After the events, a ruling by the German Federal Constitutional Court stated that people who have been subjected to search and seizure operations should have the right to have the lawfulness of the raid reviewed by a court. The European court’s judgment in this case was sent out to the relevant authorities.


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