Police Visits

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Durham police have started tracking home educated children and to demand to see children in the event of them not being seen by council officials over an 18-month period.

Such visits, are entirely without legal basis. The state has a limited right of access where they have grounds to believe a vulnerable person (such as a child) is in immediate danger of serious or significant harm. They do not need a warrant under such circumstances. Although they can also apply for a warrant if they can prove to the courts that such a situation exists in the long term. Normally however, that would not be obtained by the police but the local child protection team.

The fact that someone is home educating and that the child has not been seen by an official (such as an EWO or EHE rep) for 18 months is not legal grounds for believing a child is at risk. Home education is a free parental choice and does not constitute grounds for concern of itself. There is (as yet) no compulsory register of home educators and there is no legally mandated monitoring regime.

They need a reason specific to that child. For example, a report from a third party that a child is at risk or if a police officer hears a child screaming such that it leads him or her to such a view could both be grounds. But routine checks of the kind proposed by Durham Police have no basis in law.

It has been suggested that the following responses to such demands are within the law.

 If an officer came to your door and demanded entry, and even threatened you in some way with dire consequences if you refused you could ask the following questions

You could start with 'Are you arresting me?’

If yes: The police must identify themselves as the police, tell you that you’re being arrested and what crime they think you’ve committed. They must also explain why it’s necessary to arrest you and explain to you that you’re not free to leave.

If the officer replies no, you could ask: 'in which case, do you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to life or property?'

If the officer replies No, you could then ask the officer to please leave. (be very polite and respectful, no matter how you feel about this unwarranted intervention in your life, this is still a police officer.)

If the officer replies yes, then you could ask to whom and on what basis.

Police may only enter your home if either:
they are in close pursuit of someone they believe has committed, or attempted to commit, a serious crime,

  • to sort out a disturbance, or
  • if they hear cries for help or of distress, or
  • to enforce an arrest warrant, or
  • if you invite them in, or
  • other specific reasons covered by acts not related to this scenario.

If however the officer says that 'We do have reason because our LA policy defines a child not seen by the state for 18 months as being at risk of harm' Your reply could be:

A local policy in respect of education, has no force in law. Your powers only allow you entry, if my child is currently in distress and you have good reason to believed s/he is at risk of significant harm. A safe and well check has no legal basis. It is an informal arrangement.

This last part is the most likely direction such a conversation will lead.

NOTE: We do not yet know what training the police are undertaking regarding home education, If our experiences in other forces is anything to go by, it will be little to none. it is therefore unlikely that the officer will know the law regarding home education in any detail. He/she may be inclined to overstep their bounds in the belief or understanding that their actions are legally sanctioned.

Never physically resist arrest, even if you strongly believe the officer to be wrong. Explain calmly that the officer is overstepping their powers and then see a criminal law solicitor at your earliest opportunity.

It is possible that if they rigorously carry out these “duties”, Durham police force may well be funding a number of home educators foreign educational visits next year.

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