"Entick v Carrington" (1765) is a foundational case in English law and is particularly significant for its establishment of the principle that the state may only act within the limits of established law. Here's a detailed summary of the case:
- Date: 1765
- Parties: John Entick (Plaintiff) and Nathan Carrington along with three other King's messengers (Defendants)
- Context: The case arose in the context of a wider political struggle between the Crown and Parliament, and debates about the extent of the Crown's authority.
- Incident: Carrington, acting under orders from the Secretary of State (Lord Halifax), broke into Entick's home. Entick was suspected of authoring libelous material against the government.
- Action: Carrington and others spent about four hours searching the house, breaking locks and doors, and eventually seized numerous papers and charts.
- Damage: The raid caused considerable damage, estimated at £2,000 (a significant sum at the time).
- Claim: Entick sued Carrington and the other messengers for trespass.
- Defense: Carrington argued that the action was justified as it was done under the authority of a government warrant.
- Decision: The Court of Common Pleas, led by Lord Camden, found in favor of Entick.
- Reasoning: The court held that the warrant used to justify the search was not backed by any legal statute or common law authority. Thus, the actions of Carrington and the others constituted trespass.
- Principles Established:
- The state must act within the confines of the law.
- Government officials are not above the law and are accountable for their actions.
- The importance of property rights and privacy against arbitrary searches.
Legacy and Importance
- Impact on English Law: This case is heralded as a cornerstone in establishing the balance of power between the state and the individual, reinforcing the rule of law.
- Influence on American Law: Entick v Carrington influenced the drafting of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.
"Entick v Carrington" remains a seminal case in legal education and is frequently cited in discussions about civil liberties, the powers of the state, and the rights of individuals against arbitrary government action.