A search warrant against an unlicenced education centre was found to have violated the principle of proportionality, according to a Supreme Court ruling that reprimanded law enforcement officials for acting beyond their scope.
According to local media, police officers in Limassol raided a tutoring centre in May 2018, following two months of close surveillance in an effort to crack down on unlicensed afternoon schools.
Police reportedly found that last year from March 30 through May 9, there were pupils aged between nine and ten going in and out of the facility, dropped off and picked up in vehicles at specific time intervals.
'Police knew a learning centre without a valid licence had been operating on the premises, so no further investigation was necessary for an offence carrying a maximum €2000 fine'
During a raid, a dozen officers surprised educators and students alike by interrupting ongoing lessons and entering the premises with a warrant. Police reportedly confiscated textbooks, notepads, equipment including computers, a blackboard, and even desks and chairs.
The Supreme Court heard the case this week, with the owner of the learning center as the plaintiff. The judges found that the search warrant had been issued based on a police officer’s witness statement, which detailed the surveillance operation along with times and observations of children going in and out of the learning centre.
But it had also turned out that the police had already received information from an association of private learning centres, confirming that the specific school was operating without a licence.
“Police knew during the surveillance stages that a learning centre without a valid licence had been operating on the premises, thus no further investigation was necessary,” the judges said.
The Supreme Court said the police acted beyond the scope of law enforcement, violating the principle of proportionality for an offence that carries the maximum penalty of a €2000 fine.
“For this reason alone, the issuance of a police search warrant was unwarranted,” the Supreme Court said, adding that there were also other factors to consider including the young age of pupils in the classroom.
Undue strain on the kids
“Entering the premises under such circumstances in the presence of pupils of a very young age, undoubtedly would have had an impact on their mental state, making the whole experience extremely unpleasant,” the Supreme Court said.
“This aspect was not taken into consideration at all and no restrictions were discussed in regards to the execution of the search warrant,” the Supreme Court judges added.