This question has what may be considered spoilers for the movie 'Stillwater'.

In 'Stillwater', near the end of the movie when the main character comes home, he quickly becomes surrounded by police, who ask him questions and start giving orders.

Nothing like a warrant is ever mentioned, yet the police essentially force the main character to enter his property and unlock locked doors. Basically a forced search.

Now, in the movie they suspect he has a person being held captive in his basement, so I could understand that there is no need for a warrant or similar in exigent circumstances, but in this case there was no evidence or indication, just the hunch of a retired cop.

But, after they search the basement, they then forcible enter the characters home and question the woman and child he lives with, and it doesn't seem like they have a choice, or even the right to demand a lawyer.

So, is this accurate to French law? Are there no needs for warrants, no right to counsel, etc?

1 Answer 1


This all seems legal


(1) A police officer may enter premises if the police officer believes on reasonable grounds that--

(a) a breach of the peace is being or is likely to be committed and it is necessary to enter the premises immediately to end or prevent the breach of peace, or

(b) a person has suffered significant physical injury or there is imminent danger of significant physical injury to a person and it is necessary to enter the premises immediately to prevent further significant physical injury or significant physical injury to a person, or

I haven't seen the film but courts tend to be generous when interpreting "reasonable grounds" so unless the officer's suspicion is clearly nuts, the entry was legal. The leading case is R v Rondo where the court said:

reasonable suspicion involves less than a reasonable belief but more than a possibility. There must be something which would create in the mind of a reasonable person an apprehension or fear …A reason to suspect that a fact exists is more than a reason to consider or look into the possibility of its existence.

However, under s9(2) they may only stay on the premises "as long as is reasonably necessary in the circumstances."

Further, while Part 9 of the act gives protections to people who are under arrest, these do not apply generally. That is, a question that would be off-limits to someone who has been detained is perfectly legitimate to someone who hasn't been. That person can choose to answer or not (they must give their name, address and contact details if asked) and they can choose to stay and be questioned or not because they are not under arrest.

As for the use of force, s230 is very generous:

It is lawful for a police officer exercising a function under this Act or any other Act or law in relation to an individual or a thing, and anyone helping the police officer, to use such force as is reasonably necessary to exercise the function.

What if it isn't?

The biggest consequence of an illegal search or questioning is that the court may (but is not required to) exclude any evidence obtained at trial. See What do I need to do about police unlawfully break in my house

  • Do you have a reputable source for NSW's courts apparent lenient interpretation of reasonable grounds? This is not the case in E&W where justification for an officer's "belief" is a much higher bar than "suspicion" - especially if it's founded on a civilian's hunch without any evidence.
    – user35069
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 7:33
  • Just to give more context to the scene in the movie...the hunch comes from a retired cop who gains the hunch from offering an illegal service to the main character, and tells other cops during a poker night. I get searching the basement on the basis someone might be in there (only kind of since there were no indications), but I don't get them forcing their way into the apartment to forcibly question people after they establish no one is in danger or being held captive. Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 22:47

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