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Hostel is homeless man's castle

An Englishman's home is his castle, even if that "home" is only a bedroom temporarily occupied by a homeless person in a hostel, the High Court ruled yesterday. Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice Openshaw said those with rooms in hostels were "as much entitled to the protection of the law" from unauthorised police searches "as those living a more settled, conventional life".

The guideline case involved Omar Prince Thomas, a homeless man whose private bedroom in a £5-a-day hostel in Lewisham, south-east London, was entered and searched by Metropolitan police without his permission. They wanted to arrest burglary suspect Matthew Hamilton, who was staying at the same hostel, and told Mr Thomas they were entitled to enter his room, because it was within the same premises.

The hostel had three lockable bedrooms and shared communal accommodation. Each occupant only had "a licence to occupy" the property on a daily basis.

Mr Justice Openshaw said: "It seems to me that homeless people living in rooms in local authority hostels are as much entitled to the protection of the law as those living a more settled, conventional life."