Police search warrants against property developer ruled unlawful by High Court

Elliot Lawless

The High Court in London has ruled the search of a Liverpool developer’s home was unlawful.

And Elliot Lawless, founder of the Elliot Group, has hit out at what he claims is Liverpool City Council’s part in his arrest, on December 18, last year.

Mr Lawless was arrested on allegations of fraud and corruption.

Nick Kavanagh, Liverpool City Council’s Director of Regeneration, was arrested on the same day on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and misconduct in a public office.

Both have strenuously denied the allegations.

Now, in the latest development in the case, Merseyside Police have acknowledged that a search they carried out last December at Mr Lawless’s home was unlawful and the search warrants have been quashed by the High Court in London.

The ruling follows a legal claim made by Elliot Lawless, dealt with urgently by the High Court, that the search warrants should not have been issued and should never have been carried out.

Merseyside Police has agreed to settle the claim and will pay Mr Lawless’s costs.

Noted in their agreement with Mr Lawless, Merseyside Police accepted:

  • No reasons were given by the Justice of the Peace for granting the warrant beyond a recital of the statutory criteria and confirmation that he considered those criteria to be satisfied. No minutes of the hearing were made by either the court clerk or the police.
  • The unlawful searches were widely publicised and three Elliot Group companies were subsequently placed into administration.

Mr Lawless said: “I am very pleased that the police quickly agreed to settle these proceedings.

“I have consistently denied any wrongdoing and the allegations made are baseless.

“Today’s agreed order is another major step towards bringing the investigation to a conclusion.”

He added: “The arrest was prompted after Merseyside Police received a report from the chief executive of Liverpool City Council, Tony Reeves.

“Having heard the claims made during this process I feel the police have been misled.

“Hundreds of local workers lost their jobs as a result of the arrest and tens of millions of pounds of investors’ funds are now at risk.

“Two major sites blight Liverpool city centre and the loss of council tax revenue and New Homes Bonus for the council will run into millions.

“Factor in the reputational harm to Liverpool and you might reasonably conclude that this has not been the city’s finest hour.”

He said: “Prior to my arrest I was in advanced discussions with a number of leading national and international funds, which have since pulled out. It’s a sad irony that they were driven from Liverpool as a result of a council investigation into its own handling of the city’s regeneration.”

And referring to the administration process, Mr Lawless said: “I shall continue to work with the administrators to see how we can secure best value for our investors.

“I have a number of schemes in the pipeline and have instructed my architects and planning consultants to go full speed on these. I am keen to begin working with Liverpool council again to develop schemes that will add value to the city and take it forward economically and physically.”

Today’s news follows a recent court ruling refusing the police application to extend bail which released Mr Lawless from any bail restrictions.

Mr Lawless now says, with the judicial review concluded, he has instructed his legal team to proceed with the work required to secure the return of cash seized from one of his premises.

“As part of the settlement of my judicial review, I have agreed voluntarily to provide relevant documents and electronic records to the police so that they can complete their investigation without further delay.”

Mr Lawless added: “Nobody has delivered more new homes in Liverpool than Elliot Group in the last seven years.

“We have built more than two-and-a-half thousand homes across 21 sites, with new hotels, restaurants, bars and other commercial space also brought to market and we have a 100% track record of delivery.

“Up until the arrest on 18th December there were hundreds of skilled local trades at work on our sites delivering thousands more homes for the city of Liverpool.”

Last month Elliot Group placed three schemes into administration following funding problems brought about by the allegations against Mr Lawless.

The three developments are Aura and Infinity in Liverpool, and The Residence, on Greengate in Salford.

In a statement issued to TheBusinessDesk.com, Merseyside Police said: “Merseyside Police can confirm that, following an application for Judicial Review being issued by the High Court, the force has sought independent legal advice, which concluded that there were technical difficulties in relation to three warrants executed at Beetham Plaza on 18 December 2020.

“The force has consented to quashing the warrants carried out at Beetham Plaza, as a result the Judicial Review proceedings have been concluded by consent.

“However, Merseyside Police continue with their investigation, and retain the £337,342.00 and 10,442.10 euros cash seized as part of the investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

“As part of the consent order, Mr Lawless has agreed to Merseyside Police retaining copies of exhibits seized when the warrants were executed.”

A spokesperson for Liverpool City Council said: “Liverpool City Council is continuing to co-operate with Mersey Police’s ongoing investigation.”