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Entick v Carrington
GrubStreet-London 300dpi.jpg
Court King's Bench
Full case name John Entick, (Clerk) v Nathan Carrington and Three Others
Decided 2 November 1765
Citation(s) [1765] EWHC KB J98, (1765) 19 Howell's State Trials 1029; 95 ER 807

Transcript of judgment at bailii.org

Howell's law report
Case opinions
Camden CJ
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Lord Camden Chief Justice of the Common Pleas

Entick v Carrington [1765] EWHC KB J98 is a leading case in English law establishing the civil liberties of individuals and limiting the scope of executive power. The case has also been influential in other common law jurisdictions and was an important motivation for the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is famous for the dictum of Camden LJ: "If it is law, it will be found in our books. If it not to be found there, it is not law."[1]


John Entick

On 11 November 1762, the King's Chief Messenger, Nathan Carrington, and three other King's messengers, James Watson, Thomas Ardran, and Robert Blackmore, broke into the home of the Grub-street writer, John Entick (1703?-1773) in the parish of St Dunstan, Stepney "with force and arms". Over the course of four hours, they broke open locks and doors and searched all of the rooms before taking away 100 charts and 100 pamphlets, causing £2000 of damage. The King's messengers were acting on the orders of Lord Halifax, newly appointed Secretary of State for the Northern Department, "to make strict and diligent search for . . . the author, or one concerned in the writing of several weekly very seditious papers intitled, The Monitor, or British Freeholder".

Entick sued the messengers for trespassing on his land.


Lord Camden

The trial took place in Westminster Hall presided over by Lord Camden, the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. Carrington and his colleagues claimed that they acted on Halifax's warrant, which gave them legal authority to search Entick's home; they therefore could not be liable for the tort. However, Camden held that Halifax had no right under statute or under precedent to issue such a warrant and therefore found in Entick's favour. In the most famous passage Camden stated:

Hence Lord Camden ruled, as later became viewed as a general principle, that the state may do nothing but that which is expressly authorised by law, while the individual may do anything but that which is forbidden by law.


The judgment established the limits of executive power in English law: the state can only act lawfully in a manner prescribed by statute or common law.[4]

It was also part of the background to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and was described by the Supreme Court of the United States as a "great judgment, one of the landmarks of English liberty, one of the permanent monuments of the British Constitution, "and a guide to an understanding of the Fourth Amendment."[5][6]


  1. ^ Camden's actual words, as recorded in the law report were "If this is law it would be found in our books, but no such law ever existed in this country." Transcript of judgment at bailii.org
  2. ^ This is an obvious reference to John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (1689) Ch XI, §§134-5
  3. ^ "Entick v. Carrington". 19 Howell’s State Trials 1029 (1765). United States: Constitution Society. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  4. ^ The judgment was later applied in "A v Hayden ("ASIS case") [1984] HCA 67" to extend the principle within the Australian common law jurisdiction.
  5. ^ Kilman, Johnny and George Costello (Eds) (2006). "The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation". GPO. pp. pp1281–1282. 
  6. ^ Boyd v. United States 116 U.S. 616, 626 (1886)


  • Cuddihy, William; Hardy, B. Carmon (1980). "A Man's House Was Not His Castle: Origins of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution". William and Mary Quarterly (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture) 37 (3): 372–400. doi:10.2307/1923809. JSTOR 1923809. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entick_v_Carrington — Please support Wikipedia.
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