‘That the house of everyone is to him as his castle and fortress’ said Sir Edward Coke in Seyman’s Case, (1603) 77 Eng. Rep. 194.  William Pitt the Elder, one time Prime Minister of England said in 1763:

The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail — its roof may shake — the wind may blow through it — the storm may enter — the rain may enter — but the King of England cannot enter — all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!

But does that apply to a boat, in Queensland, during a flood?

A discussion has been circulating regarding two questions. These relate to those who live aboard their boats, and as such, class them as tier principal place of residence. In this case, the matter relates to major flooding of rivers and the fact that these are our homes.

1. During a flood, the ships master is the best person to protect and act on behalf of that vessel. During floods, those who have stayed on board have been able to adjust mooring lines etc and maintain vessel safety. Whilst the water police have said leave the vessel/abandon the home, those who said ‘no’ have saved their homes. Does the law give powers to those who are not in the best level of training to force skippers to abandon the vessel.

2. As these are our homes, and federal law states somewhere (so I am told) that water police must have permission to come aboard unless they have a warrant or some other means of entry as they would into a normal persons place of residence.

In both items above, I am not relating to open water customs type boarding. Think houseboat, if you like.

Inland waterways of a state are governed by state law (see ‘Meaning of ‘marine’ and ‘land’ rescue in NSW’ (June 18, 2012)).

A boat that is a person’s ‘residence’ is a ‘dwelling’ but even so police can in enter a dwelling for various purposes (Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld) ss 19-23 and Schedule 6, definition of ‘dwelling’). A houseboat is also a vehicle so police may enter to search for firearms, drugs, stolen property and other prescribed things (ss 31-32).   None of those provisions are relevant in this context.

For the purpose of the Public Safety Preservation Act 1986 (Qld) the word ‘premises’ includes ‘… ship … [and] vessel …’ During a declared ‘Emergency Situation’ the emergency commander may ‘direct the evacuation and exclusion of any person or persons from any premises’ and ‘may remove or cause to be removed (using such force as is necessary for that purpose) any person who does not comply with a direction to evacuate…’ (s 8(1)(d)). He or she may also ‘enter or … (using such force as is necessary for that purpose) any premises’ (s 8(1)(f)).

There may be other provisions in the relevant marine safety legislation but I am not in a position to review those Acts section by section.

Conclusion

During a declared ‘Emergency Situation’ the emergency commander does have the lawful authority to require skippers to abandon the vessel. It’s true that, in the absence of permission, the ‘police must have a warrant or some other’ lawful authority for entry .  Relevant lawful authority can be found in the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld) and the Public Safety Preservation Act 1986 (Qld) and no doubt in other legislation.