Anton Piller orders are a way for the plaintiff to search and seize certain documents relevant to their case. They are served without notice and usually come as a surprise to the party they have been served on. So you have been served with an Anton Piller order, what can you do? We set out your options below.

What are Anton Piller orders?

Anton Piller orders are search orders that can allow the applicant in the case to enter, search, copy and take any relevant materials from your premises, whether business or residential. In general, these orders will be made at the very first stages of a court proceeding. The search party will show up at the door holding a court order and without any prior notice.

What can I do with an Anton Piller order?

If you have been served, you will essentially have two options. You could either:

  1. Allow the search, or
  2. Decline entry to allow the search and make an application to set aside or vary the order.

The order will usually include the opportunity for you to consult a lawyer before deciding which option is best for you. The search party is likely to show up between 9AM – 2PM in order to accommodate the defendant’s need to obtain legal advice.

If You Allow the Search

Allowing the search shows that you are complying with court orders and cooperating with the law. If you have decided to allow the search, you should be aware of certain conditions that should be met:

  • An independent solicitor should be a part of the search party and usually has the responsibility to serve the order, application, affidavits and originating process on the defendant. The solicitor should offer to explain the terms of the Anton Piller order, make clear the right to obtain legal advice, supervise the execution of the order, make a list of things removed and take all things into custody.
  • The search party should only remove items actually covered by the order – ensure that the order has been read carefully and that they do not remove anything outside the order’s parameters.
  • If it is a search on residential premises and it is a woman or child home alone, the order may also specify that the independent solicitor is a woman or accompanied by a woman.
  • The order should make clear the maximum number of people allowed in the search party and that no extra person should be allowed to search the premises.

If the search is not done exactly as stated in the order, then the applicant can be held in contempt of court.

If You Decline Entry

You may only decline entry if you feel that you have grounds to set aside the order. Possible grounds that may be used to set aside an Anton Piller order include:

  • There were no sufficient grounds in making the order;
  • The plaintiff did not make full and frank disclosure of all relevant facts when applying for the order;
  • The order was improperly executed.

If this is the route you choose to take, a failure to have the application set aside may put you in contempt of court and liable to pay penalties. Bear in mind that Anton Piller orders are made on a very rare basis, so if you have been served with one, it is unlikely that it will be easy to set aside.

Furthermore, even if you decline entry and make an application to discharge the application, you must undertake not to remove or destroy any material potentially covered by the order in the meantime.

Key Takeaways

The most important thing is to remember that you can’t destroy any relevant material, no matter how sensitive or confidential it is, as this will be a breach of the order and put you in contempt of court. If you open the door one day to be faced with an Anton Piller order, the key thing to do is to consult a lawyer and obtain legal advice.

Lachlan McKnight

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