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Is it legal to open someone else's mail?

As part of our Insights series, Is it legal to… we explore the law regarding opening someone else’s mail.

Who’s got mail?!

We’ve all received someone else’s mail from time to time and on occasion it can be tempting to investigate, BUT this may not be the best idea…

Postal Services Act 2000

A person commits an offence if, intending to act to a person’s detriment and without reasonable excuse, they open a postal packet which they know or reasonably suspects has been incorrectly delivered to them.

The Act also refers to a person who ‘intentionally delays’ post being received – even throwing away unopened mail could lead to problems!

Even your postie could face criminal sanctions if they intentionally delay or open a postal packet in the course of its transmission by post.

How much trouble can I get in?

These sanctions could lead to either a fine or a prison sentence of between six months to two years depending on the circumstances.

How to avoid

  • Never open someone else’s post without consent.
  • If consent cannot be provided, only open someone else’s mail if you have legal authority, i.e. power of attorney, are an acting executor in an estate, or a legal guardian.
  • Send any unopened mail back by writing ‘return to sender’ on the envelope and posting it in a letter box, as soon as possible.

If you have any further questions, please get in touch with our Legal 500 UK Top Tier recognised Crime & Business Defence team.

Our Wills, Trusts & Probate department are also available to provide advice to estate executors, and those who are supporting vulnerable people who may benefit from a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Both teams are contactable by calling 01603 620508.

This article was produced on the 6th September 2023 for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.