By Iain Gould, Solicitor
I read on the BBC website today that Christopher Jeffries, the man wrongfully accused of the murder of Joanne Yeates in December 2010, has accepted a written apology and a small amount of compensation for damage to his home following the police search.
Nick Gargan, the Chief Constable of Avon & Somerset Police (shown below) has written to Mr. Jeffries and was interviewed on camera confirming that:
- Mr. Jeffries is no longer a suspect in the case, and
- that the police regret the suffering he experienced as a result of them not making it clear that Mr. Jeffries was no longer a suspect on his release from bail on 5 March 2011, and
- inviting Mr. Jeffries to meet with him to ‘discuss any lessons’ the police could learn from his treatment and experience.
However, no compensation has been paid for Christopher Jeffries’ claimed ‘false imprisonment, breach of human rights, and trespass to person and property’.
False imprisonment and reasonable suspicion
As I outlined in a blog post I wrote for Charon QC last year, Mr. Jeffries’ case for false imprisonment was on thin ice from the beginning due to the very low threshold the police need to meet to justify an arrest. Having a ‘reasonable suspicion’ to arrest means merely something more than a hunch, but less than formal proof.
It would appear that, nearly three years on, Mr. Jeffries has accepted the strength of the police’s defence to his false imprisonment claim. No doubt this will be very disappointing for him.
Alternatives to compensation in an actions against the police claim
The failure of such a high-profile claim for false imprisonment shows how difficult actions against the police claims can be. Despite this, as a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police, I have successfully recovered compensation for many people against police forces throughout England & Wales, and continue to represent numerous clients in their false imprisonment claims. You can read some case reports of police claims I have successfully pursued here.
But these cases cannot be measured purely in financial terms. Often my clients seek not only compensation, but like Mr. Jeffries, they also seek an apology and assurance that lessons will be learned.
Despite the failure of his false imprisonment claim, Christopher Jeffries has had his name cleared. He has received a very public apology from the Chief Constable, libel damages from eight newspapers, and public sympathy and support from Lord Chief Justice Judge, who described his treatment at the hands of the tabloid newspapers as ‘vilification’.
No doubt he also feels that, after three years in which his life changed immeasurably, enough is enough.
If you believe you have a false imprisonment claim and want help, contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website. Alternatively, please read more about me here.
Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Policy Exchange: http://flickr.com/photos/policyexchange/6760509047/