“Left in the Dark”: The Victims of Criminal Police Misconduct

It’s easy to forget how bewildering the legal system can be and this is certainly the case for the victims of serious police misconduct who in my experience are often left confused, frustrated and in the dark as to what lies ahead.

Given that, I thought I’d write about John’s experience which may help others who find themselves in a similar situation.

In June 2019, John was violently assaulted by a police officer, then arrested on false charges of assaulting that officer. So began the criminal investigation of John’s own conduct on the night in question. By reason of his injuries, he was taken  – in handcuffs –  to hospital for treatment. Thereafter, he was transported to a local police station where he was processed and placed in a cell. Several hours later, he was interviewed under caution. John denied assaulting the officer, stating that he done nothing wrong and that he was the victim. Some Body Worn Camera footage was shown to him which on its face supported John’s account and strongly indicated that the arresting officer had given an untruthful account as to what had happened.

A short time later, John was released from custody “under investigation“. Battered, bruised and bewildered, John returned home.

A few weeks later, John was advised that a decision had been made by the Police to take no further action against him.

By this time, the Force Professional Standards Department had commenced an internal investigation into John’s complaint, with a view to taking criminal and/or disciplinary proceedings against the officers concerned.

John fully cooperated with the investigation, providing a detailed witness statement and allowing access to his hospital records.

Following review by the Crown Prosecution Service, five months after the incident, one Police officer was charged with assaulting John, and that same officer and his three colleagues were also charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by falsifying and interfering with evidence. All four officers have pleaded not guilty and now face a trial scheduled to take place later this year.

The allegation of assault is straight forward; John gives a candid account of how the officer punched him in the ribs, forced him to the ground & then landed further blows to his face.  The allegation of perverting the course of justice less so. It is believed that the officers attempted to delete incriminating body worn camera footage, but full details of what the officers did after the arrest is known only to the Force and the CPS at this time.

John is pleased that appropriate action is being taken. If one or more of the officers are found guilty, they will be punished accordingly. That is the purpose of the criminal process. But that process does not provide redress to the victim; John was injured, wrongfully arrested and detained and deserves to be compensated. He will seek this restitution by bringing a private civil action against the Police, but such a claim must wait until the associated criminal case concludes. Firstly, there is a real risk of serious prejudice to the criminal process if the civil claim were allowed to run in tandem, and secondly, a conviction in the criminal proceedings, based as it would be on the higher standard of proof, should mean that a civil case based on the same facts would not easily be contested by the Police.

Assuming the case against the officers proceeds to trial, John will not be able to bring his own action against the Police until nearly a year and a half after the incident. That delay is frustrating in itself, but this is compounded by the lack of information given by the prosecuting authorities as to the extent of the case against the officers and the likely roadmap to trial, a situation all too common for victims of abuse by agents of the state. Sadly, the “Victims Charter” in these cases is too easily forgotten or not considered relevant.

For the moment then, there is a limit to what I can do at present. I have been able to keep John updated as regards the prosecution and have gathered evidence in preparation for the civil claim where I can. I have sent a young apprentice to court, ensuring a watching brief at each hearing to report progress and in due course the trial, and I’ve arranged for John to be examined by a medical expert who will prepare a report detailing the full extent of John’s injuries as well as exploring the nature and extent of other losses he has suffered.

Fortunately John is a patient man and I am confident that in due course he will see justice both in the criminal case brought by the State against the officers and the civil case for compensation.

 

Author: iaingould

Actions against the police solicitor (lawyer) and blogger.