I recently highlighted the case of my client Yvonne Farrell who was wrongfully arrested by Hertfordshire Constabulary, and during her detention stripped and left naked in a cell for hours. The Police rejected Yvonne’s subsequent complaint, but have been brought to book by the claim I commenced on her behalf, which has resulted in a settlement of £45,000 damages and a formal apology from the Deputy Chief Constable, as set out below:
I am of course delighted with the terms of the settlement, which reflects the serious wrongdoing committed against Yvonne, and the fact of the apology – however, I made the point in my previous blog that Police pride often comes before a full apology, and I am disappointed that whilst DCC Dunn accepts that Yvonne should never have been arrested, and that Hertfordshire Constabulary have lessons to learn as a result, she really doesn’t apologise for the most egregious and distressing thing done to Yvonne, namely her being stripped naked.
I continue to believe that this was nothing less than an act of coercion and humiliation deliberately committed against Yvonne (at the command of a male Custody Sergeant) for the purpose of forcing her to give the Police her personal details, which she was refusing as part of her legitimate protest against an entirely unlawful arrest. DCC Dunn however goes out of her way to assert that the decision to strip Yvonne of her clothes was an act of ‘safeguarding’ – and devotes the longest section of her letter to justifying this.
In this respect therefore, the letter contains at its heart not an apology but an excuse – suggesting that Yvonne has misunderstood the Police’s ‘good intentions’ – and hence, with that failure to accept blame for the worst abuse of Police power perpetrated against Yvonne, does not go nearly far enough.
As I wrote previously, senior officers and force management are often content to put money where their mouth should be; and it is hard to believe that all the right lessons will in fact be learned, when the Police still seek to deny the most serious wrong.