I blogged recently about my victory at Liverpool County Court on behalf of my client, Paul Peters, a plumber wrongly accused of theft and arrested unlawfully by DC Mitchell of Merseyside Police.
Paul’s name was finally and fully cleared at the Trial in early January when lawyers on behalf of the Police finally accepted in open Court that Paul was an innocent man – despite the fact they had fought his false imprisonment claim for 6 years – and the Judge awarded substantial damages & legal costs against the Police in respect of Paul’s 2013 arrest.
The story was widely reported in the media, and it came as some disappointment for me to read that rather than striking a humble and contrite tone, and properly apologising for all of the stress and anxiety they had put Paul through for all these years (beginning with his arrest, but continuing in their rejection of his legitimate complaint and the tooth and nail way in which they contested his claim in the County Court, putting Paul at risk of having to pay the Police substantial legal costs should he lose) Merseyside Police seemed utterly unrepentant, telling the Daily Mirror that although they ‘accepted’ the findings of the Court, the claim had been won on a ‘technicality’ only.
This couldn’t be further from the truth and wrongly suggests that the claim was won simply because DC Mitchell failed to fill in the right form, or to say the right words when effecting the arrest; in fact the Judge made a clear finding that DC Mitchell had not believed that it was necessary to arrest Paul, but had done so anyway, probably as a way of utilising the power of search that accompanies an arrest (in a situation where the Officer clearly did not feel he could legitimately persuade the Court to issue a Search Warrant).
That a Police Officer must have necessity to arrest a suspect is the second limb of the test of a lawful arrest, and carries equal weight with the requirement that there be reasonable suspicion of that person; it is therefore absolutely not a ‘technicality’ and for Merseyside Police to describe it in such terms is very concerning.
It would seem that rather than doing the right thing – apologising to Paul, reflecting on the lessons learned and actively ensuring that Officers do not repeat DC Mitchell’s misuse of arrest powers for the wrong reasons – Merseyside Police through their media statement are signalling to DC Mitchell and his colleagues that they stand by the Officer’s actions, and seem closer to condoning than ever condemning them.
The law of this land requires that for any of us to be deprived of our liberty through the Police power of arrest, there must be clear, objective evidence – as well as an honest belief by the Officer – that the arrest is actually necessary; unlike Merseyside Police, I fail to see such an important bedrock of our civil rights as a mere ‘technicality’… and sadly, for as long as the Police continue to display this type of attitude, more people like Paul are going to fall prey to wrongful arrests.