It is now over 15 years since the statutory basis of a lawful arrest (if carried out by a Police Officer not acting under a warrant for arrest – which of course, is the vast majority of cases) was fundamentally altered by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. This Act amended Section 24 of the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE – the ‘statutory bible’ of modern day Policing) to require Police Constables to consider in each and every case of potential arrest, not only whether there is objectively reasonable suspicion that a criminal offence has been committed, but also whether arrest is objectively necessary for at least one of a number of specified reasons, as set out in Section 24 (5), which are as follows-
The Necessity Criteria
(a)to enable the name of the person in question to be ascertained (in the case where the constable does not know, and cannot readily ascertain, the person’s name, or has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name given by the person as his name is his real name);
(b)correspondingly as regards the person’s address;
(c)to prevent the person in question—
(i)causing physical injury to himself or any other person;
(ii)suffering physical injury;
(iii)causing loss of or damage to property;
(iv)committing an offence against public decency (subject to subsection (6)); or
(v)causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway;
(d)to protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question;
(e)to allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question;
(f)to prevent any prosecution for the offence from being hindered by the disappearance of the person in question.
I have highlighted reason “e” above because it is something of a ‘catch all’ and the most common justification from the list which is relied upon by Officers effecting an arrest.
The major consideration arising from these ‘necessity criteria’ is therefore whether or not inviting the ‘suspect’ to attend a voluntary interview at a Police station is a reasonable alternative; if it is, then arrest can and should be avoided. If there is little or no doubt as to the identity of the suspect and his or her permanent address, and no risk of a continuance or repeat of the alleged offence, or destruction of key evidence, then the objectively reasonable step would be to avoid arrest by inviting the person to voluntary interview.
Ever since 2006 however, Police Officers have repeatedly failed to properly apply the necessity criteria, and have ‘jumped the gun’ to arrest in circumstances where a voluntary attendance would have been a totally appropriate option – one which would have struck the balance between not unduly endangering/ delaying the investigation, and at the same time saving the individual the ignominy, harm to reputation (digital and/or public in this era of data profiling and data sharing) and loss of liberty which arrest entails.
Such actions can therefore render an arrest entirely unlawful on the grounds of lack of necessity, even if it is arguable that reasonable grounds for suspicion exist.
As can be seen, whether an arrest is necessary, as opposed to, say, a voluntary attendance will depend in large part on the identity and character of the person being investigated, as well as the circumstances of the alleged offence. In this regard, I think most of us would consider a retired senior Police Officer suspected of a very minor offence to be a perfect candidate for a ‘voluntary interview’ rather than an immediate arrest; Essex Police, however, evidently did not, leading to the unfolding of the following unfortunate and wholly avoidable sequence of events.
The Unlawful Arrest of Roy Ramm
During a 26 year career with the Metropolitan Police, Roy Ramm rose to be a Commander of Specialist Operations. The Specialist Ops command included the force firearms branch (then SO19) and Roy trained and worked extensively with the UK Special Forces in the UK and overseas. In the circumstances, he was very familiar with firearms and ammunition. In 1996 Roy retired from the Police at the rank of Commander (ACPO rank) and with an exemplary certificate of conduct and numerous commendations.
Following his retirement, Roy pursued a career in the private sector based on his experience of security and regulatory compliance. He is currently the chairman of two companies in the security sector and advisor to several other organisations on regulatory compliance, as well as being a regular contributor to the BBC, Sky TV and many other local and international broadcasters on law and order issues.
Roy has for several years had issues with people trespassing from a public footpath adjacent to his property, and causing damage/ theft. Accordingly, Roy fitted his garden gate with a ‘Henry Krank’ intruder alarm. The alarm comprised an aluminium frame which holds a spring in a pin and a slide for a ‘blank’ half shotgun cartridge. If the gate was opened without removing the half cartridge, this would cause a loud bang. This alarm was purchased by Roy from the online retailer Amazon along with two others and some cartridges in approximately 2012, and was entirely legal. No firearms license or shot gun certificate was required to purchase the device or cartridges.
In 2019 the footpath near to Roy’s property was deemed dangerous by reason of erosion, and was the subject of closure orders imposed by Essex County Council, to remain in force until 2020. An extensive number of clearly-marked signs made the closure of the footpath entirely clear, but unfortunately this did not deter every traveller who had intended to use it.
Early on the morning of 30 December 2019, a man whom I will identify as “Mr P” called at Roy’s house. It transpired that Mr P had ran along the closed section of the footpath, and then chosen to deviate from the footpath and onto Roy’s property. Mr P had then attempted to open the gate in order to gain (illegal) entry to Roy’s garden, and the Henry Krank alarm had detonated.
Mr P demanded to know if the alarm was legal, and my client assured him that it was, and that he could purchase one on Amazon himself if he wanted. Roy also pointed out that Mr P should not have been on the path in any event because it was closed, and that once he left the path he was trespassing. Mr P indicated that he knew this, but didn’t seem to care. He complained that the gate device might have caused him “tinnitus”, although on further questioning confirmed that he did not in fact have any signs of tinnitus and that he was just complaining about the ‘shock’ of the loud bang. Roy and Mr P then parted company, with Roy not thinking too much about it.
However, at approximately11.50 am, no less than four officers of Essex Police arrived at the premises. Roy’s wife invited the officers in and then, as Roy himself came in from the garden, PC Munson immediately informed him that he was under arrest for “assault causing actual bodily harm”. The alleged victim was the trespassing Mr P who it transpired, had telephoned the Police complaining that the gate alarm had caused “ringing” in his ears.
PC Munson then announced that the Officers would be carrying out a search of the premises under Section 32 of PACE. When asked what the Officers were looking for, PC Munson replied, “guns or any other ammunition’. One of the other officers then added, “It would be better for you if you told us where they are.”
Roy explained that the only ammunition he had was a few legal, blank cartridges and another such alarm which was in his workshop in the garden. Though somewhat flabbergasted by the approach of the officers, he did not attempt to ‘pull rank’ or identify himself as a former Police Commander.
At this point, Mrs Ramm collapsed in a state of distress. Roy lay on the floor with his wife and tried to comfort her, but she appeared to be in some kind of catatonic or comatose condition and would not respond.
The officers then called an ambulance, and Roy was permitted to telephone his son to come and help care for his mother.
Roy made it clear to PC Munson that he considered her actions to be completely disproportionate to the circumstances. PC Munson’s reaction was uncompromising, and after Roy’s son had arrived to care for Mrs Ramm, and Roy had been required to hand over to the Officers the boxed and unused Henry Krank alarm which was in his workshop, he was marched to a Police car and taken to his nearest Police Station under arrest.
On Roy’s arrival at the station, the reason for arrest was recorded as “Assault – ABH”. The circumstances of arrest were recorded as “DP suspected of rigging a cartridge to his gate and when the victim opened the gate it went off causing ringing to his ears”.
The Custody Sergeant at any Police Station plays a very important role as a ‘gatekeeper’ who is required to consider the legality of the arrest of any detainees who are brought before him (in this case Roy). As highlighted above, one of the key factors in determining whether an arrest is lawful, and hence whether or not detention should be authorised, is, regardless of suspicion of an offence, whether it was in fact actually necessary for the suspect to be arrested. In Roy’s case, the necessity to arrest was noted as follows – “To prevent the person in question causing physical injury to themselves or any other person … Prompt and effective investigation – to interview – as thought unlikely person would attend voluntarily”.
There was simply no basis for the assertion that Roy was “unlikely” to voluntarily co-operate with the investigation – indeed the opposite was obviously true, but the Sergeant appears to have failed in his duty to critically question the justification for Roy’s arrest; operating it seems from the mind-set of a ‘jailer’ rather than the safeguarder/ custodian of liberty that he is supposed to be.
In a state of considerable stress as he worried about his wife’s condition, Roy was obliged to provide his fingerprints, a DNA sample and to be photographed. He was then subjected to a search, and led to a cell where he was incarcerated. Throughout his detention, Roy remained very anxious regarding his wife’s welfare and was understandably distressed that he could not be with her.
Roy spent all afternoon/early evening in the cell, apart from a brief consultation with his solicitor. Roy’s detention was reviewed by Inspector Smith, who then came to see Roy and advised him in the clearest possible language – ‘Mr Ramm I don’t know why you‘re here.’
It seems that common sense had finally broken out; sadly some 7 hours too late, and notwithstanding the Inspector’s comments, Roy was then interviewed under caution, during which he gave a full account of himself and quite correctly denied any unlawful conduct.
Police Sergeant Moye (not the original Custody Sergeant) then recorded the following in the Custody Record –
“The DP has been arrested on suspicion of causing ACTUAL BODILY HARM. The custody record shows that arrest was necessary in order to interview because it was believed the DP would not have agreed to being interviewed voluntarily.
I have spoken with the interviewing officer who tells me the following:
* The DP lives on land in a rural area.
* The DP has suffered a number of previous burglaries. As a result he has established certain security measures to alert intruders on his land.
* The victim was out running and his normal route was blocked due to floods and so decided to take a shortcut through the DP’s land. He had no permission to enter the DP’s land.
* As the victim opened a gate on the DP’s land, they activated one of the devices which made a loud bang.
* The victim called police because his ears were ringing.
* Officers have attended and ascertained that the device is a “Henry Krank” brand “Alarm Mine”, which is sold openly on their website, and similar devices are sold by other manufacturers. The noise is caused by setting off a 12-bore saluting blank cartridge which is approximately 1” in length.
* The DP is an expert in security and firearms and consults and advises on the subject.
* The BWV footage of the police attendance at the incident confirms that he fully co-operated with the officers and said that he was happy to be interviewed.
Henry Krank & Co is a reputable firearms dealer and manufacturer….. The devices are easily available by mail order from their website…No firearms licence or shotgun certificate is required to buy either the device or the cartridges.
No Shotgun certificate is required to purchase or possess ‘normal’ live shotgun cartridges.
The DP has now been interviewed. There is no evidence of any intention to cause injury to any person- the device was set up to alert him and his family to intruders on their land. When he installed the device he and his wife tested it by opening the gate. The neighbour and their son have set it off a number of times opening the gate to collect stray tennis balls.
I do not know whether any permanent damage has been caused to the victim’s hearing. However, for this to constitute a criminal assault there must be a degree of mens rea on the part of the DP. This is absent in this case. So, even if the victim’s hearing is permanently damaged I do not see that this is a criminal matter. In those circumstances there might be a civil claim but I am not trained in civil law and i believe the victim was trespassing on private land at the time.
I am therefore of the opinion that there has been no criminal assault, damage, firearms or other criminal offence committed. The DP will therefore be released without charge.”
Roy’s property was returned to him and he was at last released shortly before 9.00pm that evening, after having endured 9 hours in Police custody. Following his release, an Officer commented to Roy that-
“Most people in this police station think you should never have been here at all.”
Furthermore, in the presence of Roy’s solicitor, Inspector Smith said to Roy-
“You have been badly let down by Essex Police. You should never have been arrested in the first place. I think you have legitimate grounds for a complaint. I apologise. We are better than this.”
Police Forces as institutions with massive power over people’s lives should indeed be “better than this” but sadly all too often are not. The Policing profession has had almost an entire generation to get used to the ‘new’ law of necessity – indeed all current officers with anything less than 16 years of service should not have ever known anything different and would have been trained from the start to consider the question of “necessity” as being at the heart of any lawful arrest; but that training it seems, falls too often by the wayside.
None of the four officers who attended at Roy’s home that morning, nor even the (likely far more experienced) Custody Sergeant appear to have allowed the question of necessity to properly cross their minds – for if they had done so in a properly thorough and honest manner, they would surely have come quickly to the same conclusion as the apparently rather flabbergasted Inspector Smith and diligent Sergeant Moye did on the self-same facts – that Roy should never have been arrested.
Instead, Roy was deprived of his liberty and suffered psychological scars which will probably persist for the rest of his life; as well as the Police themselves wasting considerable time and money over at entirely unnecessary arrest. Along with Roy, we may all be questioning ‘How did this happen?’ Was it because of a lack of properly trained officers, or because a certain type of Police officer has always enjoyed the exercise of their power a little too much, and sets about their business with a mind-set geared to ‘arrest first, think later.’
Roy was deeply shaken by his experience, the ‘unreality’ he felt at first turning later to understandable anger. He has described how he now suffers a visceral anxiety reaction on seeing Police officers or vehicles – deeply sad given his own commendable career – and feels that the injustice of the incident has irreparably fractured his belief system as far as the Police and Policing are concerned, and he has lost his faith in the system he had dedicated most of his working life to diligently supporting. He told me that there have been many occasions in the past when he had defended his former profession against criticism, but he no longer feels able to do this. Furthermore, the incident unfortunately occurred only a day after Roy’s birthday and he feels that the anniversary of it will always now hang over and impinge upon what would otherwise be happy celebrations for his family at that time of year.
Initially, Roy sought to pursue his complaint against Essex Police in the assumption that his own background in the profession would help him to navigate the process unaided. He was quickly disabused of that notion, falling foul – as so many have before him, from all walks of life – of the obstructiveness, pro- Police bias, negativity and delays of all such ‘internal’ complaint investigations. Information he had reasonably requested was only drip-fed to him, and he felt that it took forever even to secure a simple agreement from Essex to delete his fingerprints. After around 9 months of this experience, feeling that all his efforts were failing, and that this was compounding the trauma of the original event, Roy reached out to me for assistance.
I am pleased to confirm that the claim which I subsequently pursued on behalf of Roy and his wife – who was equally a victim of the unlawful Police trespass into their home, at the time of Roy’s arrest – was successful and resulted in the couple receiving not only damages in excess of £20,000 but also a letter of apology in the following terms-
Essex Police unreservedly accept that your arrest on 30 December 2019 was unnecessary and as such unlawful. In the circumstances as they were presented you should have been afforded the opportunity to attend a voluntary interview.
It is further accepted that the grounds for your arrest and detention were not challenged and properly established by the custody officer at Colchester Police Station which led to a further unnecessary period of unlawful detention.
Having investigated the matter we can confirm that no offences were committed by you. Essex Police are extremely sorry for the distress caused to you and also to Mrs Ramm which resulted in her collapse and need for continuing treatment.
Given your professional background in the police service and standing in the local community, we accept that the distress caused to you and your wife was both increased and avoidable.
Both Roy and I have been caused to reflect on the old adage that “Sorry is the hardest word”, however – as the said apology was not properly signed by the Deputy Chief Constable in whose name it was written, but simply and rather flippantly, endorsed with her initials. This naturally tends to detract from the seriousness and gravitas of the sentiment expressed, and to undermine the wholehearted language of the apology – which may, sadly, have been her intention.
For it seems that all too often, Police understanding of the true meaning of the word “apology” is about as weak as their understanding of “necessity” – leading only to toil, trouble and unnecessary heartache and expense, both for themselves and the communities they are tasked with serving.