Last week in my blog I addressed the issue of Police negligence, by reference to an almost farcical situation in which a postal summons had been sent not to my client’s address (or indeed any private address at all) – but to the street which was the location where he had been stopped and searched.
Unfortunately, the gross ridiculousness of this type of error by Police officers/ staff, does not render it a one-off. I am aware of many other incidents where slip-shod correspondence or record keeping – which would not be acceptable in the marketing department of a commercial company, let alone an arm of the justice system – has likewise resulted in loss of liberty for the unfortunate individuals who were the victims of this negligence.
Another recent example of this was the Police error in the case of my client Liam Hughes who was arrested twice on the same warrant, for exactly the same offence.
On 21 December 2020 Liam was arrested by the Metropolitan Police, under a warrant issued in relation to a number of historic allegations . During the arrest, Liam’s iPhone 12 and an old iPhone 6 which also belonged to him were seized. Following Police interview, during which a series of harrowing allegations were put to Liam – which he entirely denied – Liam was released on bail with the condition to return to the station on 17 January 2021. As a result of the arrest and allegations, Liam felt severely depressed and, indeed, experienced suicidal thoughts.
Then, on 3 January 2021 at approximately 19:30, officers from the Metropolitan Police re- attended Liam’s home, and arrested him again in relation to the same allegations. Liam informed the officers of his previous arrest and even showed them his bail sheet; nevertheless the officers persisted with the arrest. Liam was handcuffed and the officers seized a replacement mobile phone that he had purchased since his original arrest. Liam was devastated and incredulous that he was being arrested again for the same offence, and experienced an understandable exacerbation of his mental health issues.
Liam was then conveyed to Holborn custody suite, processed and placed into a cell. Concern about his mental health issues led to him being placed on a regime of constant observations by the custody staff; he was also physically unwell with a cough and concerned that he might be suffering from Covid. After approximately 5 hours the custody sergeant entered Liam’s cell and admitted that he was unsure why Liam was there, as he had already been interviewed in relation to the allegations. Shortly afterwards, Liam was de-arrested and allowed to return home.
Unfortunately, Liam could not walk away from the mental ordeal of this incident so easily; he felt deeply suicidal as a result of the stress of the unnecessary arrest. He felt that he was being persecuted. The day after Liam’s second release from custody he called 999 from a public phone box, an ambulance attended and Liam was sectioned at the Priory Hospital, Roehampton. Such was the severity of his condition, he remained in hospital for approximately a month. Whilst in hospital, Liam was informed that his police bail had been extended by a further three months. Eventually however,he was informed that there would be no further action in relation to the allegations, which were now deemed to have been false/ malicious, and his property was returned to him.
I am pleased to confirm that Liam’s claim for false imprisonment, assault and battery, and trespass to goods has now been settled for a substantial sum, plus legal costs.
The blatant error committed here by the Metropolitan Police, in arresting Liam twice for the same offence in the space of two weeks, had a devastating effect on his mental health and well-being and could, frankly, have resulted in tragedy. My enquiries revealed that the officer in charge of the original arrest had failed to update the PNC (Police National Computer) to the effect that the arrest had been carried out; hence the arrest warrant had remained in circulation. To describe this as a mere ‘admin error’, as the Met did, constitutes an almost contemptuous dismissal by the Police of a gross act of negligence which could have driven a man to suicide, and did result in his being sectioned in a mental health hospital.
We are entitled to expect much higher standards from those who control the keys of the custodial system.