This is the story of my client Hannah Currie who was made the victim not only of Police trespass and violence in her own home, but also – far worse in many ways – a mendacious attempt to frame her for a criminal offence, probably as a tactical ‘smokescreen’ to hide the Police officers’ own flagrantly unlawful actions.
Trespass and Lies
On the morning of 20 January 2018, Hannah’s 12-month-old son Dharma was bitten by the family’s pet beagle.
Although the bite was not severe, Hannah was understandably very distressed and protective of her young son; she immediately washed the wound out and then she and her partner Craig, Dharma’s father, drove Dharma to their local hospital.
The treating hospital nurse made a statement later that day in which he recorded that on examination: “there was no evidence of any severe damage and (the injuries) appeared more consistent with a dog having a quick ‘nip’ and release”. The nurse had: “no immediate concerns for the child (who) …looked well looked after and healthy and the parents seemed genuinely concerned and as far as I could tell it appeared an innocent accident.”
However, Craig became angry/verbally abusive towards the nurse, when he questioned what the couple intended to do about the dog.
Upon leaving the hospital, Hannah in fact telephoned a Veterinary practice and arranged for the dog to be immediately euthanized. Meanwhile the nurse at the hospital had phoned the Police to report Craig’s aggressive behaviour, in the context of concern for Dharma’s welfare.
One of the officers tasked to attend from West Mercia Police later made a statement, recording that he and other officers were directed to: “conduct a safe and well check on the child and also to ensure that the dog was removed from the house… The matter involving the dog bite needed to be investigated but providing that the child was considered to be safe and well and that the dog was no longer at the address, then this matter could be dealt with in slow-time on another occasion”.
At approximately 16.20 that evening, four Officers of West Mercia Police – PC Elland, PC Charles, PC Davies and PC Middleton – attended my client’s home. Upon Hannah opening the outer porch door, which swung outwards, PC Elland immediately held the door open to prevent it from being closed.
PC Charles then asked to come in. Hannah refused entry because of a previous unwelcome incident involving officers of West Mercia Police; she asked PC Elland to let go of the door and move away. PC Elland refused. A female officer, PC Davies, then asked if she and Hannah could talk. Hannah indicated that she was prepared to discuss matters with this officer at the front door, if the other officers moved away, however PC Elland again refused. Hannah explicitly stated that the officers were trespassing on her property (being on the driveway) and that their implied right to be on the premises was removed.
PC Davies advised that they had attended: “To make sure Dharma is okay and to have a chat to you about it and to your partner.” Hannah explained the circumstances of the earlier incident, that she had immediately sought medical treatment for her son, that she had taken the dog to the Vets that afternoon and had the dog put to sleep, and that her son was safe. PC Davies replied: “I’m sure that’s the case”.
Hannah now returned inside her home, shutting the inner door behind her, leaving the officers at the outer porch door.
Indeed, PC Charles then telephoned the Vets who confirmed that the family’s dog had been euthanized. PC Charles then notified all officers present of this information.
Hannah, inside the house, received a telephone call from DS Thomas. DS Thomas demanded that, although Hannah had taken appropriate action as regards medical attention for Dharma and putting the dog down, she must nevertheless allow the officers entry into the premises, otherwise Dharma would be taken into care. Hannah refused – but did explain that she was willing to speak to officers the next day once she and her partner had got over events and/or to speak to PC Davies on her driveway, if the other Officers present left.
In my opinion, this was a more than reasonable suggestion, but meanwhile the original four Officers outside the family’s home had now been joined by PC Hornby, PS Ainsworth, PC Pritchard and PC Scully and at approximately 16.45, PS Ainsworth directed that forcible entry be made into the premises, purportedly under Section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE).
In other words, the Police ‘welfare visit’ – despite officers having seen the family, and having established that the dog was no longer in the house (indeed, had been put down) – now escalated into a Police siege and assault of the property.
Section 17 of PACE grants Police officers powers to enter and to search private premises in certain specific situations, generally connected with exercising powers of arrest – however, there was no suggestion even on the Police version of events that they had evidence indicating that any criminal offence had been committed, or that they were seeking to arrest either Hannah or Craig. The remaining justification for exercising a power of entry under Section 17 was the emergency power to enter in order to “save life and limb” but such a situation manifestly did not apply; the dog was gone, Dharma had been treated appropriately at hospital on his parents’ initiative, and the only threat to any occupant of the house was now coming from the Police themselves.
In such a situation, the Police had no right to be on Hannah’s driveway, let alone inside her home, and all of their actions taken after she had instructed them to go away were as trespassers. Hannah was entirely in the right in what she had said to the officers, but they, of course, had might on their side.
PC Elland and PC Pritchard now gained entry into the rear garden by lifting a garden fence which was damaged in the process; the two officers then further gained entry into the premises via an unlocked back patio door.
PS Ainsworth and PC Hornby also gained entry. Having entered the house, PS Ainsworth unholstered his taser, shouting: “Taser”, and then pointed his Taser gun not only towards Hannah and Craig but also – in effect – Dharma who at that point was being cradled in his mother’s arms. The four Officers were at this point in a back room of the house, which connected to the living room.
Hannah was standing in the doorway between the back room and the living room with her son cradled in her left arm. She again told the officers to: “leave”. The officers refused, and indeed one officer now touched Hannah’s arms to which she shouted: “Get off me…assault.”
Again Hannah explained all of the actions she had taken after her son had been bitten. An officer believed to be PC Hornby replied: “We do need to chat, we’d rather do that on calm terms”. Hannah quite fairly responded that: “the one guy (PC Elland) was asked to leave and I said to the lady (PC Davies) if he moves to the end of the driveway, I will happily speak to her”. PC Hornby asked: “Are you willing to talk to her?” and Hannah replied: “When you’re off my property”. PC Hornby then stated: “There are certain things we need to do, we cannot leave the house right now, we do need to have a chat”.
Hannah yet again explained background events and asserted that she had taken all reasonable steps in the circumstances. PC Hornby confirmed that he knew that their dog had been euthanized: “But it would be remiss of us not to check your address for other dogs”. Hannah replied: “We haven’t got any other dogs”.
This was of course entirely true, and the Police had no evidence to suggest otherwise; they had no excuse for intruding on the family’s property – but as is often the case, Police arrogance and assertion of their power seemed to trump lesser matters such as the letter of the law…
Indeed, at this moment, other officers began to force entry to the outer porch door which caused Hannah to become distracted, and PC Hornby and PS Ainsworth stepped past her and into the living room.
PC Elland, who was still in the back room, was now standing at the living room doorway and Hannah directed him to stay where he was and raised her right hand in a defensive manner chest high, but did not touch PC Elland.
Nevertheless, PC Elland surged forwards and grabbed Hannah’s right arm, forcing it behind her back and in doing so, twisted her around. Hannah protested: “Get off me” to which PC Elland shouted out: “Assault” and a second officer then stated: “You’re under arrest for assault”. Whilst the officer was manhandling Hannah in this way, she was still holding Dharma in her left arm, and thus the officer’s actions were now putting the child at risk.
Hannah was understandably reluctant to let go of her son, but after a short while said: “Get this person (PC Elland) behind me to let go of my arm and then I will let go of my son”. PC Elland however continued to manhandle Hannah such that she screamed: “You’re hurting me, you’re hurting me”. At this, Dharma also began to scream in distress. Eventually, after a short period, Hannah released her grip on Dharma (who was taken by an officer) causing both mother and child further distress.
With Dharma ‘out of the way’ Hannah was then violently taken to the ground by the officers, and during that process, she felt pressure on her ear, scalp, arms and shoulder, and a knee on the side of her head. She was then handcuffed to the rear.
Hannah again correctly asserted that she had been in her rights to refuse entry; an officer responded that she was not.
Hannah was then caused further distress by an officer stating that Dharma would be taken into care unless a suitable family member could care for her son; she therefore had to provide her brother’s name and address to the Police. She was then taken away from her son and placed into custody at Hereford Police Station.
After Hannah had been taken away, the officers continued to search her house, including upstairs and then into the loft where boxes were searched; what on Earth were they looking for? Being familiar with the mental play-book for officers in this sort of situation, I would guess that it was evidence of an unconnected crime to ‘retrospectively’ justify the officers illegal entry into the premises in the first place.
The custody record subsequently created at the Police Station indicated that Hannah had been arrested at 16.55 by PC Pritchard for “assaulting a police officer”.
The custody record described the circumstances of arrest as:
“Officers have been at the address and entered to check on the 1 year old child, Officers have attempted to enter the address and the detained has barged at the Officer and it is alleged that the detainee has swung a fist at the Officer”.
Hannah was processed, searched and then obliged to provide her fingerprints and DNA sample and be photographed, before being incarcerated in a cell.
At 19.40, PC Charles then further arrested Hannah for being the owner or person in charge of a dog dangerously out of control causing injury.
An officer believed to be PS Ainsworth then contacted Social Services to report events. A call at 20.29 on 20.01.18 was recorded by a social worker as follows:
…”both parents were aggressive, verbally and physically and had (sic) not regard for Dharma’s welfare.
Father was told that a taser would be used so mother stood in front holding Dharma to protect father. She then hit a police officer while holding Dharma and would not let him go. Police had to restrain her by one arm. They begged her to hand him over but she continued to resist. The home address is being described as filthy and covered in mess and clutter. Police have used body cam to record it.
Parents will receive bail conditions that will not allow them contact with Dharma.”
At 21.13, Hannah was seen by a Health Professional, who described Hannah as being “very emotional and tearful… complaining of a headache and requesting pain relief, pain and redness to wrists and a tender area to left of forehead”.
At approximately 23.30 Hannah was further arrested for “child neglect” on the basis that she had placed herself and Dharma between PS Ainsworth and Craig, whilst PS Ainsworth was pointing his Taser at Craig. This was really the very definition of “throwing the book” at Hannah, and was an outrageous twisting of moral responsibility for what had occurred; PS Ainsworth was a trespasser who had entered the family home and brandished an electroshock/ projectile weapon, and yet Hannah was now apparently to blame for that. The Police were evidently as determined to ‘get’ her on one charge or another, as they were to pretend that they had had lawful justification to enter her home by force in the first place.
At 23.30, Hannah was interviewed under caution, during which she denied committing any offence. Despite the interview concluding by 00.44, Hannah was returned to her cell and kept in custody until approximately 05.30 when she was bailed with conditions to return to the Police Station on 10th February 2018. The other bail conditions were not to have any unsupervised contact with any child under the age of 16, any such contact to be supervised by a person approved by social services and not to attend Hereford Hospital prior to 12.00 on 21st January 2018 except in case of genuine medical emergency.
Upon her return home, Hannah realised that the Defendant’s officers had retained her house and car keys, and she was obliged to return to the police station so as to retrieve the same.
Later that day, Hannah and Craig attended Hereford Hospital to meet Hannah’s brother and then travelled to his house to supply equipment, set up and discuss Dharma’s routine, creams, and equipment. Hannah’s brother then collected Dharma from Hereford Hospital and cared for him for the next 5 days.
To the distress that anyone would suffer after being unlawfully assaulted and arrested during a Police ‘home invasion’, was added for Hannah the anguish of a parent falsely accused of neglecting her child, and now forcibly separated from him.
Following considerable effort, Hannah’s bail conditions were eventually removed, and she was re-united with Dharma again.
Subsequently, Hannah was advised that she was not required to return to the Police Station, and she was instead summonsed to attend Hereford Magistrates’ Court on 25 April 2018 for “assaulting a Police Officer”.
Victory at Court
Hannah attended Court on 25 April 2018 and pleaded not guilty. At trial on 17 September 2018, the case against her was completely dismissed.
Justice was thus eventually done – but not until Hannah had suffered almost 9 months of hell as a result of this “welfare” visit by the Police, all as a result of officers grossly and unnecessarily exceeding their powers and prosecuting her for an offence of which she was entirely innocent; in her own words it was an “agonising” wait for trial in the face of the malicious allegations brought against her.
Seeking restitution for her suffering, Hannah instructed me to pursue a claim against the Police.
In response to the claim, West Mercia Police admitted liability for trespass, false imprisonment and assault and battery but denied malicious prosecution/ misfeasance in public office. They put forwards an initial settlement offer of only £3,000, but by bringing Court proceedings on behalf of Hannah I was able to get them to increase this to the sum of £20,000; properly reflective of their wrongdoing towards Hannah and the serious harm they had caused to her.
Afterwards, Hannah wrote to me in the following very kind and eloquent terms-
Whilst words can hardly express my heartfelt gratitude to you for all the care and concern you have shown me, and for working tirelessly to ensure that the law worked in our favour. I have no doubt if it weren’t for your analytical skills and knowledge, the matter wouldn’t have been settled by now.
I hope you will share this testimonial with readers of your blog to help anyone who stumbles across your website looking for your services, that they have indeed arrived at the right solicitor for the job.
Following the events which lead to your instruction… I was at a place where I felt closure had not been reached. Having achieved a law degree myself I was disgusted by the conduct of West Mercia Police who I had been brought up to believe are employed to uphold the laws and protect the public. Their shockingly hostile and overzealous behaviours, erring more towards mob mentality than any sort of policing or indeed law abiding behaviour had caused unquantifiable harm to me and my family on a day where we had been through quite enough. Not only had they acted unlawfully in forcing entry to my home they then made spiteful accusations in a deliberate attempt to taint my character and excuse their unacceptable behaviours, with my son being the biggest innocent victim. On the day the most traumatic thing that had happened to him in his young life, he was ripped from the comfort and security of his parents and home, no doubt believing we had abandoned him when there was absolutely no need.
Not being one for being ‘bullied’ once the criminal trial had been dismissed, I set about requesting the body worn video footage of the event. Upon receipt I became certain there were grounds for a claim/complaint and set about exploring what was involved and whether this was something I could do myself. Having had poor experience of the police complaint processes in the past, when witness to a questionable arrest of another, I was unconvinced this would bring closure. I came across your blog which was accessible and relatable and echoed my feeling about the police complaint process being in need of reform. I read your ‘about’ section and knew instantly you were the right solicitor for me and my family.
Your website was my introduction to yourself and detailed examples of how you had helped so many others, who had also been wronged by the very people you are meant to call on for help. This all led me to completing the online enquiry form. The free text field allowed me to express, in my own words, my version of the events and where I felt there were grounds for a claim. It was extremely easy to do and within four hours you had replied, much to my delight. I finally felt heard and dazzled at your prompt response. Over the following three years you have continued to keep in touch by phone, post and email, I always felt you listened and advised me appropriately. I cannot tell you how relieved I am that we have finally arrived at a life changing settlement. Whilst I didn’t request a formal apology from West Mercia Police or have a day in court to say what I wished, you were able to help remove the malicious accusation from the PNC which was very important to me.
In closing, I do hope with the amazing service you continue to offer that in future the police service will come to recognise it is not sustainable to operate in their current way. The public need to trust the police and to do this THEY need to follow the law and also protect the public from lengthy litigation to correct any errors on their part at a much earlier stage. I hope they move towards a more transparent and open process of being able to say “sorry” and mean it by sustained meaningful change in the ways they conduct themselves.
Thanks once again for your legal advice, time and I will continue to recommend you to anyone and everyone who will listen. I am blown away by your integrity and all the hard work you did on my behalf. I will always be grateful for all of your efforts and kindness shown – you are deservedly a legend in this field.
Keep fighting the good fight!
I certainly intend to!
The names of my client’s son and the Police officers in this blog have been changed.