“We consider it perfectly possible to assess quantum [i.e the value of the claim] in the current case at this stage and in our experience it is possible to settle the vast majority of wrongful arrest claims swiftly following an admission of liability. The representatives of both parties are very experienced with respect to claims of this nature. The length of detention is clear and the circumstances surrounding your client’s arrest not in dispute. The realistic likely outcome with respect to any assessment of psychiatric injury resulting from your client’s arrest can be predicted based upon experience of claims of this nature. Our offer has been calculated on that basis and we consider it offers our client adequate costs protection; whether it is accepted at this stage is obviously a matter for your client …..”
This is a communication which I received from the office of the Force Solicitor in response to a claim for wrongful arrest of just 4 hours for a man of relatively good character. At that time the offer of settlement which the Police had put forwards was £7,000 and it was this offer which the Force Solicitor was trying to induce my client to accept by claiming that in his experience it was highly unlikely to be beaten i.e. it offered the Police “costs protection” because my client was (in the Force Solicitor’s opinion) unlikely to achieve a higher award of damages at court.
Sadly, many Claims Against the Police are at risk of under-settlement because of the complex nature of this area of law and the robust and combative approach adopted by Police Forces and their lawyers.
When faced with such an approach, combined with an early admission of liability and an apparently attractive offer of settlement, solicitors with insufficient experience (such as those who primarily deal with accident claims), or those without ‘stomach for the fight’ might decide to fold and cash their client’s chips in early.
I, however, am proud to say that I always have in my hand those trump cards of experience, expertise and determination; the experience and expertise to properly assess the various heads of claim (length of and circumstances of detention; psychiatric impact; aggravating features and the possibility of exemplary damages) and the determination not to take an early pay out, but to see the claim through until my client has achieved the maximum realistic outcome – the financial payment that also brings with it the best sense of satisfaction and closure – the feeling that justice has been done.
Thus I advised my client and he rightly decided to call their ‘bluff’, to reject their offer of £7,000, commission expert evidence and institute Court proceedings.
The claim ultimately settled for damages of over four times that amount.
As I say, experience, expertise and determination.