The Police Who Take Advantage of Female Victims of Crime

“Police Officers have got immense power. You know, they can change your life in an instant, by what they believe and what they don’t believe about you. And he made me believe…because of who he was, he impressed upon me that I was a willing party and that I was complicit.” 

“The Police who are abusing their position, sexually and for other motivations, need to be stopped. Police Forces need to be doing more.”

Those are the words of  women who  were interviewed by HMICFRS (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary & Fire and Rescue Services) for their recent report on the subject of abuse of public position for a sexual purpose, entitled “Shining a light on betrayal.” The series of HMICFRS  investigations on this subject, beginning in 2015, have helped this particular category of victims of Police corruption to have a voice which was previously often denied to them; and I am proud to have been able to help many such victims speak out in recent years.

Although progress in rooting out this form of abuse has been made, the report highlighted that some Police Forces in England and Wales have not properly vetted more than half of their Officers and civilian staff, and that this is a major concern given the Government’s proclaimed intention  to find 20,000 new recruits for the Police profession over the next 3 years. Furthermore, several Forces were found to be entirely lacking in software to enable them to monitor how their officers and civilian staff use ICT (information and communication technology) systems. Often, in my experience, abusers working within the Police Force use computer database information, and indeed Police-issued mobile phones and other devices, to target and exploit their victims.

The report quite rightly criticises many Forces for being “far too slow” in combating this devastating form of corruption in public office; a corruption all the more iniquitous as it involves exploiting extremely vulnerable individuals who may not, at least at first, recognise themselves as being victims. One such person amongst my clients, was a woman with severe mental health problems with whom an officer had sex whilst she was receiving treatment in hospital following a suicide attempt.

Shockingly, there is as yet no national requirement to vet Officers who transfer between Forces.  The HMICFRS report expresses “deep concerns” at the amount of Police staff who do not have correct vetting.  This can lead to terrible cases of  exploitation and abuse of highly vulnerable people including, amongst the clients I currently represent, a 13-year-old teenage girl, groomed and raped by an Officer who had visited her family home.

I think it is important to also highlight that abusers are not always Officers, but can include Police staff members employed in scientific, support or administrative roles within the Force. As the NPCC (National Police Chiefs Council) definition makes clear, abuse of position for a sexual purpose encompasses –

“Any behaviour by a police officer or police staff member, whether on or off duty, that takes advantage of their position as a member of the police service to misuse their position, authority or powers in order to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with any member of the public.”

In light of the above, I was very happy to contribute recently to a documentary on this subject, “Exposure – Predator Police Uncovered”, which is being aired tonight on ITV, and I will conclude this blog by echoing the words of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary – If you are a victim of this form of abuse, or you know someone who is, coming forwards and letting your voice be heard is a vital step towards rooting out this corruption, and the historic Police culture of indifference or ignorance which enabled it to continue for so long.

Electric Shock Therapy? The use of tasers on the mentally unwell

This is a guest post by my colleague John Hagan, solicitor.

As our new Prime Minister Mr Johnson continues to struggle amidst the spider’s web of ‘Brexit’, I have noted how his Government is striving to establish a firm footing on the more straightforward domestic political landscape by pitching itself, after years of Conservative led underinvestment in the Police, as Britain’s ‘Pro-Police Party’.

I am sure we can all recall Mr Johnson’s recent speech at a Police Training Centre in Wakefield, in the aftermath of which he was heavily criticized for appearing to use Police Officers as background ‘props’ to a nakedly political speech in which he lashed out at his enemies and made bizarre comments about dying in a ditch.

This however, is one of the frontispieces of the new Conservative policy; to win back voters by disavowing the politics of ‘austerity’ and replacing the tens of thousands of Officers who were let go under the Cameron and May Governments.

The other frontispiece of that policy it would seem, as recently reported in the Guardian, will be an outlay of £10 million to arm up to 10,000 more Police Officers with the electric ‘Stun’ guns known as Tasers.

Although this announcement was applauded by the Police Federation, Senior Officers represented by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) have sounded strong notes of caution.

An NPCC source quoted by the Guardian made the following comments:-

It damages policing by consent.  It is not a safe option, it is a less lethal weapon and is still classed as a firearm. Most Chiefs don’t want every Officer to have one.  It should be done after an assessment of risk.  We can think of better things to spend £10 million on.  We don’t welcome it.

Whilst Home Secretary Priti Patel plays on the highly emotive issue of Police Officers being seriously injured in the line of duty, to justify what she obviously hopes will be a vote winning image of a ‘dramatic’ increase in the number of taser wielding Officers,  I believe she should be less interested in sound bites and perhaps more interested in listening to what the most Senior and experienced Officers appear to actually be telling her.

Although fears of fatalities as a result of taser use are in my view overblown, there is no doubt that it is a weapon of extreme violence, designed to electrocute its victim into submission and is far, far above being merely akin to “Just putting your hands on someone…you can have a laugh about it afterwards” as one Taser- happy Officer memorably said to his Professional Standards Department in a case I was involved in some years ago.

It is also of grave concern that tasers are undoubtedly used disproportionality against non-white people and people with mental health issues.

I note that one Chief Constable, at least, appears to have expressed concern to the Guardian about officers drawing their tasers immediately when dealing with situations when the weapons were not required, thereby reducing the chances of a peaceful resolution and instead escalating the situation and the risk of harm to both Officers and the person they are confronting – who, let us not forget – could well be an entirely innocent individual or a very vulnerable person with a mental illness or disability.

That concept of ‘escalation’, and of changing the way that Officers police the streets of Britain, by moving closer to an American model of Officers approaching every situation from a traffic stop upwards, with a hand on their holster, is also a major concern.

Really dangerous criminals, may feel that they are in an “arm’s race” with the Police, and knowing that more Officers have got tasers, equip themselves with even more lethal firearms.

Fortunately of course, those sort of individuals are relatively few and far between.  The number of homicides (murder and manslaughter) occurring each year in our Country, with its population of almost 70,000,000 individuals is rarely higher than 700. This is thankfully not at all comparable to the number of murders in the US, where firearm wielding cops are ubiquitous, and which in 2017 exceeded 17,000 according to FBI figures.

The real risk posed by increased taser use by the Police, in my opinion, is not fatal violence but an increase in incidents of non- fatal but nevertheless very serious assaults which risk inflicting long term physical and mental damage on the health of individuals in situations which could very possibly have been resolved peacefully, had Officers, who in my opinion are sometimes demonstrably lacking the appropriate training and experience, not escalated the situation by going straight for their taser guns.

I think a perfect example of this, is the recent case of one of my clients, who I will identify by the pseudonym of Howard.

This case is a practical example of some of those very concerns that were being expressed to the Guardian by members of the NPCC, in terms of Officers pulling out their tasers far before other non- or less- violent attempts to resolve the situation had been exhausted, and also about the disproportionate use of tasers upon individuals with mental health problems.

Experience has taught me that a lot of Officers on receiving information that an individual with whom they have to deal has mental health problems, automatically seem to go into some kind of panic mode and think that the individual they are confronting is a Hannibal Lecter- type psychopath, instead of seeing them as ordinary individuals, suffering from an illness, or just at a low point in their lives, who need to be met with reason and compassion, not anger and electrocution.

My client Howard, a man of good character, was one such individual going through a low point in his life in December 2018 when he sent a text message to his mother which could be interpreted as an indication that he was going to commit suicide by taking an overdose of pills.

Howard fully accepts that he sent this message in a moment of crisis when he was feeling extremely depressed, but without any real intention of killing himself.

Some time later on the same day, Howard set off to drive to his father’s house to talk about his problems.  En route he stopped off at a Service Station.

Parking his car on the forecourt of the petrol station, Howard went into the shop to purchase a sandwich.  His behaviour at this point (captured on CCTV camera) was entirely normal.

Unbeknownst to Howard, his mother had on receipt of his earlier text message, reported concerns about him to the Police to the effect that he was classed as a ‘high risk’ missing person because of the ‘suicidal message’ that he had sent to his mother and because she had subsequently been unable to get in contact with him.

There was no suggestion in the report made to the Police that Howard was a danger to anyone other than himself, and once his whereabouts had been established, and he was no longer a missing person, it is my view Howard should have been allowed to go about his business as he intended that day.

That is unfortunately not what unfolded when 2 Police Officers who I will identify as PC Oscar and PC George arrived at the Service Station, having been alerted to the presence of Howard’s motor car there by ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras.

PC Oscar approached Howard inside the shop, and enquired as to how he was, to which Howard, not aware that the Police were looking for him, and somewhat confused by the Officer’s questioning, replied that he was “Okay”.

The Officer informed Howard that he was not under arrest, but the Officer would like to talk to him further, although he did not provide any details about what was to be discussed.

Still confused as to the Officer’s purpose, Howard replied that if he was not under arrest he didn’t feel he had any duty to speak to the Officer and wanted to leave in order to go about his business.

Howard then walked out of the shop intending to return to his car and resume his journey to his father’s house.

At this point PC Oscar had not explained to Howard that there were any concerns about his mental health, or that the Officers wanted him to accompany them to a Mental Health Hospital for assessment, which was in fact their intention.

Clearly, it was not possible for Howard to cooperate with the Officers when he was not being told what they wanted.

Unfortunately, rather than attempting to explain why he wanted Howard to talk to him, PC Oscar now followed him out of the shop and attempted to grab him from behind without warning.

Howard, understandably alarmed, backed away from PC Oscar’s assault, and now became aware of PC George, who had been outside the shop, approaching him with a raised taser gun trained upon Howard.

All of these events were captured on the CCTV cameras at the Service Station, and to my mind it is quite shocking that PC George’s first response on seeing Howard was to immediately point a weapon at him.  I think this is exactly the sort of unnecessary escalation of a situation which Senior Officers in the NPCC are concerned about.

Let us not forget that Howard was not wanted on suspicion of any criminal offence, and nor was there any suggestion that he was ‘dangerous’.

The Officers’ job was to check on Howard’s welfare, but rather than explaining why they wanted to speak to him, instead PC Oscar attempted to grab hold of Howard from behind and then PC George then ‘red dotted’ Howard with a taser gun.

In response to this totally unnecessary and bewildering aggression, Howard then adopted a defensive stance with his arms raised to try to shield himself.  He appealed to PC George to lower the taser gun, but the Officer refused to do so.

Howard then began to back away but was pursued by PC George and when Howard had to stop because he could go no further (his retreat was blocked by a wall) PC George then tasered him.

To the Officer’s evident alarm however, the tasering did not work.   Howard was able to swipe away the wires attached to the taser barbs and thereby avoided the full force of the electric shock which PC George was attempting to administer to him.

Howard now attempted to escape from the two Officers, but they closed in around him and beat him into submission on the ground with a combination of blows from their batons, PAVA anti- personnel spray and further use of taser, including the technique known as ‘dry stunning’ where the taser is pressed directly against a person’s skin and then discharged (in this case, directly into Howard’s neck).

As the Officers, neither of whom were injured themselves, overpowered Howard and forced him to the ground, one of them shouted at Howard “We’re here to help you”.

After Howard was left incapacitated on the ground, having been repeatedly tasered and beaten, the Officers then administered further ‘help’ to him by tightly handcuffing his hands behind his back.

Only now did one of the Officers offer some sort of belated explanation that they were detaining Howard under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Howard was crying in pain and felt close to blacking out.

Other Police Officers now arrived at the scene and Howard was escorted to a Police van, locked in the cage section at the back of the van and taken to hospital.

It had apparently been the initial intention of the Officers to get Howard to go to a Mental Health Hospital for an assessment of his supposedly suicidal frame of mind (although of course, they had not even attempted to explain this to him before ‘jumping’ him).

Now however, because of the multiple injuries he had sustained at the hands of PCs Oscar and George, it was deemed necessary for Howard not to be taken to a Mental Health Hospital, but first of all to A&E for immediate treatment.

Howard was led into the local A&E Department, still in handcuffs. He felt ashamed and humiliated, being in effect paraded as a prisoner.  Howard knew that everyone who looked at him would assume he had committed some kind of serious criminal offence.  Is this how the Police should be helping a non- violent man suffering from depression?

After undergoing x-rays (which revealed that the Officers had fractured Howard’s left hand) Howard was returned to the Police van (thankfully this time not in handcuffs) and taken to a local Mental Health Hospital, where following an assessment he was immediately released, the Staff there having no concerns as to his mental state.

It now appears very likely however that Howard has suffered psychiatric injuries as a result of what PCs Oscar and George did to him, on top of his multiple physical injuries.

All of this arose as a result of what was in my view, a catastrophic error of judgement on the part of PC George.  The tactic the Officers should have been deploying in this situation was effective explanation and communication.   It is likely that if they had done so, violence could have been avoided completely.  However, PC George clearly panicked and because he had a taser available then escalated the situation into one in which the Officers were going to end up hospitalising the man whose welfare they had been sent to ensure.

I am currently advising Howard in relation to pursuing a civil claim against the Police.

Sadly, I think that incidents like this, involving unnecessary taser use, the enflaming of otherwise peaceful situations and serious injury being inflicted to a person believed to be mentally unwell (and who was not a criminal suspect at all) are only likely to increase when Government efforts to rush more Police Officers onto our streets, coincide with an initiative whose primary function appears to be to win the Conservative Party more votes, and put thousands of taser guns into the hands of those inexperienced new Officers.

The final comment I want to pass in regards to this case at the present time, is in relation to the complaint which Howard has already pursued with the Police Force’s Professional Standards Department.

The outcome of that complaint was a ‘whitewash’ which purported to completely exonerate PCs Oscar and George from any wrongdoing and instead to turn all the blame upon Howard.

I was particularly disappointed to read a comment in the Report from the Investigating Officer stating that Howard “needs to take responsibility for his actions” inferring that because he had gone ‘missing’ and had sent a ‘suicidal’ message to his mother, he was responsible for everything that then unfolded.

Clearly that is not the case, and even more so when you consider that Howard was not just an innocent individual but an individual whom the Officers believed to be mentally unwell; the very definition that would justify the Officers detaining Howard so as to present him for assessment at a Mental Health Hospital, would mean that he was not of sound mind and therefore couldn’t be held to account for his actions.

It is strange indeed, that the PSD should seek to defend their Officers from Howard’s (in my view valid) complaint on the basis that he was at the same time incapable of making decisions for himself, and also morally responsible for those decisions.

Clearly that does not add up, and I can only again express my disappointment that the Police did not take the opportunity of Howard’s legitimate complaint to ask serious questions about the deployment and use of taser weapons by their Officers on this occasion and to take the opportunity to give PC George, in particular, appropriate advice and training to try to avoid this sort of situation occurring again.

Instead, PSD appear to have given PC George and his colleague a pat on the back, and rather than learning appropriate lessons from this event, are instead exposing other vulnerable individuals, who may come into the path of taser- wielding Officers with jumpy trigger fingers, to risk of even more serious injury, both physical and mental.

Consenting Adults? Police Officers Exploiting Female Victims of Crime

In a previous blog on the issue of sexual misconduct by Police Officers I expressed concern about those women who don’t come forward and actively report their abuser.  I cited various reasons as to why women may not speak out  including low self-esteem, shame, denial and a general feeling of hopelessness and helplessness as well as a fear of the consequences.

On reflection, there is yet another factor; that of ignorance.  Sometimes the victim of Police sexual exploitation may not realise that they have been exploited or  may think that because they ‘consented’, they are barred from taking action.  I am talking here of victims who have unwittingly been exploited and groomed by a Police Officer and who have actively consented in sexual relations and only weeks, months or years later realised that they were taken advantage of.

Two such victims whom I have represented,  were Clare and Yvonne both of whom I have posted about previously (here and here). Both women

  • had been the victim of domestic abuse by their husband/long-time partner and were therefore vulnerable individuals.
  • were targeted by male Police Officers who were responsible for investigating the domestic abuse and for taking action and providing support to them.
  • were initially charmed and flattered, and responded to the apparent care, concern and attention  of these ”White Knights” who had been sent to protect them and who had all the power, prestige and trustworthiness of the Police profession behind them.
  • voluntarily entered in to a sexual relationship  with these male officers only to realise in time that they were being exploited for the Officer’s own sexual gratification.

Clare and Yvonne  only came to fully realise that they had been groomed and exploited upon contact from a representative  of the Force’s Professional Standards Department that was investigating these officers for trying to instigate or being in a relationship with other female victims of crime and it was only then, that both women realised that they could pursue a claim for compensation.

The impact on both women of this “sexploitation” was that they developed low self-esteem, lack of confidence, loss of trust and emotional pain. The callous behaviour of the Officers towards each of them, had compounded the psychological hurt already inflicted by their previous abusive partners.

I am pleased to report that both Clare and Yvonne either have, or will recover, substantial compensation which in part will fund the cost of therapy.

Over the past year, I have been helping both a radio and television production company who are making programmes to expose the sexual misconduct of serving Police Officers, and I very much hope these projects will raise people’s awareness of this scandal.  In the 3 years to March 2019, IOPC received no less than 415 referrals from all Forces for cases involving abuse for a sexual purpose; we well can imagine the number of cases which went unreported, for some of the reasons I have highlighted above.

I currently act for numerous female victims of police exploitation and invite you to contact me via this website if you would like confidential  and expert advice in relation to your legal rights, if you have suffered in this way from the predatory behaviour of an Officer.

 

A Death In Custody : Police Negligence ?

There has been a considerable furore in the news media this morning regarding our new Prime Minister’s somewhat rambling speech about Brexit, delivered during his visit to a police training centre in Wakefield. Mr Johnson, who appears to think he has “The Churchill Factor” (as per the title of his biography of Britain’s most famous PM) certainly didn’t display it yesterday, in my opinion; whereas Winston said that he would ‘fight them on the beaches’, Boris, it seems, would rather be ‘dead in a ditch’…

 

Seeing Mr Johnson delivering that odd remark, whilst standing in front of massed ranks of Police officers, put me in mind of the distressing fate which did indeed befall Mr Patrick Maughan, whose family I acted for in a recent inquest.

 

Mr Maughan, who had a pre-existing history of epilepsy, alcoholism and early onset dementia and cognitive impairment from a brain injury sustained in 2008, was arrested by Officers of Norfolk Constabulary on 22 July 2018, on suspicion of a low-level offence of drunk & disorderly behaviour. He was taken to the Kings Lynn Police Investigation Centre (PIC) and detained there overnight. On being ‘booked in’ Mr Maughan informed the Police that he suffered from fits on alcohol withdrawal.

 

On 23 July, Mr Maughan was released from custody and never heard from again; on 24 July his body was discovered in a steep, water-filled ditch close to the PIC. An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) established that shortly following his release from custody on the morning of 23 July at 11.22 am, Mr Maughan became unwell and disorientated and that at 12.03 pm he fell from the grassy bank next to the bus stop adjacent to the PIC, into the ditch below, and tragically drowned shortly afterwards.

 

The Officer with responsibility for Mr Maughan’s welfare at the time of his release was the Custody Sergeant. The IOPC report raises concerns about the Sergeant’s decision to release Mr Maughan to make his way home alone and unaided, in an isolated and unfamiliar environment, despite the fact that the Sergeant was aware, or should have been aware, that Mr Maughan experienced fits following alcohol withdrawal, was an epileptic, and had not had access to his epilepsy medication. Furthermore, the Sergeant appears to have overlooked, or ignored, a clear entry in the Police National Computer (PNC) records for Mr Maughan stating that he suffered from ‘blackouts’. Mr Maughan himself, prior to his release from custody, had expressed anxiety that he had not had his usual epilepsy medication.

 

Nevertheless, the IOPC concluded, the Custody Sergeant did not ask Mr Maughan pertinent questions regarding any of these issues prior to his release, nor did the Sergeant consult with a Health Care Professional. During his subsequent Misconduct interview in November 2018, the Sergeant made the following comments regarding Mr Maughan which I consider to demonstrate a quite callous lack of concern towards him –

 

“If he’s able to go and get drunk and disorderly then, and he’s able to walk to the bus stop, then clearly what’s stopping him walking into town?”

 

It appears that at the time of his pre-release assessment, Mr Maughan was slurring his speech, but the Sergeant interpreted this as being part of Patrick’s “Irish brogue”.

 

The immediate surrounds of the Kings Lynn PIC are an isolated environment in which there are numerous water filled ditches  and deep ponds which present risk to life and limb for vulnerable individuals. Mr Maughan’s only practical way of returning home that day was to use a bus, but at the time he was released, the next bus was not due for almost an hour. His last moments were caught on the CCTV camera of a nearby Agricultural warehouse (one of the few buildings in the vicinity). Patrick can be seen standing on the grassy bank next to the bus stop before wobbling forwards and backwards and falling over into the ditch. When his body was found the next day at the bottom of the ditch, his head and the upper half of his body were submerged in water.

 

The subsequent post- mortem report prepared for the coroner, remarked that the cause of Mr Maughan’s collapse was uncertain but highlighted the following issues –

 

  • Abnormalities in Mr Maughan’s heart could have caused a blackout
  • Mr Maughan was prescribed Epilim for his epilepsy. He was not given any of this medication whilst he was in Police custody.

 

Following on from the IOPC report, the matters highlighted above lead to a Misconduct Meeting in April 2019, at which the Custody Sergeant was found guilty of misconduct, and sanctioned with management action i.e re-training.

 

This is obviously a very sad case, in which it seems to me that numerous opportunities were missed to save Patrick’s life; in my opinion, given the medical issues which the Custody Sergeant was aware of, he should have known that it was unsafe to allow Mr Maughan to make his way home unaccompanied and/or arranged for Mr Maughan to see a doctor prior to his release from custody (who could have given him epilepsy medication). The Sergeant could also have consulted with Mr Maughan’s Social Worker. In fact, Patrick’s Social Worker was contacted by a Liaison and Diversity officer based in the PIC, who had also reviewed him prior to release. The Social Worker highlighted grave concerns about Mr Maughan’s ability to make his way home independently and the Liaison officer passed this information on to the Custody Sergeant with a request that the Officer go after Patrick, and bring him back to the safety of the PIC. Unfortunately, the Sergeant did not go out looking for Patrick until after he had collapsed into the ditch, and the officer returned to the PIC assuming that his former detainee had caught the bus.

 

In light of the above, I am now advising Mr Maughan’s sister in relation to her right to bring a claim for negligence and/or unlawful death contrary to Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, against Norfolk Constabulary.

 

Our Prime Minister is a wealthy and privileged individual who, despite his histrionic language, is highly unlikely to meet his end in a dirty, water-filled ditch; sadly, many other members of our society are much more vulnerable, and it precisely those individuals, beset by chronic health issues and cognitive and social problems, who deserve the highest standards of care from our  Police Force. I do not believe that is what Mr Maughan received.

Police Misconduct Results In £40,000 Pay Out To My Client

 

Notwithstanding my long standing belief in societal progress in terms of equality and transparency,  it remains the case that the Police disciplinary system is inherently biased in favour of the Police; in fact I would go as far as to say that the unwritten mission statement of most Professional Standards Departments is not to root out, but rather to protect corrupt Officers and to make excuses for Police misbehaviour. Certainly this seems to be the practical result of most Police Complaint investigations that I have witnessed. So it was the case for my client, Richard Roberts who recently settled his case against Dyfd-Powys Police.

 

Richard brought claims against the police  for assault, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office following an incident that occurred on 21 January 2016. The police have just agreed to a settlement of £40,000 in damages, plus legal costs. Read press coverage about it here.

 

On the afternoon of 21 January 2016, Richard returned home in his vehicle with his partner and two step children and parked up outside. As he alighted, he noticed his neighbour’s wife Tracey, who was driving her car, reverse and hit a wheelie bin that he had left out earlier that day, causing it to fall over. Richard picked up the bin and wheeled it back towards his home.  As he did so, Tracey was verbally abusive towards him.

 

In light of Tracey’s behaviour, Richard and his partner then attended Milford Haven Police Station to report matters.  At the police station, he was advised that the police were aware of the incident, to return home and that an officer would call in later to discuss matters.

 

Richard and his partner duly returned home. Upon their return, Tony (Tracey’s husband) was standing on his door step shouting abuse at Richard, which he ignored. Tony then proceeded at pace towards Richard and pushed him in the chest using both outstretched hands, causing Richard to fall backwards.  He managed to get back up and turn away.

 

Tony then shouted at Richard, “Come on”, inviting him to fight.  Richard moved towards his front door ushering his partner and step-daughter inside. Tony then punched Richard several times and finally pushed Richard with both outstretched hands on his back causing him to fall onto his partner and step-daughter.

 

Richard managed to stand and turn around. Tony again shouted, “Fight back, come on”. Richard shut and locked his front door and helped his step-daughter to her feet and into the lounge. At this stage, she was heavily pregnant and was complaining of abdominal pains.

 

In the circumstances, Richard called 999 to request that both the Police and Ambulance attend.

 

From an internal CCTV monitor in his house, Richard then saw Tony pick up a plant pot and throw it at the windscreen of  Richard’s car. Tony then picked up a large pebble off the lawn. Tracy then grabbed Tony and shouted “Get inside, he’s not worth it”.

 

By this time, neighbours had congregated and were watching events.

 

Tony and Tracey’s daughter Morgana then approached Richard’s front garden and kicked over another garden pot.  Tracey also then shouted to Morgana to get inside.

 

At this time, emergency sirens could be heard.  Tony shouted towards the premises, “Call your bodyguards then?” and “You won’t be there for long”.  Tony then returned inside his own house as did Tracey and Morgana.

 

Realising the police were to attend shortly, Richard immediately saved the relevant CCTV footage on to a pen drive so as to pass this to the police.

 

Just after 16.00, a marked police vehicle pulled up outside Richard’s house and two officers, now known to be PC Norman and PC Goy alighted.

 

Richard  came out of his house and walked over to his car to inspect the damage.

 

Tony also came out of his house and, in effect admitting what he had done, said  “You’d better put me in the back of your car”.  He was arrested by PC Goy.

 

Richard remarked to the officer, “Yeah, you’d better” and “I want him arrested for assault, I’ve got it on camera”.

 

Tracey then emerged and shouted to Richard, “You tried to abuse my daughter”.  He replied, “Did I? Let’s see what the CCTV says because it has audio”.

 

PC Goy remained with Tony. PC Norman approached Morgana as did Richard.  Morgana then sought to attack Richard, threatening  to ‘kill’ him, but was held back by PC Norman.

 

Richard returned to his house whilst Tony was escorted to the police vehicle.

 

After a short while, Richard returned outside to have a cigarette on his front doorstep.

 

PC Norman told Richard to return inside, to which he replied that he was having a cigarette outside because he didn’t smoke in the house.

 

PC Norman then went into Tony’s house and after a short period of time, re-emerged.

 

Having finished smoking his cigarette, Richard then briefly inspected the damage to his car. PC Norman then approached Richard and advised him that he was under arrest.  Richard asked what for, to which PC Norman said “a Public Order offence”.

 

Richard knew that events had been recorded on his house CCTV system and immediately invited PC Norman to view the footage which he knew would exonerate him. In fact, PC Norman had previously attended the premises and viewed CCTV footage of another incident . On this occasion however, PC Norman refused.  Richard said, “I’ve just been assaulted by that prick (i.e. Tony) and he’s done that to my car and now I’m being arrested?  How pathetic”.

 

Richard was then handcuffed to the front and as he was escorted towards the second police vehicle his partner said that she would get a copy of the footage for the police.

 

Richard was then driven to Haverford West Police Station.  At this time, he knew that paramedics had arrived to attend to his pregnant step-daughter but did not know of her condition or progress. She was subsequently taken to hospital.

 

Richard was outraged by the fact and circumstances of his arrest.

 

According to the custody record, Richard was arrested for a S4 Public Order Act offence and the circumstances of arrest were said to be that:

 

Officers had been called … in relation to a disturbance. Upon Police arrival all was quiet so the Officer spoke to the caller. The DP then came out of his house and was shouting abuse on more than one occasion. When IP spoken to it was established that the caller had knocked over a wheelie bin belonging to the DP at which point the DP came out and directed abuse at her and her family. Code G to prevent injury to others and prevent further offences against public decency as DP shouting abuse in the street…..

 

Richard was obliged to provide his personal details and confirm details of his health/medication. Richard’s handcuffs were removed and he was then searched. He was asked how he felt and he replied, (understandably)  “Pissed off” and maintained to custody staff that he had been “wrongfully arrested”.  It was noted that he had injuries following the assault by Tony and arrangements were made for him to see a Doctor.  Richard was then placed into a cell.

 

Following Richard’s arrest, PC Norman prepared a witness statement detailing events  earlier that afternoon, and justifying the decision  to arrest Richard.  That statement, in particular, falsely alleged that Richard was shouting, screaming, swearing and using foul language.

 

The video and audio on Richard’s CCTV footage indisputably exposes the following extracts from PC Norman’s statement as false. Richard firmly believes that these extracts were deliberate fabrications by the Officer:

 

  1. “Roberts was being extremely abusive, shouting and screaming loudly in the street in my direction and the direction of [Tracey, Tony & Morgana]” (He was not screaming or abusive).

 

  1. “I heard Roberts shouting a torrent of abuse, it sounded like every other word was either “Fucking Nonce”, “Fucking Arsehole”, “cunts” (Whilst Richard did make some comments, he did not swear and was not abusive).

 

  1. “I still heard Roberts shouting and swearing in our direction”. (He did not shout or swear).

 

  1. “Roberts shouted ‘I’m standing on my own fucking doorstep and having a fucking fag, I don’t smoke in the fucking house” (He did not swear).

 

  1. “I then heard Roberts before I saw him, shouting and screaming from his home address” (He did not shout or scream).

 

  1. “You’re fucking arresting me, I was the one who’s been assaulted?” (He did not swear).

 

  1. “They’re fucking arresting me for Public Order and I was the one who’s been fucking assaulted, its fucking pathetic” (He did not swear).

 

At 20.30h the custody record states:

 

Insp A Millichip has contacted Custody and states that the incident involves many parties on the estate and therefore there are many persons to be interviewed as witnesses, thereafter possible further arrests and offences to be investigated connected and involving the DP.  Therefore Insp Millichip informs Custody that those enquiries will be conducted as quickly as they can but interviews not likely until tomorrow morning.  DPS Solicitor has been updated and briefed accordingly.  FME [Force Medical Examiner] has been informed and will conduct his assessment around the expected detention parameters. FME report awaited.

 

At 20.30h Richard was allowed to call home to check on his step-daughter’s welfare.  Unfortunately there was no answer, which only increased his concern for her welfare in light of events earlier in the day.

 

Subsequently, Richard was obliged to provide his fingerprints, DNA sample and shoe print and to be photographed.

 

At 22.02h Richard was advised that he was to be kept in overnight.  He was furious at this and demanded to see a representative of the Force Professional Standards Department and an Inspector, adamant that he was wholly innocent and that his arrest was unlawful.

 

In part his frustration was caused by concern for his step-daughter. Finally at approximately 22.44h Richard was advised that she had been released from hospital and that both she and the baby were “Ok”.

 

At 23.46h on 21 January 2016 Richard’s detention was reviewed by Inspector Hoad who recorded that:

 

NOT Reminded of right to free legal advice.  Continued detention is authorised as I have reasonable grounds to believe that it (sic) necessary in order to To (sic) allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question obtain evidence by questioning.  The grounds are the detained person has been arrested on suspicion of Section 4 Public Order.  I am satisfied that enquiries are being carried out diligently and expeditiously and the DP will be interviewed in due course.  The investigating officers have a number of enquiries and statements to obtain. The detained person has Solicitors representing him.  The DP is currently asleep and will not be woken for the purposes of this review.  Detention continues to be lawful, necessary and proportionate.  Review carried out in person by Inspector Hoad.

 

At 09.59h on 22 January 2016 Richard’s detention was reviewed once again. Inspector Davies recorded that “the DP states that he was assaulted by the other party in the incident, and was then arrested for something he hasn’t done…”

 

Nevertheless, Richard’s continued detention was authorised.

 

Between 12.21h and 12.31h on 22 January 2016 Richard was interviewed.  His solicitor was in attendance.  During the interview, Richard denied any wrongdoing and robustly asserted that “CCTV will prove it”. At the conclusion of the interview, Richard was told that he would be released shortly.

 

At 14.37h PC Jelley recorded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a s4A Public Order offence and that instead, Richard was to be charged with breaching s5 “in due course” and in fact, at 15.29h Richard was charged with breaching s5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and bailed to attend the local Magistrates’ Court on 9 February 2016. This, according to PC Talboys, was on the basis of CPS advice.

 

On 24 January 2016 Richard. was contacted by PS Dunn who came to his home to view the relevant CCTV footage. PS Dunn took a copy of the footage.

 

On 25 January 2016 Richard was contacted by PS Harrison of the Professional Standards Department who advised that she had viewed the relevant CCTV footage and encouraged Richard to lodge a formal complaint against PC Norman, which he did.

 

On 26 January 2016 Richard was visited by PC Dunn who confirmed that criminal proceedings against him were discontinued.

 

PC Norman was subsequently arrested for perverting the course of justice. i.e. on the basis of the contents of his witness statement about Richard.

 

Following investigation, Richard was advised in July 2016 that PC Norman was to be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. Richard was obliged to attend trial on two separate occasions and give evidence. On 18 May 2017 PC Norman was, despite the weight of evidence, acquitted.

 

PC Norman subsequently faced Police misconduct proceedings.  Following review, PC Norman was found guilty of misconduct but was only issued with a final written warning rather than being dismissed.  Eventually, in December 2017, Richard received an investigation report confirming the outcome of his complaint against PC Norman.

 

This is a case in which there was clear video evidence suggesting that PC Norman lied in an attempt to frame my client for a Public Order offence.

 

It is highly disappointing that despite the weight of this evidence, PC Norman was ultimately acquitted of perverting the course of justice.

 

Although the Police professional standards investigation found him guilty of misconduct, he was, remarkably, only issued with a final written warning rather than being dismissed from the Force, which in my opinion was the sanction his misconduct merited.

 

I am saddened, but not surprised, that Mr Roberts’ valid complaint against PC Norman had such an unsatisfactory outcome.

 

I believe that the Police culture of protecting Officers from complaints, rather than carrying out properly impartial investigations, is what leads Officers such as PC Norman to behave with such apparent impunity and flagrant disregard for the very laws they are supposed to be upholding.

 

Ultimately, Richard Roberts was failed by both the criminal justice system and the Police complaints process – which gave the Officer a slap on the wrist, but allowed him to continue in his job.  Therefore  I am very satisfied to have  now secured a substantial settlement for Richard through the Civil courts, which goes some way to resetting the scales of justice in this matter.

 

 

 

Beware MOJ’s tactics to reduce access to justice

It’s imperative that prisoners should not be deterred from claiming compensation arising from sentence miscalculation notwithstanding tactics employed by the MOJ’s solicitors at the Government Legal Department. In my experience, errors can frequently be made, leading to people spending days longer in custody that they should do. Whilst it is right that those who have committed offences should ‘serve their time’. It is equally right that once that time is up, their liberty be restored to them.

The MOJ are now as a matter of policy arguing that sentence miscalculation claims should be allocated to the small claims track of the County Court.

The small claims track is intended to provide a proportionate procedure by which straightforward claims of not more than £10,000 in value can be decided and where legal fees are not recoverable. This then effectively prevents a private individual from instructing a lawyer, as they will not be able to recover the cost of the lawyer’s fees even if they are successful. Legal Aid is also unavailable.

Allocation to the small claims Court represents a massive cost saving for the MOJ; not only do they avoid paying legal fees but the policy has a deflationary effect upon damages recovered in that Claimants will be put off making a claim because they will have to do so without a lawyer, it encourages Claimants to undervalue their claims and accept offers that are too low and therefore significantly affects access to justice for what is a wrongdoing of clear constitutional importance. Meanwhile, with the Claimant ‘at their mercy’ as a party without legal representation, the MOJ itself has all the financial and professional resources of a government department and will of course send its own team of lawyers from the GLD to Court, irrespective of the cost.

The MOJ’s central argument is that a person imprisoned without lawful authority is entitled to compensation irrespective of any question of fault. On that basis, the MOJ argues that such claims are not complicated and don’t require legal representation. The MOJ relies on the Evans (No.2) [1999] Q.B. 1043 decision which suggested a daily rate for false imprisonment at just under £100 back in 1989 (albeit now updated for inflation). However, there is a wide range of other cases which suggest that damages in such cases should be counted in not merely hundreds, but thousands of pounds.

The MOJ argument fails to take into consideration that there is a second element to an award of damages for false imprisonment, that of injury to feelings.

In most claims for sentence miscalculation, the individual Claimant knows full well that he is being wrongly detained and his protests to prison staff are often neglected or ignored. Often this state of knowledge or level of mental suffering is disputed and it’s in these cases that legal representation is crucial; to make these arguments, to challenge the MOJ in cross examination and to ensure a fair award of compensation by reference to extensive case law.

In a recent case for sentence miscalculation that I handled, the MOJ disputed the Claimant’s state of knowledge/efforts to complain by relying upon a 42 page rebuttal statement from a prison official with 8 exhibits spread over 37 pages (which included the Claimant’s external movements, custodial warrant, transfer report, email correspondence, phone record, complaint history, cell history and release paperwork), sought to call that witness by video link and instructed specialist London Counsel who in advance of the final hearing served a 12 page Skeleton Argument and a 309 page Authority Bundle comprising 11 different judicial decisions.

Prisoners who have suffered false imprisonment by sentence miscalculation should push for the maximum level of compensation that they are entitled to utilising specialist solicitors and not being cowed by MOJ tactics.

A wide range of damages are awardable in false imprisonment claims, dependent on a number of evidential factors, relevant case law and the arguments advanced by the lawyers for each party. The MOJ know full well that those Claimants who are represented by solicitors get more money, hence their cynical policy of trying to push these claims into the Small Claims Court, so as to deprive Claimants of legal representation. I know how to defeat these tactics and ensure that my clients get the maximum compensation available.

Passport to Prison? Unlawful Arrests In The Airport

It’s holiday season and many will be travelling abroad and as such will need to pass through Passport Control at our ports and airports.  This then is a great opportunity for the Police to arrest those identified on the Police National Computer as “wanted”, whether because they are suspected to be involved in a reported criminal offence or because there is an outstanding warrant for their arrest for failure to attend Court.

But what happens when that “wanted” marker has been erroneously added to an individual’s details so that the arrest is a mistake?

In the first instance, the arrest is probably technically lawful because the arresting officer, in relying upon the PNC marker had the necessary reasonable suspicion to arrest.

So, instead, it is necessary to bring an alternative claim in negligence, or under the Human Rights Act, or Data Protection Act. Such claims can be brought when a lawful arrest has been directly caused by an earlier breach of an individual’s rights, either as enshrined in Statute or Common Law.

Sometimes the individual arrested has, by unfortunate coincidence, the same name as the real offender, in which circumstances it seems mistakes can too easily occur.

Take for example my client David Farrington. David was at the London City Airport in September.  He was booked on a British Airways flight to Amsterdam, where he was scheduled to meet his girlfriend.

As he proceeded to board the aircraft, he was stopped and detained by four Police Officers from the Metropolitan Police.

He was advised that he was under arrest as a result of an outstanding warrant issued by Lewes Crown Court in August for failing to appear in respect of breach proceedings linked to the imposition of a community order.

David immediately made it clear to the Officers that he had no knowledge of the warrant and that they had the wrong man.

Despite his protestations he was handcuffed and removed from the airport in the presence of fellow holiday makers and airport staff, a humiliating experience.

He was later transferred into custody at Barking and Dagenham Custody Centre.

Following his arrival into Police custody, David was able to notify his parents that he was under arrest.

David’s parents immediately set off on a lengthy journey to Lewes Crown Court in an attempt to understand on what basis David had been wrongly identified as the subject of the warrant.

Upon their arrival at Court, they established that the only information which had been contained on the warrant was the name, date of birth and address of the wanted man.

The real offender bore a similar, but not identical, name to David: the offender was David Farrington, whereas my client was David Charles Farrington.

David’s parents were able to demonstrate, by the production of identification, that the offender was not their son.

Following investigation, it transpired that details of the warrant had been entered onto the Police National Computer (PNC) by Sussex Police. Sadly, David’s personal details, as opposed to the actual offender, were entered onto the system.

Eventually, Sussex Police were able to furnish the Metropolitan Police with a photograph of the real offender, together with details of his fingerprints.

Neither the custody photograph, fingerprints nor the described physical features of the actual offender corresponded to David, and after 8 and a half hours, he was finally released from Police custody.

I pursued a claim on behalf of David and he recovered £6,000 in compensation plus his legal fees.

Sometimes, the arrested individual does not share the same name and his association with the real suspect is a mystery.  Take Stephen Dami.  In July, he was scheduled to fly with Ryanair from Stanstead Airport to Ibiza for a lad’s holiday.  He proceeded through check in, security and the boarding gates and was ready to board his flight when armed police approached him.

He was requested to provide his passport. Upon production, he was advised that he was under arrest in respect of an outstanding warrant that had been issued in May.

Stephen had no knowledge of the offence referred to by the officers, but despite protesting his innocence, he was detained and escorted to Stanstead Airport Police Station.

On arrival at the Custody Centre, Stephen was advised that he was wanted for failing to answer a Summons issued at Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court on 2 June.

During his period in custody, doubts began to emerge as to whether Stephen was indeed the person wanted for arrest.  These doubts were well founded. First the Summons was issued by the Juvenile Court, whereas Stephen was then 22 years. Second, the wanted man was of black ethnicity, whereas Stephen was not. Third, the wanted subject was Portuguese, whereas Stephen was British (but of Middle Eastern complexion).

After 3 and a half hours in custody, Stephen was released from custody with no further action.

Despite making enquiries as to whether he could rebook another flight, nothing was available and he had to return home, his holiday with his friends ruined.

Following his release, enquiries with Greater Manchester Police revealed that the outstanding warrant had been linked to Stephen because, they said, he had a similar name to the suspect, “Stephano Damil.”

I pursued a claim for Stephen and he recovered £3,500 in compensation as well as his legal costs.

Rashid Khan was in some ways luckier than David and Stephen.  He was arrested upon his return from holiday, but detained for longer.  He had been on a skiing holiday with his family and friends to Andorra.  Upon landing at Stanstead Airport, his name was called out to go to the front of the plane.  He went forward and was met by 2 officers of Metropolitan Police who escorted him off the plane, where 3 armed officers were waiting.  He was advised that he was under arrest for trespass with intent to commit a sexual offence the previous August at a hotel on the Isle of Wight.

Rashid stated that firstly, he had never been to the Isle of Wight and secondly that at the time of the alleged offence, he had been out of the country.

By now, other passengers were leaving the plane via the steps including Rashid’s wife, young daughter and family friends.

Rashid was placed in a waiting van and taken to Braintree Police Station whilst his wife had to manage his traumatised daughter and all their luggage.

Rashid was then “booked in” to Police custody during which he made available to the Custody Sergeant his passport which proved that he had indeed been out of the country at the time of the alleged offence.

Eventually after 12 and a half hours in custody, Rashid was released.

Following investigation, I established that the real suspect shared the same name and a similar date of birth as my client.  The investigating officer had asked my client’s local force to make discrete enquires to confirm if Rashid Khan had recently worked on the Isle of Wight. Only if enquiries established this, was Rashid Khan to be arrested.

Local officers spoke to my client and established that he was very unlikely to be the suspect.  Notwithstanding this, 2 weeks later the interviewing officer inexplicably sent a request to the PNC Bureau to have my client circulated as “wanted” rather than placed on a “Locate/Trace” capacity only.

Once again, I pursued a claim on behalf of Mr Khan and he recovered £5,000 in compensation plus legal costs.

Everyone I think has heard of passengers’ entitlement to compensation if a flight is unreasonably delayed…I would respectfully suggest that you contact me for advice as to your further rights of compensation if the delay you experience in the airport is not at the baggage carousel…but in a Police van!

Hopefully, this won’t happen to you and I wish you and your families all the very best for the forthcoming ‘holiday season’.