Blog

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’.

Blue Lies Matter

Did you know that lies come in three different colours ? Reading a psychology paper this week I noted that whereas the term for an entirely self-serving lie is a “black” lie, and the term for a “selfless” lie (e.g so as not to hurt someone’s feelings) is a “white” lie, the phrase “blue lies” has been applied to that category of falsehoods whereby someone is lying for the benefit of their team or “side”, to the detriment of another group. So they are simultaneously selfish and beneficial.

Commenting on the predilection of the current American President for telling – often outrageously hypocritical and blatantly false – lies, an article written by Jeremy Adam Smith in Scientific American (24 March 2017) commented as follows, on the subject of “Blue Lies” –

If we see Trump’s lies not as failures of character but rather as weapons of war, then we can come to see why his supporters might view him as an effective leader. From this perspective, lying is a feature, not a bug, of Trump’s campaign and presidency.

Common experience tells us that Police Officers are prone to such lies; to “protect” their colleagues, and ensure the “bad guys” get their just desserts, we might imagine. Indeed, in America there is a term for this: “testi-lying” or Officers telling falsehoods on oath in Court in order to ensure the conviction of a person they deem to be an undesirable criminal – whether or not on this occasion the actual evidence proves that the person “did it”… Blue lies are considered by psychologists to actually strengthen the bonds of loyalty within members of a group, community or gang (that latter word once being memorably used by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to describe – approvingly – his Officers).

So, although the phrase “blue lies” might be relatively new, the phenomenon it refers to is surely as old as the hills. One good thing we have to thank modern technology for is that it is increasingly likely that Officers will be caught out in their falsehoods, because of the prevalence of video recording technology across our society – and particularly, easily accessible in people’s pockets in the form of mobile phones.

The issue of independent video evidence “catching out” a Police Officer’s falsehoods was a key factor in a case I recently concluded on behalf of two clients from West Yorkshire, gentlemen of Asian origin whom I shall identify as Shahid and Hashim.

Shahid and Hashim, along with Shahid’s nephew Mohammed, were minding their own business in a parked car when approached by two officers of the West Yorkshire Police  – whom I shall identify as PC Michaels and his female colleague, PC Kirby.

Although the three men were not doing anything other than sitting in a car chatting, the two officers immediately adopted a suspicious/ hostile attitude towards them and began to demand their personal details. As I have made clear on many previous occasions in this blog, we do not live in a society where the Police have the power to demand that you identify yourself to them (unless they already have a reason to suspect you are guilty of committing a crime, which certainly did not apply here – unless being Asian sitting in a car is as suspicious as being Black whilst driving one…).

Shahid began to record his conversation with PC Michaels on his mobile phone, as he (correctly) did not believe he was obliged to give his name on demand. PC Michaels then asserted that he had the power to demand Shahid’s details because (in the Officer’s words) Shahid was “Committing anti-social behaviour”. When challenged, PC Michaels refused to specify what this “antisocial behaviour” was – no doubt because there wasn’t in fact any!

Shahid and PC Michaels remained at loggerheads until the officer decided to snatch Shahid’s phone out of his hand, and pull Shahid out of the car. PC Michaels then walked away across the car park, causing Shahid to follow after him insisting – politely – that the officer return his phone. Unfortunately, PC Michaels, obviously unhappy with Shahid’s continued refusal to identify himself, then produced his handcuffs. This caused Shahid considerable alarm, and he backed away from the officer. PC Michaels pursued Shahid, spraying him in the face with CS gas, and then handcuffing him whilst Shahid was incapacitated from the gas. The officer then marched Shahid to his nearby Police van, forcing Shahid to follow him by pulling on the handcuff chain as if it were a “lead” and incarcerated Shahid in the back of the van.

Whilst these events were going on, Hashim attempted to record matters on his own mobile phone, only to have this snatched from him, in turn, by PC Kirby. When Hashim followed Shahid to the Police van, protesting about Shahid’s unlawful arrest, he was then shoved by the officers up against a wall, also handcuffed and arrested.

Notably, at this point, neither officer had told Shahid or Hashim what specific offence it was they were being arrested for – no doubt because “talking back” to Police officers and refusing to identify yourself in an otherwise peaceful and law-abiding situation, are not actually crimes.

Both of my clients were then transported to Huddersfield Police Station, where they learned for the first time that they were being accused of assaulting a Police Officer (PC Michaels in Shahid’s case, and PC Kirby in Hashim’s) and breaching Section 5 of the Public Order Act. These charges quite literally added insult to injury as the very reverse was true; it was Shahid and Hashim who had been assaulted by the officers, and Shahid in particular required after-care for the effects of the gas used upon him. The false charges, and the threat of a custodial sentence hanging over them, were very distressing to my clients, particularly Hashim who was only a teenager at the time.

The criminal charges against my clients proceeded all the way to Trial at the Magistrates Court. In support of the charges against Shahid, PC Michaels in particular made a statement in which he alleged a number of untruths, including that he had informed Shahid during their initial conversation that he was being detained for the purpose of a Stop & Search under the Misuse of Drugs Act. In fact, the mobile phone footage which Shahid had preserved showed incontrovertibly that PC Michaels had not said anything to Shahid about a drugs search, but had rather been insisting that Shahid identify himself because of (unspecified) “anti-social behaviour”.

The clearly recorded conversation between the officer and Shahid went like this –

PC:     I am an Officer in uniform and I have got a power to require your name and address.

S:            Regarding What?  Anti-social behaviour?

PC:         Anti-social behaviour regarding a report we have had that I am not obliged to disclose to you at the moment.

And a little further into the conversation –

PC:         What is your name?

S:            Regards to what?

PC:         I have got the report.

S:            Anti-social behaviour, you know what, you’re making it up.

PC:         I don’t have to explain it to you.

S:            I know what you’re doing; you’re just making it up now.

PC:         No I’m not.

Needless to say, PC Michaels did not have any “report” relating to Shahid, and does indeed appear to have been, as Shahid put it “making it up” in order to get his details.

Certainly, PC Michaels as recorded on the phone was saying very different things to what he purported in his later Statement to have said; it was clear to all on viewing the footage that the Officer had said nothing about a Stop & Search for drugs.

This evidence was played at Court, and I am pleased to confirm that the cases against both of my clients collapsed, the Crown Prosecution Service discontinuing all proceedings against both of them after watching the footage.

The way was now clear for my clients to re-set the scales of justice by bringing their own proceedings against West Yorkshire Police in respect of claims for assault and battery, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. I instituted County Court claims on behalf of both Shahid and Hashim.

As is their wont, West Yorkshire Police legal services initially put up a robust defence on behalf of their officers, denying any wrongdoing and seeking to argue that the arrest of both of my clients was lawful.

Fortunately, the brief mobile phone footage that Shahid had been able to film (before his phone was snatched by PC Michaels) was not the only video evidence available; we were able to obtain CCTV footage of the car park from a nearby sports centre, and thus able to conclusively expose other “blue lies” told by the two officers in their statements for the criminal proceedings.

In particular I highlight the following –

  • Both officers alleged that PC Michaels suffered an unprovoked “shove” from Hashim, whom PC Kirby describing as “running” towards her colleague; CCTV footage showed this to be completely untrue. Hashim had walked peaceably around the car, trying to film what was happening to Shahid on his own phone.
  • PC Michaels alleged that Shahid had broken away from him, whilst the officer was trying to carry out a search, and made off across the car park – the CCTV footage showed that in fact (as reported by Shahid) it was PC Michaels who, having taken Shahid’s phone, stalked off across the car park with it, and Shahid who had to follow after the officer (not the other way around).
  • Likewise, the CCTV footage failed to support the officers’ assertions that they had been the victims of violence from my clients – rather it showed PC Michaels using his gas spray apparently without provocation, and PC Kirby repeatedly shoving Hashim (not the other way around).

I am pleased to report that after several months of contested litigation, the Police once again backed down before Trial and agreed to pay both of my clients considerable damages; £25,000 for Shahid and £15,000 for Hashim. West Yorkshire Police had obviously realised the truth, that when you get into Court, there are no longer such things as defensible or justifiable partisan “blue lies” – there are just black and white facts, and the truth will out.

BAME: Rounding Up The Usual Suspects

Back in September 2017, David Lammy MP produced his Government sponsored report on the treatment of black and ethnic minority (BAME) people in the criminal justice system in England and Wales.  He concluded that

“BAME individuals still face bias, including overt discrimination, in parts of the justice system.”

I was thinking about Mr Lammy’s findings when recently bringing to a successful conclusion a claim for my client, Edward and his younger brother Simon, both British Citizens of Black African heritage.

Back in April 2016, Edward and his brother were arrested for attempted murder.  The night before, a man had been shot outside a local pub.  A witness saw the offender fire a gun from a specific vehicle carrying two men.  The vehicle was subsequently identified as being used by a Mr Thomas.

By the following evening, Avon and Somerset Police established that Mr Thomas was at a particular location in Bristol.  Firearms Officers attended and were given direction by the Senior Investigating Officer from the remote ‘Operations Room’.

Officers forced entry and the occupants of the premises were “called out” to find Mr Thomas.  Mr Thomas was soon identified and arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

Mr Thomas’ arrest had been planned by the Senior Investigating Officer and detailed in a considered arrest strategy.  No other males were identified within this strategy.

Following Mr Thomas’ arrest, Officers entered the address to search for the firearm used and any other evidence.

The house was connected to another (via an internal door) in which my client and his brother lived. They were at home at this time.  Drawn to the commotion, my client considered that the actions of the Officers in seeking to search both premises was unlawful in the absence of a warrant and made representations to that effect to the Officers. In fact, unbeknownst to Edward the Officers could rely upon Sections  18 and 32 of PACE having just arrested Mr Thomas.

It was at this time that the Firearms Tactical Advisor in the Operations Room directed the Officers on site to arrest “any other males of a similar age group” to the prime suspect, Mr Thomas. It was on this basis that Edward and Simon were also arrested.

Both brothers were transported to custody where the Custody Sergeant recorded and authorised detention on the basis that both Edward and Simon fitted the “descriptions of the offenders”.

A second  Senior Investigating Officer had only just come on duty (and in fairness stepped in to cover “at short notice and with the minimal of briefing”) and within minutes of his arrival in the Operations Room, “the room exploded into a frenzy of activity” with the forced entry and arrest of Mr Thomas and confusion as regards the layout of the premises.

Against this background the Firearms Tactical Advisor directed the arrest of Edward and Simon. But on what basis?  The Firearms Tactical Advisor’s job is to act as a communications link between the Operations Room and the Operational Firearms Commander at the scene relaying information and command decisions.  He is not in a position of command and the Firearms Tactical Advisor  was quick to lay responsibility  for the decision to arrest the brothers on the Senior Investigating Officer.  The Senior Investigating Officer in turn could not recall giving any such command and neither officer made any record of the grounds and reasons for the decision to arrest.

For an arrest to be lawful, it must be founded on reasonable grounds. This necessitates consideration of whether, objectively, it was reasonable to suspect the individual of the offence for which he was arrested.

In the Court of Appeal decision of Buckley and Others v The Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police it was stated that:

“Suspicion is a state of mind well short of belief. The threshold for establishing reasonable grounds for suspicion is a low one. It is an inherent possibility in the need for diligent investigations of serious offences than an innocent person may be arrested on reasonable grounds. Importantly, the correct approach to judgment upon the lawfulness of arrest is not to separate out each of the elements of the constable’s state of mind and ask individually of them whether that creates reasonable grounds for suspicion; it is to look at them cumulatively, as of course the arresting officer has to at the time.”

It is clear that the test for reasonable suspicion represents a low threshold for an arresting officer to meet. What is required to reasonably suspect a person of an offence falls far short of what would be required to charge them and thereafter to ultimately convict them of the same offence. The relevant information is that which was available to the arresting officer prior to the arrest, not any information that might have been gained afterwards, for example, during interview.

Notwithstanding this low threshold, it was clear that no Officer could argue that he had a reasonable suspicion to suspect Edward and Simon of being involved in the shooting.

This failure didn’t, of course, stop the Senior Investigating Officer in a subsequent review try to retrospectively justify arrest on the basis that Edward and Simon had been found in the company of Mr Thomas (albeit 16 hours after the shooting had occurred!).

It was therefore evident at an early stage that the arrest of Edward and Simon was unlawful, the arresting Officer not having reasonable suspicion to arrest.

Both brothers were kept in custody for 28 hours.

After 16 or so hours, both men were interviewed.  Both denied any knowledge or involvement. As their time in custody approached 24 hours, the Investigating Officers decided that they needed more time and so sought an extension.  The brothers criminal defence solicitor, Peter Denton, argued that they should be released immediately.  He argued quite rightly that there was “not a shred of evidence ……  that could credibly raise a reasonable suspicion that they were involved in the offence”.  Notwithstanding Mr Denton’s robust replies, the custody  limit was extended by a Superintendent given the “multiple lines of enquiry”that were ongoing and given that this was a “serious and complex case”, it was “reasonable and necessary for the investigation to be extended.”

Eventually the brothers were released on Police bail which was extended for nearly 9 months until they were eventually advised that no further action would be taken.

Shortly after this notification, Edward happened to be watching a TV programme in which I was interviewed. He made contact with me the next day.

Avon and Somerset Police soon enough offered £5,500 each to Edward and Simon in settlement. Some clients (and dare I say lawyers) are in this game for a quick deal. I advised my clients to reject these offers and fight on to recover a more just award of compensation. I’m pleased to confirm that after the institution of Court proceedings and extensive negotiations, both claims settled for £24,000 and £19,000 respectively plus legal fees.

Both of my clients strongly felt that if they were white, they would not have been arrested.  Reflecting upon Mr Lammy’s findings (of institutional racism within the criminal justice system)  and my own experience  of having represented many  young black people who have been unlawfully arrested (read more here and here),  I do believe that the perception of black people, and black men especially, as being more prone to criminality is rife amongst Police Officers and that this prejudice informed the decision to arrest my clients Edward and Simon.

Festival Season and the dangers of ‘Wild West’ Policing

I have often used this blog to highlight occasions when Police officers, for a variety of reasons, overstep their powers. However, the imminent approach of this Summer’s Festival Season puts me in mind of risks posed by aggressive or improperly trained security industry personnel/ bouncers overstepping their own powers (such as they are) and acting like a quasi- Police force within the territory of the Festival, behaving in fact like a ‘Wild West’ posse making up the law to suit themselves.

Unfortunately, experience tells me that when members of the official Police Force encounter disputes between members of the public and security staff, they tend for reasons of bias or convenience, to side with the security agents  and penalise the (often innocent) victim of their heavy- handed treatment, leaving such victims to have to come to solicitors such as myself to seek redress via the civil justice system.

One such gentleman was my client Jack Cooper (whose name has been changed for the purposes of this blog), who had an unfortunate run in with security personnel at the Isle of Wight Cowes Festival in August 2016.

Mr Cooper, a successful business man based on the South Coast, was visiting the Cowes Regatta with his friend Andrew. After spending a few hours in the festival site, enjoying the events and with nothing untoward occurring, Jack and Andrew made their way towards the exit. En route Jack was ‘caught short’ and needed the toilet; unfortunately the portaloos were all occupied, so Jack urinated behind them (into the waters of the quay), out of sight of members of the public.

He was however spotted by a private security guard who approached and instructed him to leave the site immediately; Jack confirmed that he would do so – and that, indeed, it was already his intention to leave.

Jack tried to continue towards the exit gate, where his friend Andrew was now waiting for him. Spotting Andrew sitting at a table near the gate, Jack attempted to walk towards him (so they could leave together) whereupon he was without any warning physically assaulted by the security guard. The security guard grabbed hold of Jack’s arm and attempted to force it behind Jack’s back (as if he were a Police Officer effecting the arrest of a violent criminal). In shock, Jack tried to pull away from the security guard, but then not wishing to escalate the situation let the man re-take hold of his arm. Jack explained that all he wanted to do was get his friend, and then it was absolutely his intention to leave the festival site.

Despite Jack’s reasonable behaviour, he was then set upon by approximately six of the security guard’s colleagues, who forced both of Jack’s arms behind his back and pushed him face down onto the ground. Jack could not believe what was happening to him.

Jack was then pulled to his feet by the security guards and marched, with his head bent down, through the gates and outside the festival grounds. Once outside the gates, however, the security personnel did not let Jack go but instead forced him face-down to the ground for a second time, and now applied handcuffs to tie his hands together, which was a painful and humiliating experience for my client. Jack felt significant pain building up in his left wrist and appealed to the security guards to loosen the cuffs, but to no avail. He was being held down on the concrete surface of the ground, close to the quay wall.

Despite offering no physical resistance or threat to the guards, Jack was held down and restrained in this position for about five minutes, during which the pain in his wrist increased and the security guards continued to ignore his request to loosen the cuffs. All of this was taking place in full view of numerous members of the public.

Police officers then arrived, whereupon Jack’s handcuffs were removed, though not before he had lost feeling in his left hand.

Jack was then issued with a Dispersal Notice by the Police officers, under Section 34 of the Antisocial, Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, requiring him to leave the area and not return for a period of six hours, something which he had fully intended to do before being set upon by the gang of security guards.

The Dispersal Notice was not issued because of anything the Police themselves had witnessed, but evidently on the basis of whatever they were told by the security staff.

Jack then proceeded back to the marina, where his own boat was docked, but owing to the injury to his hand he was unable to operate the vessel, which had to be sailed back home by Andrew.

Very shortly after these events, Jack instructed me to pursue a claim for compensation against the security personnel, who were all employed by a firm called Blueline Security, purportedly “specialists in event management and security services.”

After considering Jack’s account of these events I quickly identified that he had strong claims against the Security Company for assault and battery and also false imprisonment.

Security guards employed by private companies may often behave as if they are the Police Force of a Wild West town, but the reality is that they are not warranted constables and have no greater powers than you or I do to effect a ‘citizen’s arrest’ or to deploy force in the prevention of crime. Notwithstanding Jack having ‘a wee’ behind the toilets, nothing he did could have justified the overwhelming force used against him, and/or the decision to detain (and in particular handcuff him) when he was already voluntarily making his way from the site of the Regatta.

Indeed, it was subsequently established that the totally excessive application of handcuffs to Jack’s wrists had caused nerve damage, which continued to plague him for months afterwards with numbness/ pins and needles in his left hand and which necessitated hospital investigations.

I wrote a letter of claim on Jack’s behalf, which Blueline Security disputed, hiding behind the fact that the Police had issued Jack with a Dispersal Notice (although of course this had only occurred as a result of the one-sided story told to them by the security staff, and the issuing of a Dispersal Notice is not tantamount to a criminal conviction or even a caution). Blueline argued that our client had been aggressive and that their use of force upon him, including handcuffs, was legitimate “self-defence”. It was quite clear however, that the only person who had been injured in this incident was my client and I knew he would come across as a strong and honest witness, and so had no hesitation in acting upon his instructions to pursue this matter to Court.

In response to County Court proceedings, Blueline Security initially filled a Defence repeating their complete denial of liability for either assault or false imprisonment. Amongst the outrageous allegations put forwards in the Defence was a suggestion (made for the first time) that Jack had had to be restrained to prevent him attempting to injure members of the public! One would wonder why, if Jack had been behaving in the extremely violent and anti-social manner that Blueline were suggesting, the Police would have been content to simply let him walk away once they had taken his handcuffs off…

I strongly believed in the truth of my client’s account, and was able to judge this in the context of my long experience of pursuing claims against private security companies; the truth is that they often harbour individuals who behave as if they are Police officers, but without having any of the training or self-discipline of (the majority of) law-enforcement professionals.

Long before Jack’s case was listed for Trial, and notwithstanding the Defence filed, Blueline Security duly agreed to settle Jack’s claim in the sum of £9,000 damages, plus legal costs.

Enjoy this Summer’s festival season – from the cow-fields of Glastonbury to the sailboats of Cowes – but beware the dangers of security guards behaving like an undisciplined private Police Force.