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Compensation for Police “inappropriate contact”

Another day, another report of a police officer dismissed for inappropriate contact with a vulnerable victim of crime (see here).

The unnamed PCSO of Warwickshire Police used social media to make contact with a female burglary victim after visiting her house in his professional capacity to offer crime prevention tips. The woman reported the officer’s behaviour and the Force’s Professional Standards Department commenced an investigation. Misconduct proceedings were subsequently brought against the officer, which concluded at a hearing on the 5th of May. There, it was found that the officer’s behaviour amounted to gross misconduct and that had he not quit in advance, he would have been sacked.

Media reports of this case coincided with a settlement that I have just agreed with Thames Valley police for another young woman. The background facts are remarkably similar; a police officer making inappropriate contact with a vulnerable female victim of crime.

In November 2017, my client Gemma Hawkins (name changed) attended her local police station to report details of the emotional and physical abuse which she had suffered at the hands of her ex partner.

PC Green attended upon her. Gemma explained what had happened and PC Green took a brief account. Gemma was with PC Green for about 30 minutes and assumed that the Police would now take action.

Following the meeting, PC Green proceeded to text Gemma, first from his work mobile phone and then from his personal mobile phone. Although the texts initially centred on Gemma‘s crime report, PC Green soon became suggestive and flirty with messages such as “Which is your favourite room at home?“, “It’s freezing. I can’t get warm, any ideas?” and “Only place I’m warm is in bed”. Over the following weeks, the messages became increasingly frequent, often daily, and were sent at all times of day when PC Green was both on and off duty.

Gemma was very disturbed by these messages and found them highly inappropriate, but at the same time she was nervous as PC Green was in a position of authority and she didn’t want to do anything to affect the investigation. In the circumstances, she played along, responding to his texts but rarely instigating any conversation herself (other than complaining about the lack of action against her ex partner). Those issues were conveniently ignored by PC Green who, without Gemma’s knowledge had in fact “filed” her report as a “non-recordable incident” and had taken no further action.

 

However, he continued to use the now ‘phantom’ investigation of Gemma’s ex- partner as an excuse to continue to make exploitative contact with her by phone/ text message.

After a few months, Gemma became very frustrated that nothing was happening as regards her ex partner and reported her concerns to a more senior officer. She expressed hope that this time her complaint would be taken more seriously and not as an opportunity to “chat me up“.

An investigation commenced. It was clear that PC Green had abused his position as a Police officer in an effort to pursue an improper emotional/sexual relationship with Gemma, something all the more reprehensible given that she had come to him as the victim of an abusive and exploitative boyfriend. PC Green was interviewed, during which he accepted that he was fully aware of Force guidance defining such behaviour as a serious form of corruption which would not be tolerated, and that he had “overstepped boundaries” in his efforts to form a relationship with my client.

Misconduct proceedings were brought against PC Green. At a misconduct hearing in July 2018, he was found to have failed to have treated my client, a vulnerable victim of domestic abuse, with respect and courtesy by sending messages of a personal nature and had failed to respond with advice to concerns of her domestic situation. As is often the case, Green himself had resigned before the hearing, but the Force made it crystal clear that he would have been dismissed for gross misconduct had he still been a serving Officer.

I intimated a claim on Gemma’s behalf against Thames Valley police, who were vicariously liable for their Officer’s actions/ exploitation of his Police role. TVP suggested that a claim was not made out because there was no evidence of ‘damage’, either injury or loss. Their argument was that although the text messages may have suggested or hinted that PC Green wanted to start a relationship with Gemma, they were not “overtly invasive or sexual” and in fact “might seem innocuous to an outsider“. It was very disappointing to be met with this response, which seemed designed to diminish and demean Gemma and everything she had gone through. On the one hand, the Force had taken appropriate disciplinary action against PC Green, but now with the other they were denying Gemma’s claim and almost endorsing Green’s outrageous conduct as ‘no big deal’, displaying an old school ‘well boys will be boys…’ mentality.

In response, I commissioned expert medical evidence which confirmed that PC Green’s contact had caused a material deterioration in Gemma‘s already vulnerable mental state, resulting in an anxiety and depressive disorder.

Following negotiation, Thames Valley police have agreed to pay Gemma £22,500 in compensation plus legal costs. I am sure you will agree that this is far from an “innocuous” amount of damages, and it reflects the true seriousness of this type of Police misconduct and the real harm it can cause.

No Trigger Warning: Another Case of Police Taser Misuse

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

Another day, and so another shocking video of excessive force from a Police Officer, this time of Greater Manchester Police.

Mobile phone footage filmed by a bystander (watch it below) captured the moment when a black man was shot from close-range by a taser- wielding GMP Officer with no warning, no notice, no justification.


Mr Desmond Mombeyarara had been stopped by Police apparently on suspicion of driving offences, and was talking to the Officers, having just put down his young son – who distressingly witnessed what then unfolded – when one of them shot him with a taser ‘stun gun’.

The taser caused Mr Mombeyarara to collapse to the ground, where he lay helpless as his son cried out “Daddy, Daddy” and the Officer leant over him and discharged the taser again, causing Mr Mombeyarara to convulse upon the ground, whilst shouting instructions to Mr Mombeyarara to put his hands behind his back.

From the video evidence this appears to have been a fairly straight forward interaction between the Police and Mr Mombeyarara in the minutes beforehand, who can be heard saying (not shouting) that he is “Not causing a problem” just seconds before he is shot.

Image of police officer holding a taserThis is exactly the type of scenario which I and other lawyers spoke up against and warned about, when Police Forces nationwide started to push for greater “roll out” of taser guns to all “front line” officers. Training and vetting of Officers must be tightened and increased as their ‘firepower’ is increased, in my opinion, or you run the risk of this kind of incident occurring – where an Officer will just casually produce a taser and shoot a person they are interacting with, as if it is no big deal (which perhaps from the Officer’s point of view it isn’t).

In most situations, a taser gun should be seen as a weapon of last resort, not a device simply to be used to short- circuit a proper discussion with a suspect. College of Policing guidance to Officers requires them to consider 3 “core questions”-

1. If force is justified, how immediate and grave is the threat posed ?

2. Are there any means, short of the use of force, capable of achieving the officer’s lawful objective ?

3. Having regard to the nature and gravity of the threat, and the potential for adverse consequences to arise from the use of force – including the risk of escalation and the exposure of others to harm – what is the minimum level of force required to attain the objective identified and would use of that level of force be proportionate or excessive ?

I would challenge anyone making an objective assessment of this video to conclude that the Officers involved came anywhere near passing the test for reasonable use of force posed by those core questions. This is hammered home by the Ten Key Principles Governing the Use of Force by the Police Service, which include the following injunction as Principle 3 –

“Police officers shall, as far as possible, apply non- violent methods before resorting to any use of force. They should use force only when other methods have proved ineffective, or when it is honestly and reasonably judged that there is no realistic prospect of achieving the lawful objective identified without force.”

Could either of the Officers involved in this incident honestly argue that they had no alternative other than to taser Mr Mombeyarara at that moment? They appear to have acted with total disregard for the strictures set down by the College of Policing; we can certainly challenge how effective was their training in these guidelines and models of behaviour, if all of that training, as it apparently did, went out of the window simply because one of the Officers had a taser within easy reach.

Image of UK policeIn my opinion, the increasing number of incidents like this being caught on camera is a warning as to quite how many Officers are going straight to a device to which electrocutes and paralyses a person, causing them to fall helplessly – but far from harmlessly – to the floor – as soon as they have any sort of disagreement or dispute with that person. This is a state of affairs which demonstrates laziness from the officers involved and/or a lack of awareness of the extent of the risk this weapon poses to a person’s health (life and limb?); not least to add, in this particular case, the mental scar the Officer may so casually have inflicted on the young child who witnessed his father being, quite frankly, ‘gunned down’ in front of him.

We honestly have to ask what was going through this officer’s mind, and do we want to have a society in which a few moments of ‘talking back’ to an officer justifies him incapacitating you through electrocution?

Let us keep front and centre in our consideration of these issues, the fact that the producers of the Taser weapon themselves (the American corporation Axon) market it as a ‘less lethal’ not non- lethal weapon. The possibility of serious injury or death exists on each and every occasion when the weapon is deployed.

It is also both disturbing and unsurprising that the victim in this case was once again a black male. It is well documented how our predominantly ethnically white police force will use their taser weapons disproportionatly against people of black and ethnic minority backgrounds/ appearance. A recent report in the Guardian newspaper highlighted how use of tasers increased by 39% last year as more and more Officers were armed by them, and Home Office figures revealed that black people in England and Wales were almost 8 times more likely to have tasers used against them than white people. It would seem that the increasing prevalence of this weapon is exacerbating long- existing problems of confirmation bias and ingrained racism in the attitudes of our Police towards black and ethnic minority members of society. That is yet another reason to take a long look at whether their increased ‘roll out’ should be allowed to continue.

Cold, hard statistics like that, as well as the vivid evidence of individual incidents such as this video, demonstrate that some Police officers simply can’t be trusted with these weapons.

We can only hope that the Independent Office of Police Conduct will now do their duty and thoroughly and impartially investigate this incident and sanction the Officers involved – as it seems that many officers are going to have to be snapped out of the dangerous complacency into which they have fallen in terms of their relationship with the taser gun, by a suitable shock to the system.

There is of course an appropriate place for these weapons in the Police officer’s arsenal. The use of a taser to render helpless a knife wielding terrorist on the London underground is an incident we all recall, and the Officers involved in that incident were rightly praised for their bravery. But what these officers of GMP did was not brave; in fact it was totally unnecessary. Officers need these weapons to handle terrorists and other dangerous criminals; they must not become a kind of go to ‘tagging device’ used in any interaction the officer feels like, any low- level dispute, any minor aggravation. Officers should not use this device to bypass their brains, or their duty to always use reason and empathy to attempt to de-escalate and resolve a situation. To do otherwise is an abuse of power, and any Officer who does that is far from being a hero.

I noted that a lot of the media outlets carrying this video included a ‘trigger warning’ captioned before the video started to play… well, that is far more warning than Mr Mombeyarara got.

Speaking Truth to Power

In the aftermath of a recent video showing a Lancashire Police officer – blissfully ignorant of the fact he was being filmed by a bystander –  threaten to “make something up” to justify a man’s arrest, I wrote a blog commenting on issues of surveillance in society and the increasing importance of mobile phone footage in legal cases.

One of the points I made was that, rather than being fearful of ‘Big Brother’ looking over our shoulder, we should be grateful for all the ‘little brothers and sisters’ out there who, thanks to the now ubiquitous technology of smartphones (placing the equivalent of a small film studio in each person’s pocket!), have captured and shared videos exposing Police misconduct, violence and corruption.

I highlighted several of my own client’s claims in which such video evidence played a crucial part in achieving victory, severely embarrassing the defence put forwards by the Police, contradicting false evidence and, in effect, stripping the Officers involved of the ‘power of the uniform’ behind which they often hide – lazily assuming that what they say goes and that they will always be believed in opposition to ‘Joe Public’.

But the sharing of videos of Police misconduct is important in a much wider sense than just their direct utility in an individual case; the more people who get to see these videos, the more levelling of the age-old imbalance of power between agents of the state and private citizens will occur. Many people, thankfully, have never been on the end of violence from or unlawful use of arrest powers by Police Officers, but much more so now than twenty or thirty years ago those people can have their eyes opened to some of the abuses of Police power which sadly do occur. Rather than just seeing ‘the uniform’ people can learn from videos circulated on publication platforms such as ‘You Tube’ to avoid assumptions that an Officer is likely to be telling the truth just because of his occupation. Sad though they are to watch, they are a salutary and healthy reminder to wider society to treat every case of alleged Police misconduct on its merits and not default to always believing the Officers, as was commonplace in generations gone by.

Videos like the recent one from Lancashire, are clear evidence for all to see of the blatant lies that can be told by Officers attempting to justify an unlawful arrest, or cover up their own wrongdoing, and it is no wonder that one of the first things Officers will do on entering into a confrontation with a person is to attempt to snatch their phone away!

The more people who see videos like this, the more society as a whole gains a realistic impression of the wide variance in integrity and calibre of character between Police officers, and learns to see the three dimensional people behind the one dimensional uniform, and the temptations to abuse which institutional power brings with it. People also become more informed as to their own rights and what they should do if they do end up in an adverse situation with the Police, through no fault of their own. The prevalence and wide circulation of such videos helps to tame Police power and restrain abuses (not least because Officers will be conscious that they might easily end up on ‘candid camera’) and also encourages those who have been wronged to take action in the form of a complaint or civil claim – recognising that they are not alone, that they are more likely to be believed than they may have feared, and showing that justice can be done.

In this respect I would like to give a hearty ‘shout out’ to the best site addressing Police misconduct issues in the UK – the ‘Biggest of the Little Brothers’ in my opinion – Rob Warner’s excellent “Crimebodge” blog and You Tube channel.

Crimebodge’s excellently curated channel presents genuine and compelling videos of Police misconduct, as well as educating people who have been the victims of such misdemeanours as to what they can do about it. Each one of those videos published by Crimebodge is a step towards righting the wrong seen within it, and taken together they make the site a very powerful force for calling the Police to account, highlighting abuse of power and thereby restraining future abuses.

In my opinion, the functioning of the civil justice system in regards access to justice in claims against the Police and other State/ Government bodies and agents,  depends just as much on reputable ‘video blogs’ such as Crimebodge as it does on the claims pursued by specialist solicitors such as myself. Whilst lawyers such as myself fight often long- fought, though very worthwhile battles on behalf of individual clients, Crimebodge, through the creation of such a wide audience for the videos which he publishes (each averaging hundreds of thousands of views), plays a crucial role in ensuring that my clients will be given a fair hearing by judges and juries throughout the land, because people able to access this material have greater knowledge about what really goes on the front lines of the ‘Thin Blue line’ and thereby gain a more healthily and fair mindedly sceptical approach to the evidence than prevailed in the ‘bad old days’ of paternalistic Police corruption.

Police Officer Assaults Teenage Boy

Many of you may have seen the video widely circulated in the media recently, showing a vicious assault upon a 15 year boy by a West Midlands Police Officer. For those who haven’t, you can see it here.

Although I am unable to reveal the identity of the victim, I can confirm that I have received instructions to act on his behalf from his mother for what appears to be a totally unjustified and heinous act of violence against the boy.

The Officer can clearly be seen in the video knocking my client to the floor by striking him in the face, and then, when he was lying helpless on the floor, kicking him hard in the back (with a kick which could, quite frankly, have ended up connecting with the boy’s head).

That kick is quite sickening and seems to me to be something akin to what you would expect a thug in a street-fight to do to his opponent, not a Police Officer to do to a child, no matter what provocation the Officer may claim to have suffered. Clearly a ‘red mist’ had descended upon the Officer, and his kick was intended to cause pain, not to effect any legitimate control or detention of the boy.

What is actually more disturbing to me however, than the level of violence used by the Officer – no matter how inappropriate and unnecessary it was – are the Officer’s subsequent actions. He escorted my client home and informed my client’s mother that my client had in fact assaulted him (the Officer) by punching the Officer in the face, but that the Officer was (in effect) going to ‘let him off’ because there was ‘no room’ at any local Police Station during the current Covid-19 crisis to facilitate the boy’s arrest and detention. Only after the Officer had left was my client, a traumatised 15 year old boy, able to reveal to his mother what had really happened i.e that he had been punched in the head by the Officer and then kicked as he lay on the ground.

That is the truly shocking event – the lies told by the Officer, who obviously expected that the honourable uniform that he wears would cover up his crime, a crime he compounded in the most hypocritical and dishonest way by attempting to turn it back upon its true victim i.e by accusing my client of assaulting him.

Doubtless the Officer expected to get away with this, for who would believe the account of a teenage boy in such circumstances against that of a Police Officer with all the weight of his profession and support of his Force behind him ?

My client’s mother recalls that when the Officer was relaying his false version of events to her at the front door of her home, he had activated his body camera, doubtless to get an ‘early record’ of his version of events. This camera is also believed to have caught my client’s mother swearing at the Officer when she saw how upset her son was.

My understanding is that the Officer was not operating his body camera during the time when he laid hands on my client. It is very disappointing and frustrating that Police policy appears to regard the activation of cameras as entirely discretionary to each Officer in each individual circumstance. Body cameras seem to be tools which the Police can use for their own purposes when it suits them, but which are not to be obligatorily activated when an Officer starts interacting with a member of the public suspected of a crime. This type of situation should, in my opinion, come with mandatory instructions upon Officers to use their expensive electronic equipment to properly record and document everything that unfolds – for everyone’s safety and in the interests of justice to all, not just that of the Officer who chooses to turn the camera on or off at his own discretion –  ‘editing’ out of the real world a version of events to suit himself.

Fortunately, and unbeknownst to the Officer, another camera positioned on a private house nearby was ‘looking over his shoulder’ – and so we all get to witness the truth, which, we can be absolutely sure, the Officer would never have told, had his crime not been so irrefutably exposed.

I am now actively involved in the misconduct investigation and in due course will be bringing a claim against West Midlands Police for substantial damages.

Mobile Phones: Our Shields Against Police Corruption?

In the midst of the current global pandemic, there are those who think governments across the world may use the crisis as an excuse to drastically – and permanently – increase surveillance of their citizens under the guise of ‘health monitoring’. This might be through the use of drones, facial recognition software, or mandatory ‘tracking apps’ installed on people’s phones. Invoking memories of the increase in State surveillance, and State intrusion into individual’s privacy in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001,Ron Deibert of the University of Toronto, one of the world’s leading experts on mobile phone surveillance, described in an interview with the Guardian (14/4/20) how increased surveillance procedures introduced in response to the present crisis could turn out to be “9/11 on steroids”.

This is the classic fear epitomised by George Orwell with the slogan “Big Brother is Watching You” in his novel of a dystopian future, 1984.

I have to say though, that my practical experience in fighting for clients who have been the victims of injustice at the hands of Police officers is that more prevalent video surveillance in society is our friend, not our foe, especially when you consider that a lot of that video surveillance power – the majority of it in fact – is not in the hands of the state, but the citizen – i.e all of us, with our mobile phones.

Here are just a few examples of clients I have represented, whose cases were immeasurably strengthened by the existence of mobile phone or other video footage –

  • ‘Mohammed’ whose mobile phone recording of his conversation with a West Yorkshire Police officer proved that the officer’s statement that he had informed Mohammed that he was being detained for a Drugs search was untrue; rather the Officer, saying nothing about a drugs search, had instead badgered Mohammed for his name and address whilst alleging Mohammed was “committing anti- social behaviour” – the nature of any such behaviour being completely unspecified (Mohammed was sitting quietly in a car at the time). In the same case, I also had the benefit of footage from CCTV cameras from a nearby building which demonstrated that the Officer’s assertions that Mohammed’s companion had run at him and pushed him, and that Mohammed had then ‘broken away from him’ whilst the Officer was trying to search/ detain him were also untrue. In fact, it was clear from the CCTV footage that it was the Officer who had walked away from Mohammed, after ‘confiscating’ his mobile phone ! Subsequent criminal proceedings against Mohammed for allegedly assaulting the Officer were dropped once Mohammed’s mobile phone footage was produced, and likewise his civil claim for compensation was settled before reaching Trial. I strongly feel that West Yorkshire Police would have fought both sets of proceedings ‘tooth and nail’ to Trial were it not for the existence of the video evidence giving the lie to their Officer’s account.
  • ‘Mark’ whose mobile phone footage of his interaction with a British Transport Police officer in a London railway station demonstrated incontrovertibly that the Officer had detained Mark against his will without, on the Officer’s own admission, having the necessary grounds to arrest him, or any other legitimate power to detain him temporarily (e.g for a search).
  • ‘John’ who was subjected to physical violence at the hands of two Merseyside Police officers who claimed he tried to escape from a drugs search – in fact his phone footage demonstrates that after answering the Officer’s questions he was allowed to go his way, and the Officers only laid hands on him after they heard him calling one of them an ‘idiot’ (a fairly tame remark I’m sure you’ll agree). The Officers also subsequently alleged that John had been swearing and shouting, but this was also disproved by the mobile phone footage.
  • ‘Linda’ whose claim against Lincolnshire Police I have recently settled for close to £10,000 and who was the victim of Police brutality when an Officer, objecting to the fact that she had been filming his arrest of her partner on her phone (for a minor traffic violation) came after her as she walked away making a telephone call to her partner’s mother, grabbed her from behind, seized her phone and wrestled it out of her grasp, causing her to be knocked against a car in the process (all of this witnessed by Linda’s 12 year old  daughter). The Officer had absolutely no basis to take Linda’s phone, but his actions in doing so are far from uncommon in my experience – Officers dislike being filmed and not having control of the footage, despite the fact they are almost all now equipped with Body Cameras themselves and have no power to require members of the public to stop filming them. It is very common for Officers to claim they are confiscating phones as “evidence” when they have no power to do so.

My long experience of cases such as these meant that I was, like many of us I’m sure, saddened but not shocked to see the video footage which has been widely circulated in the media over the last 24 hours of a Lancashire Police officer apparently threatening to “make something up” to justify an Accrington man’s arrest (read the news report with video here). The Officer can clearly be heard to say, when the young man protests that he’s done nothing wrong, “I’ll make something up, Public Order? squaring up to a Police Officer? – shall I do that, who are they going to believe, me or you?” The Officer then repeats those last words in a furious shout “WHO ARE THEY GOING TO BELIEVE, ME OR YOU?”

Fortunately, the answer to the Officer’s question is provided, loud and clear, by the circulation of this video.

As I noted above, almost all Officers on patrol are now equipped with their own Body Worn Cameras – but the Officer decides when he wants to record using the camera, and when he doesn’t.

I say that it is quite right and proper that the great power of the Police – so dangerous when abused – is held to account when appropriate by the testimony of the type of video evidence that we all now have ‘in our pockets’. This is especially the case when you think of all those years gone by, before the advent of the ‘smartphone’, when the Police Officers in the four cases I have described above, and also in the Accrington incident, would have stood a good chance of getting away ‘scot- free’ with the lies they told and/or their unlawful acts. Society is more healthy where the rights of the  ‘the man on the street’ are reinforced by this type of evidence; reminding people that you shouldn’t always take Police Officers at their word, sad though it is to say it. The rights of citizens and the power of the Police are thereby more balanced and fair.

In conclusion therefore; I’m not so worried about ‘Big Brother’ looking over our shoulder. Rather I’m happy that the Police know that all the ‘little brothers and sisters’ out there are, potentially, watching them!

 

Setting the Record Straight : How To Get Wrongful PNC Records Deleted

I have previously blogged about my client Julie who was arrested on suspicion of child neglect. She had been arrested at her children’s school, taken to a local Police Station, held in a cell for a couple of hours and then released with no further action to be taken.

When Julie first contacted me nearly 4 years later, her stated aim was for the deletion of her personal details from the Police National Computer.

The arrest had been her one and only lifetime interaction with the Police and had been traumatic in itself, but what continued to “torment” her was the existence of an entry on the PNC that would impact her negatively for the rest of her life, and in particular destroy any chance of resuming her former career as a Carer.

Julie established that the information held on the PNC included her full name, date of birth, ethnicity, place of birth, nationality, personal description (including eye colour, hair colour and style, dominant hand and whether she was visually impaired), address as at the time of arrest, occupation as at date of arrest and shockingly brief (and out-of-context) details of the arrest circumstances, specifically: “Assault/ill-treat/neglect/abandon a Child/young person to cause unnecessary suffering/injury“, as well as her photograph. Such a vague and generic summary of the alleged reason for Julie’s arrest, clearly left the door wide open for anyone reading it to assume the worst about her.

Julie was “horrified to discover that the wrongful arrest details and a mugshot … still existed, in spite of not having been charged with anything” and that this information/ misinformation could “be viewed by Police all over the country”.

She established following online research that it is possible to have personal data deleted from the PNC, but only if you are able to evidence good grounds for deletion.

Julie then applied direct to ACRO for the deletion of the PNC entry.

Julie’s stated grounds for deletion included the following;

  • No Crime; I am not guilty of neglect. My son walked out on me. He told me to “fuck off “. He walked out and was gone overnight. He was 6 foot at the time. I was arrested the next day when I took my younger child to school.
  • False allegation; I am not a neglectful parent. My son later admitted to police that he had lied. He admitted causing criminal damage to our home. He also admitted to having made unprovoked physical attacks on myself.
  • Unlawful arrest; I believe that the arrest was not lawful because no crime was committed.
  • Unlawfully taken; because no crime was committed, my photograph and or any other data should be removed/deleted/destroyed.
  • Incorrect disposal; I was told that no further action will be taken. I should not of been arrested in the first place.

Julie went on to describe the impact of her data still being on the PNC:

  • that she had suffered with anxiety/depression
  • that she could not apply for jobs and
  • had no future in her previous field of work as a Carer which required a fully enhanced DBS check.

In truth, ACRO is just a conduit, a postman if you like, and the body that reviews such applications is the Force who put the data on the PNC in the first place, ie the arresting force for they are the “data controllers” of the information.

A month later, ACRO advised that the Records Management Unit of the arresting force had considered the application. With a view to ensuring Julie’s privacy, I will not identify the Force, and so will simply replace the name of the force with “X” in the following transcription. This is what they said;

We “note that early deletion is requested by virtue of the following ground(s);

Unlawfully taken
Mistaken identity/unlawful arrest
No crime
Malicious/false allegation
Incorrect disposal
Suspect status not clear at the time of arrest
Public interest

X Police review of this matter has now concluded and we must advise that X Police decision is that deletion by virtue of these grounds is REFUSED and the application cannot be upheld.

Rationale:

Each application submitted to X Police is judged by applying a stringent framework of the record deletion process. This means that to apply all, or even one, of the seven grounds quoted, X Police must identify corroborative evidence to support and subsequently approve early deletion.

Upon conclusion of our review X Police find there is insufficient evidence to support deletion based on the grounds, therefore [Julie’s] records will be retained.”

In the circumstances, ACRO confirmed that;

Julie’s record would be retained on the Police National Computer until she was deemed to have reached 100 years of age in accordance with current policy outlined in the guidance “Deletion of records for National Police Systems”;

and

the Force had decided to retain her custody image in accordance with the management of Police Information (MOPI) framework.

As is all too often the case, Julie’s application had been rejected without proper consideration of the facts of the case, her representations or the relevant criteria. Despite suggesting that ‘rationale’ would be provided, in fact, there was no rationale for the decision.

Julie asked me to assist in lodging an appeal.

On review of her case, I was of the opinion that her arrest had been entirely unlawful, and that to begin with, we should focus on a civil action against X Police for damages for false imprisonment and assault/battery; and then in due course we would address the PNC record. I explained that an admission of liability and/or payment of damages in a civil action would greatly strengthen her appeal for Record deletion.

Following the successful conclusion of Julie’s claim, i.e. the Police’s admission of liability for her wrongful arrest, and payment of damages, I wrote to ACRO demonstrating that the previous decision not to delete Julie’s PNC entry was perverse, and that in light of the outcome of the civil proceedings, this decision must be reversed.

I am pleased to confirm that following review, X Police agreed to delete the entry. Here’s what they said;

“We can confirm that a full review has been conducted independently from the initial decisionmaker, and in liaising with the legal services department and data protection office.

Upon completion of this assessment, X police support deletion of records held on the Police National Computer. Therefore this letter constitutes formal confirmation that all records have been deleted from the police national computer system in relation to this offence”.

By instructing me, Julie had successfully achieved her overriding objective, which was deletion of the PNC entry and custody photograph. But there was more, for she also now has the satisfaction of an admission that her arrest was unlawful, and she has recovered financial compensation to reflect her loss of liberty and the trauma and distress of this terrible incident.

Here’s what Julie has to say about her experience;

I am writing this reference regarding the AMAZING work that my solicitor (Lawyer) Mr Iain Gould recently did for me.

Firstly let me explain to you how I came into contact with Iain Gould; I was at the end of my rope due to having suffered in an extreme way due to a very deeply wrongful arrest. I was feeling absolutely tormented and in pieces………..The police had a deeply personal and negative impact upon my very existence and had changed and damaged my life for the worse forever……….

I turned to the internet, I was doing google search after google search desperately seeking actual, genuine, practical help. Eventually I discovered a page on a blog on wordpress which held a particular significance. This blog was written by Iain Gould and it stated that he is a solicitor (lawyer) who specialises in legal action against the police.

Having never in my 44 years had any previous arrests or convictions or anything, not so much as a single parking ticket I’d had absolutely no idea whatsoever and no clue as to WHOM would be able to help me.

The desperate googling that I was doing led me to the wordpress blog that solicitor (Lawyer) Iain Gould runs. I found an online form on his blog which I completed.

In response, I received an initial phone call from Iain Gould himself. I was deeply embarrassed by the information that I had to impart, however I did so and left nothing out. To my extreme joy and delight after considering whether I had a case or not I was then taken on as a client by Solicitor (Lawyer) Iain Gould.

I had never before in my life heard of something called The Police National Computer. Basically I was HORRIFIED to discover that the wrongful arrest details and a mugshot of myself STILL existed, in spite of not having been charged with anything alongside a pack of lies about myself on a computer system that may be viewed by police all over the country. Clearly that would further impact my life negatively for the rest of my life and destroy completely any potential career prospects. Not only was the “information” that they held about me untrue, it was also deeply damaging.

As a solicitor, Iain Gould listens to what you have to say and makes you feel that you ARE being both listened to and taken seriously as a client. He has a very fast ability to be able to extract relevant material to your case and cut through anything that is not relevant. As a client I was kept informed at all times of how the case was progressing and I did my best to try not to bombard my solicitor with emails.

I felt that to take legal action against the police is a terrifying prospect as a client with no legal knowledge myself and it is absolutely imperative to obtain a solicitor (Lawyer) who has got extensive experience and knowledge in this field. This is not an easy task due to the fact that many solicitors would hesitate to take on such a task and my guess would be that even fewer solicitors would be successful.

Police can and do get things very wrong at times and when they do so you would require a very specialist solicitor (Lawyer) to help you.

I am both amazed and delighted to state that my solicitor (Lawyer) Iain Gould was entirely successful in the legal action that he undertook for me against the police. My name has been legally cleared, and I hope that this should be the beginning of a new chapter of life for myself that I hope will actually BE a life full of possibilities as opposed to a mere existence.

If you are seeking a solicitor after having suffered at the hands of the police then I heartily recommend Iain Gould. He gets results and is efficient, professional and is basically pure gold!

Mr Iain Gould, you have my wholehearted gratitude forever.

What is false imprisonment?

House arrest headline in the Sun newspaperLast night’s headlines confirm that the UK’s Coronovirus “lockdown” is to continue and reminded me of the dramatic headlines of 3 weeks ago; the “End of Freedom” according to The Daily Telegraph while the Sun had a picture of a giant padlock on its front page with the headline, “House Arrest”.

Coincidentally, only a few weeks before the lockdown began, in the case of R (on the application of Jalloh) (Respondent) v the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant), the Supreme Court was obliged to consider and decide whether a man held under house arrest could be said to have been imprisoned and therefore able to sue the Government for compensation for false imprisonment.

On the 30th October 2013, the Claimant, a Liberian national named Ibrahima Jalloh, was issued with a document headed “Notice of Restriction” by an immigration officer. The notice stated that he was liable to be detained under the Immigration Act 1971 but that he would not be detained. Instead, restrictions would be imposed upon him, specifically an obligation to report to an immigration officer 3 days a week, to live at a specified address and to observe a night time curfew monitored by an electronic tag. The notice continued; “If you fail to comply with any of these restrictions you will be liable on conviction to a fine…. or imprisonment….”.

End of freedom headline in The Telegraph newspaperThe Claimant was fitted with an electronic tag on 3 February 2014 and the curfew was in place from 3 February 2014 until 14 July 2016, a total of 891 days.

Eventually, the Claimant challenged the lawfulness of the curfew by judicial review and the Court held that the Secretary of State had no power to impose a curfew by way of restriction.

Mr Jalloh then brought a claim for compensation for false imprisonment arguing that he had been confined to his house with no legal basis for long periods of time. The question for the Court then was did the Claimant’s house arrest constitute false imprisonment. Yes, said Mr Justice Lewis at first instance. The Secretary of State appealed. The Court of Appeal now considered the issue. Did the curfew amount to false imprisonment? Yes, said the Court of Appeal. The Secretary of State, apparently with money to burn, lodged a final appeal to the Supreme Court inviting the Court to give guidance as to what “imprisonment” means.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the Secretary of State’s appeal. Lady Hale delivering judgment for the Court, held that the essence of imprisonment is being made to stay in a particular place by another person whether he wants to do so or not. The methods which might be used to ‘imprison’ a person are “many and various. They could be physical barriers, such as locks and bars. They could be physical people, such as guards who would physically prevent the person leaving if he tried to do so. They could also be threats, whether of force or of legal process.”

In Mr Jalloh’s case, the Court was in no doubt that the Secretary of State defined the place where Mr Jalloh was to stay between 11.00pm and 7.00 am every day. There was no suggestion that he could go somewhere else during that time without the Secretary’s permission.

Furthermore, Mr Jalloh’s compliance was “enforced”. He was wearing an electronic tag. If he left his home address, that would be detected and reported. He was warned in the clearest possible terms that should he break the curfew, he would be liable to a fine or imprisonment. In short, Lady Hale found that “the idea that the Claimant was a free agent, able to come and go as he pleased, is completely unreal”.

For those interested, you can read the full Judgment here, or even better, watch it here (note the Supreme Court Judges exercising social distancing at a time when the Covid-19 virus had yet to take over every aspect of our daily lives and work).

I was extremely heartened by this judgment which upholds that principle of protection of an individual’s liberty from State power/oppression which has been central to British Law and society ever since the Magna Carta itself. Such signals from the Supreme Court that the rights and freedoms enshrined in the UK’s “unwritten constitution” are alive and well, will be welcomed by many during the present crisis, when concerns about Police over-reach of powers and encroachment upon our civil liberties are validly held.