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Compensation Claims Against the Police – What’s the Point?

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

On Thursday, I was contacted by a journalist from BBC Hereford & Worcester and asked whether I would comment on the news that the local police force, West Mercia, had paid out £700,000.00 in the past 7 years for compensation claims against the police.

These related primarily to unlawful arrest, assault, and forced searches claims.

The journalist felt that:

  • this was a significant sum of money to pay out;
  • payment of such a sum indicated that there was a real problem with West Mercia Police; and
  • they needed to get their house in order.

As I have represented a number of people who have brought compensation claims against the police in the West Mercia area, I agreed.

You can listen to the interview here:

As you will hear, initially, I was able to remind the listeners that the police enjoy wide powers over the general public. It is incredibly important that we, the public, hold them to account when they exceed those powers either accidentally (by ignorance) or by design (abuse).

When they do transgress it is important that the police:

  • apologise;
  • admit liability;
  • learn from their mistakes; and
  • pay the modest level of compensation that the law provides.

Origins of Compensation Claims Against the Police

Then the interview took a somewhat different course to the discussion I had with the BBC journalist before the interview.

Andrew Easton, the interviewer, asked me why compensation should be paid in unlawful arrest cases; how does a lump sum of compensation help that person?

I was not expecting such a philosophical debate. In essence, he was asking not about compensation claims against the police, or about the amount of compensation paid out by West Mercia Police; instead he was questioning our system of tort law.

This aspect of law dates back to Roman times (another one to add to the Monty Python “What have the Romans ever done for us?” sketch) even though the word “tort” was only referred to in the 1580s in the legal sense. Compensation is paid by one party (the tortfeasor) to the other. The intention is to put the person who has suffered a loss in the position they would have been in if the civil wrong (a tort) had not occurred.

In 2,000 years this is the best solution numerous societies have come up with, despite the drawbacks. We cannot turn the clock back but, when someone has been wrongfully arrested and suffered such an experience, should they instead receive financial compensation?

Why Pay Compensation After an Unlawful Arrest?

For anyone involved in the criminal justice system, it is easy to forget the immediate shock and upset that an unlawful arrest can cause, especially to someone who has no experience of the system and who considers themselves to be a good, law abiding, and upstanding member of the community.

Irrespective of the circumstances of the arrest (in your home, in the street, etc), you are immediately deprived of your liberty and possibly handcuffed, a painful and humiliating experience. You are then escorted to a Police station. Upon arrival, you:

  • are initially detained in a holding room before then being taken into a custody suite, possibly one of the most intimidating places you could wish to enter;
  • are then presented to a Custody Sergeant and the circumstances and reason for your arrest explained;
  • are searched and stripped of your possessions;
  • are quizzed about your general health and welfare;
  • may or may not be entitled to contact someone to advise that you have been arrested;
  • may or may not be told what is going to happen and how long you will be held;
  • are taken to a cell and the door locked. The cell will probably be no more than a 6 foot by 8 foot room with a wooden bench and small toilet. There may or may not be any natural light.

While locked up you are constantly under observation and completely dependent on the police for anything and everything, even toilet paper and the option to flush the toilet should you need.

Depending on how busy the custody suite is and available resources, the detention staff may or may not respond to any requests that you have.

Often, you may find that if you call for assistance over the intercom system (for an update, to consult the codes of practice, for a blanket or for toilet paper), you find that the police cannot respond in a reasonable period of time, or at all.

That is just the beginning.

You may or may not be held for a lengthy period of time (up to 4 whole days), interviewed, be obliged to provide your finger prints, photograph and a DNA sample, and then be bailed to return to the Police station at a later date or charged to appear in Court.

Doesn’t an experience like that deserve compensation?

My interviewer was not convinced; how is receiving an award after making compensation claims against the police going to help, he asked?

Claiming More than Compensation

During the interview, I concentrated on the principle of compensating the victim, a deeply held principle that I believe strongly and which I have maintained throughout my legal career.

My interviewer was right to challenge and on reflection; I consider that the point of paying compensation goes deeper: not only vindicating and compensating victims but (hopefully) deterring similar incidents from happening in the first place, and putting the responsibility for compensation upon the police.

Indeed, primary motives of many of my clients are for the police to learn lessons, to implement better training, and to ensure that such an event does not happen again. Frequently they also tell me that they want an apology, and that if they had received a full and frank apology at the beginning, that they would have let matters lie.

For example, a client I represented several years ago, Audrey White, was assaulted by officers of Greater Manchester Police during an anti-war public demonstration. (You can read the case report here.)

During the course of her case, I established that junior officers had been given inaccurate advice at an earlier debrief as regards the nature and extent of Police powers with regard to removal of “disguises”.

The officers then acted upon that advice in forcibly removing a Gordon Brown face mask that Audrey was wearing for political and theatrical effect causing her injury and upset.

It wasn’t about the money for Mrs. White. She donated her compensation to charity. More importantly for her, as part of the settlement, she received an apology and an assurance that lessons would be learnt.

Compensation Claims Provide Accountability

And what of the just allocation of responsibility?

There is a police complaint system in place but as I have previously blogged here and here, it leaves much to be desired.

As a result, victims are often left with no alternative but to seek redress by pursuing a claim in the civil courts. One such victim was Mr X who I reported on here.

Mr X was assaulted by a Police officer and then prosecuted by the Police for having the temerity to lodge a complaint about the officer shopping on duty.

Despite being found guilty at trial at the Magistrates Court, he was acquitted on appeal when CCTV footage became available that exonerated him. His subsequent complaint to the police was summarily dismissed.

Upon instruction, I sued the police on his behalf and shortly before trial, the Force agreed financial compensation.

During the course of the civil court proceedings, I established that by reason of an entry in his pocket note book, the officer had lied in a subsequent entry in the same note book, in his witness statement and on oath at the Magistrates court.

Following the settlement Mr X submitted a fresh complaint and the officer was interviewed under caution. A police file has now been passed to the CPS to consider criminal charges.

Such accountability for this rogue police officer would not have been possible unless Mr X had brought his compensation claims against the police.

Purpose of Compensation Claims Against the Police

So, what is the point of compensation? Many of my clients tell me that no amount of compensation makes up for the ordeal that they have gone through. They would prefer for the incident to have never happened.

In cases like this we need to remember the benefits that arise not just from the settlement but also the process.

By pursuing compensation claims against the police, my clients get much more than money: they get heard.

For help with your own compensation claims against the police contact me via my firm’s website, using the form below, or on 0151 933 5525.

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Why the New Police Code of Ethics is a Waste of Paper

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

I was interviewed for BBC Breakfast today about the new Police Code of Ethics.

The Code, which you can read on the College of Policing website, serves as a reminder to police officers to fulfil duties that seem basic and obvious.

Described by Chief Constable Alex Marshall as ‘a first for everyone who works in policing in England and Wales’, it applies to all those who work in policing, including volunteers and contractors.

The Police Code of Ethics applies the ‘Nolan’ Principles, which originate from the 1995 report prepared by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, and holds at its core the following principles:

  • Accountability
  • Fairness
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Leadership
  • Objectivity
  • Openness
  • Respect
  • Selflessness

In addition, the Police Code of Ethics incorporates the existing Standards of Professional behaviour which covers the following:

  • Honesty and Integrity
  •  Authority, Respect and Courtesy
  • Equality and Diversity
  • Use of Force
  • Orders and Instructions
  • Duties and Responsibilities
  • Confidentiality
  • Fitness for Duty
  • Discreditable Conduct
  • Challenging and Reporting Improper Conduct

Despite referring to the Nolan Principles, I am struck by how little attention they are afforded. In the whole 32 page document only one page sets out the Principles and how they apply to policing in the UK.

As police officers are already obliged to respect and behave in accordance with Standards of Professional behaviour, which take up the vast majority of the new Code, this is merely a re-branding exercise.

What’s required is real reform.

Police Misconduct to Continue

Last year I wrote about why the existing system for dealing with police misconduct, which has been carried over into the new Police Code of Ethics, fails the public.

Then I found myself in the unusual position of agreeing with Sir Hugh Orde, Chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers, when he said that it is ‘critical’ that there now be a fully independent police investigation system.

At the heart of any reform must be the introduction of a robust and objective disciplinary system.

The greatest encouragement to police corruption is a disciplinary system which makes no adequate effort to detect and punish corruption or misconduct.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has proved useful but is woefully under-resourced and by reason of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act (2011), the majority of complaints against the police are dealt with in-house by the same Police Force.

As a result, investigations are often simply a whitewash.

Consider, for example, the experience of my client Pamela Boxford-White. She complained to Wiltshire Police following her (unlawful) arrest for Breach of the Peace using the internal police complaints procedure. Unsurprisingly, her complaint was rejected. She was told by a Chief Inspector in Wiltshire Police that the officers who arrested her had no case to answer and that no further action would be taken.

I had to issue civil court proceedings on her behalf to get the apology and compensation she deserved.

Only when government and the police make genuine and robust efforts to tackle corruption and misconduct in their ranks will it stop.

The introduction of a new Police Code of Ethics, while good for media coverage, changes nothing.

 

If you have suffered as a result of police misconduct and want help to sue the police, contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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Will the Metropolitan Police Abuse their Body Cameras?

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

I was interviewed on BBC Radio 5Live today about the Metropolitan Police’s decision to pilot a scheme in which 500 front line officers will wear body cameras.

You can hear the interview here:

Body camera debate

There is considerable debate about the use of body cameras, which is not surprising given that the trial, if extended, will ultimately result in 10,000 to 20,000 Metropolitan Police officers using the cameras, with many more around the UK following suit.

In my opinion, such cameras have the potential to be crucial in re-establishing public confidence in the police. They can help members of the public in their fight against police misconduct and at the same time help the police reduce the number of complaints and police abuse claims made against them.

But the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has said that such cameras will not be permanently switched on and that officers will be able to turn them on and off as they choose.

If this is allowed the body cameras’ role in providing a much-needed check and balance against abuse of police powers will be lost.

Picture of a police officer wearing a body camera.
Police officer wearing a body camera.

Many reasons why continuous recording will never happen have been put forward (Human Rights, employment regulations, and so on) but unless the deployment of such cameras is not subject to stringent guidelines, their effectiveness will be limited.

I would suggest a mandatory rule that such cameras must be turned on during any interaction with the public. If an officer fails to do so, not only should disciplinary action be taken when it is established that the camera was not deployed, but any footage obtained should be excluded from being used as evidence. This would have the desired effect of putting pressure on the police officers on the beat (and their superiors) to ensure that the cameras are routinely used.

As with any new habit, a ‘carrot and stick’ approach would help. The ‘carrot’ is ensuring that the difficult job of being a front line police officer is supported by impartial and contemporary evidence from a video camera. The ‘stick’ reminder of the threat of disciplinary action or a failed prosecution will help to ensure compliance.

Political motive for body cameras?

Unless and until such guidance is issued, the deployment of these cameras is little more than a political quick fix to try to restore public confidence.

What is really required is a change of culture where all police forces adopt a robust complaints system that is open and transparent and where police officers are held to account. The use of body cameras would go some way to providing the transparency required, but without a system of continuous use when interacting with the public, the Metropolitan Police’s motives could be seen as suspiciously self-serving.

If you have a police abuse claim and want legal help, contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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Image credit: West Midlands Police on flickr.

How the police and government are misleading the public about Taser assaults

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

 I was interested to read in a recent article in The Sunday Times (behind paywall) about Taser assault by the police cases. It seems that the authorities are now going on a public relations offensive. By doing so, they may be deflecting attention from the real harm caused by these deadly weapons. And they are getting help from the government to do so.

Taser assault by the police media reports

Simon Chesterman, the deputy chief constable of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and lead on armed policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers was quoted as saying:

  • the UK police’s training in the use of Tasers is “probably the best in the world”;
  • that “we’re regularly accused of being trigger-happy, but do the maths- we’re not”; and
  • that the voltage sent into the subject’s body is “very low- less than the electricity of Christmas- tree lights.”

The charm offensive may be explained by the fact that public concern about these weapons is increasing and Taser assault by the police cases are more regularly reported in the news.

This week the BBC reported how I won £24,000 compensation for my client Richard Hagan following a Taser assault by the police, and I have previously blogged about the risks of Taser use.

(You can read my thoughts about why Taser use more than doubled in two years, if the police are using Tasers correctly, and if Merseyside Police are using Tasers with excessive force by clicking on the links.)

I am not surprised that the police are keen to defend their use of these weapons, and in certain circumstances, I agree that their use is appropriate. (You can hear my interview on BBC Radio where I explain this by clicking on the link.)

But despite voicing my concerns and the increased news coverage, overall Taser use has increased dramatically from 3,128 in 2009 to 10,380 in 2013. Of this number, there were 1,733 actual Taser shootings. Chillingly, in 2011 a Taser was deployed more than 320 times against under-18s.

Picture of a Taser being discharged.

The problem with reports and statistics of Taser assault by the police cases

Reports often concentrate on the initial impact of the Taser. In The Sunday Times article one victim, Sean Lawless, simply said “It hurt. A lot”. This is understandable, as the shocking (pun intended) visual image of someone being shot with a Taser quickly captures the imagination.

But as the effect of a Taser assault by the police is to incapacitate, the injuries sustained after the initial Taser impact on falling are frequently more severe than if the subject had simply fallen over without being Tasered.

This is because when a person falls, the natural instinct is to raise their hands so as to break the fall. But once Tasered, the victim ‘freezes’ and their muscles are temporarily paralysed, giving them no chance to protect themselves.

In my experience as a solicitor who deals with claims against the police (read about me here) it is this secondary injury, caused when the victim falls, which causes more harm.

(A ‘secondary injury’ is a personal injury sustained by the victim after they are incapacitated by the Taser.)

Naturally, the police would prefer not to discuss these potentially devastating injuries and it seems to me that the government are helping the police to deflect attention from secondary injuries by the way they report on Taser assaults.

The official Home Office report: ‘Police use of Taser statistics, England and Wales, 2009 to 2011’ categorises only seven different types of use: from the lowest state of the Taser simply being drawn; to the highest state of the weapon being fired with the electrical probes making contact and causing the incapacitating effect.

Crucially, the official statistics fail to record the subsequent (secondary) injuries caused after the Taser is fired.

As a result secondary injuries are rarely commented on or reported in the news to the same extent.

This is a mistake. As Richard Hagan’s case (details provided with permission) shows, secondary injuries often affect the victim far more than the initial Taser impact.

Secondary injuries following Taser assault by police

On 7 March 2011, my client Richard Hagan, a bricklayer who was 26 at the time, had been at the Printhouse Pub in Prescot, watching a Liverpool game and having a few drinks.

Shortly after midnight he headed home with his partner and her father. They came upon a group of people arguing in the street. A police car, driven and solely occupied by PC Warren of Merseyside Police, pulled up. The officer told the group, including Mr.Hagan who happened to be nearby, to get on the pavement.

As the police car drove away someone shouted abuse at it. The car stopped and reversed. PC Warren got out and told Mr. Hagan to ‘come here’.

Instead, Mr. Hagan panicked and ran away.

The police officer chased him through a residential area. As Mr. Hagan ran towards a main road, PC Warren fired a Taser ‘stun gun’ into his shoulder and buttock. Mr. Hagan was paralysed by the electric shock and fell forwards onto the road surface. He sustained serious injuries, smashing his front four teeth, lower right incisor, and other facial injuries.

After the assault, which was seen by his distraught partner, Mr. Hagan was arrested, handcuffed and taken to Kirkby Police Station where he was kept in a police cell overnight.

As a result of the assault Mr. Hagan lost the four front teeth and had to have a bridge and crown fitted. He will need more dental work in the future.

You can hear Mr. Hagan describe how he needed about 10 months of painful dental treatment as a result of his Taser injuries in this BBC radio interview:

 

Merseyside Police denied liability and claimed that the force used was reasonable and proportionate. I disagreed. Following court proceedings, I settled Mr. Hagan’s Taser assault by the police claim for £24,000 plus legal costs.

 Unreported Secondary Taser Injuries

Public and media concern with the use of Tasers tends to focus on the 50,000 (or 1,200 if the police are to be believed) volts shot through the victim’s body and the potential cardiac issues that arise, but in my opinion the bigger risk is from secondary injuries.

As Richard Hagan’s case demonstrates, there is a significant danger of head and facial injuries when they hit the ground. These secondary injuries can be far worse than the initial electric shock from the Taser.

But the police officers who defend the use of Tasers seem to be trying to deflect the public’s attention from this.

They talk about training, how careful they are in the use of Tasers, and try to minimise the impact of Taser assaults. They refer to government statistics, which do not deal with secondary injuries, to back up their case.

But by doing so those officers, and the government officials who create the statistics on Taser use, are missing the point.

Even if the training in the UK is “the best in the world”, and the total number of Taser impacts is significantly less than the overall use figure, the weapons are still being used against civilians, including children, with potentially life-changing consequences.

And even if the amount of volts shot through a victim’s body is less than the amount used in Christmas tree lights, it is still enough to cause temporary paralysis and serious secondary injuries.

It is time that the police and government are asked about the effects of secondary injuries as well. Maybe then they will accept that the impact of a Taser assault by the police is more serious than they suggest and moderate the use of these weapons accordingly.

 

If you have been injured after a taser assault by the police contact me using the form below, on 0151 933 525, or via my firm’s website.

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Image credit: Marcelo Freixo on flickr.

 

‘Can We Trust the Police?’- ITV ‘Tonight’ Programme

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Recently I was interviewed for an ITV ‘Tonight’ programme about trust in the police.

The programme, which deals with police misconduct, will be broadcast on ITV at 7.30p.m. tonight, Thursday 13 February 2014.

As a solicitor who specialises in police misconduct claims the producers sought my input on a number of issues relating to the question of public confidence in the police. They also interviewed one of my clients who had suffered as a result of police misconduct.

The reporters commissioned a survey of 2,000 people. 1 in 5 of those surveyed felt that the police were not on their side. Almost 2 in 5 considered that corruption was a problem within the police.

Police Misconduct Compensation Claims

My clients Peter Garrigan and Karim Allison would agree with the people surveyed who were concerned about perceived police corruption.

Both of them had to fight all the way to civil jury trials to clear their names after they were prosecuted in criminal courts using false evidence submitted by the police.

In my experience, the police fabricate evidence. But they would have the public believe that the police misconduct cases I deal with are rare, and that things are improving. Indeed, David Crompton, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, sought to assure the public that his force was now a ‘very different place in 2012’ compared to the Hillsborough era.

And yet I am contacted on a regular basis by people like Peter Garrigan and Karim Allison. Ordinary men and women who have suffered as a result of police misconduct.

Despite promises that things have changed since:

  • Hillsborough;
  • Stephen Lawrence;
  • Jean Charles de Menezes;
  • Andrew Mitchell‘s ‘plebgate’ affair; and
  • countless other scandals,

I am not convinced by the police’s platitudes.

In the past I have supported calls for a Royal Commission (see here). I repeat that call again. It is time that the police account for their actions. It is the only way to restore public confidence.

If you have suffered as a result of police misconduct contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

Update

The programme can be seen via the ITV player for a short time by clicking here.

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How False Imprisonment Claims Can Be Made Against Private Security Companies.

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

I recently settled an assault and false imprisonment claim for my client, Mark Holt. (He has agreed to me giving his details.)

Mark, 53, is a prominent local businessman and peace campaigner who has never been in trouble with the police before.

You can read his case report here.

False Imprisonment at a Train Station

On Tuesday 10 January 2012, Mark Holt (pictured below) was returning home from a day out in Liverpool with his wife. He attempted to pass through the ticket barriers at Liverpool Central Train Station but was prevented from doing so by a ticket inspector, and was then assaulted by a private security guard.

The guard was employed by Carlisle Security, a sub-contractor of Merseyrail, the station operators.

Photo of Mark Holt, who made a false imprisonment claim against a private security company.
Mark Holt, who made a false imprisonment claim against a private security company.

Mark, who was not misbehaving, was put in a headlock and forced to the ground by the guard, smashing his right front tooth and cutting his lip. He also injured his neck, shoulders, and back in the assault. He suffered psychologically and needed medical treatment.

Another Carlisle Security guard came to assist in pinning Mark to the ground while British Transport Police Officers were called.

To (literally) add insult to injury, the first security guard gave a false statement to the police who attended saying that Mark:

  • had thrown a punch, which missed;
  • that he was abusive and disorderly; and
  • that the guard restrained him out of fear for his own safety.

The police accepted this (false) version of events and arrested Mark for a breach of section 4 of the Public Order Act.

Mark was kept overnight in a police cell before being released twelve hours later on police bail.

The police later dropped the case.

Claim for Assault and False Imprisonment Against a Private Security Company

Private security companies will understandably be liable if their employees assault or imprison members of the public unlawfully but what about when a third-party, in this case the Police, imprison the individual? Who, if anyone, is liable?

Upon arrival, the Police Officers were given a version of events by the security guard. Although never challenged, I expect that the officers would say that they quickly formed a reasonable suspicion that a Public Order offence had been committed by Mark, so they were justified in arresting and detaining him.

The 12 hour detention would also be justified by the Police. They would say that as Mark had had a drink it was reasonable for his rights to be delayed at the Police station while he was ‘bedded down’ for the night. The next morning, he was interviewed and then released on Police bail.

So, on the face of it, the Police had acted lawfully.

But could the security company be liable instead for Mark’s arrest and imprisonment by the Police? Could they be liable for the officers’ actions even though the Police themselves had acted lawfully?

According to Lord Bingham in the case of Davidson v North Wales Police (1994), if a person merely gives information upon which a Police Officer decides to make an arrest, that person would not be liable. If on the other hand, that person’s conduct amounted ‘to some direction, or procuring, or direct request, or direct encouragement, that they (the police) should ….arrest’ that individual would be liable to an action for false imprisonment.

Here, I was of the opinion that the security guard had procured the Police Officers to act as they did and therefore the security company would be liable for both assault and false imprisonment.

CCTV Footage Helps Prove the False Imprisonment Claim

I obtained CCTV footage which proved that the security guard had assaulted Mark. It also showed the police attending and Mark being handed over to them by Carlisle Security’s guards.

In the circumstances, I claimed damages for Mark against Carlisle Security Ltd.

After I submitted the claim, Carlisle Security’s Head of Legal also reviewed the CCTV footage and responded by explaining that the company provide ‘byelaw enforcement officers’ who have the power to arrest and detain or issue penalties to passengers breaking Merseyrail’s byelaws.

He felt that his company’s security guards were acting correctly as they were assisting Merseyrail staff in enforcing byelaws, as they felt that Mark was not in a fit condition to travel. So he denied liability for Carlisle Security.

Following review by the company’s insurers, this denial of liability was retracted and liability admitted.

However, the insurers refused to settle at a reasonable amount so I issued proceedings for Mark Holt’s claim for assault and false imprisonment and eventually settled it for four times more than their original offer. This meant that Mark received a five-figure sum plus legal costs.

Private security guards, or ‘byelaw enforcement officers’, may seem like a cost-effective way for public transport operators to enforce their laws.

But, without the proper training, and recognition that their guards are acting with police-like powers, private security companies are at risk of more false imprisonment claims.

If you have a false imprisonment claim and want compensation contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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Why must Court Proceedings be issued in a Compensation Claim Against the Police?

Actions against the police solicitor Iain Gould

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Sometimes I get frustrated when helping my clients bring a compensation claim against the police.

What appears to be a perfectly straightforward case against the police where compensation should be paid can often result in a hard-fought battle.

When this happens I have no alternative but to issue court proceedings and fight for my clients all the way to a Court hearing.

This is expensive, time-consuming, and stressful for all involved, including the police officers themselves who, like my clients, must endure cross-examination at Court.

I had to take another compensation claim against the police to trial last week because the Metropolitan Police refused to settle.

My client, Luke Appleyard, 21, a student at the University of London, will shortly receive £13,250 from the Metropolitan Police after being attacked by a police dog.

(You can read the full case report here.)

So, taking his compensation claim against the police all the way to a jury trial was worthwhile. But was it really necessary?

Compensation Claim Against the Police for Defenceless Student

Photo of my client Luke Appleyard, who I represented in his compensation claim against the police
Luke Appleyard

Shortly after midnight on Friday 9 October 2009, Luke (pictured and details used with permission), of Carshalton, Surrey, was walking with a friend through Carshalton Park.

The park was dark and quiet.

Suddenly, an Alsatian dog appeared running quickly towards them. Without warning, the dog jumped up and bit Luke on his right forearm, which he had instinctively raised to protect his face.

The dog hung on for what Luke estimates was three minutes before Metropolitan Police officers arrived and released it.

Luke’s arm (shown below after the wounds had been cleaned) was bleeding heavily but the police insisted on searching him before getting medical help.

Photo of Luke Appleyard's arm after he had been attacked by a police dog.
Luke Appleyard’s arm after the police dog attack.

He was later told that the dog had been set on him as a result of mistaken identity, and that the police were searching for two robbery suspects.

Mr. Appleyard was taken by ambulance to hospital where his bite wounds were treated. He has since been left with about 20 scars on his right arm which makes him uncomfortable wearing short sleeves in public.

Luke Appleyard had never been in trouble with the police before. After the unprovoked attack, he:

  • was injured;
  • was upset;
  • suffered nightmares;
  • developed a fear of large dogs; and
  • lost confidence in the police.

As he received no apology or offer of compensation from the police, he decided to take matters further.

He found my details online and asked me to represent him in his compensation claim against the police.

After discussing it with him, I decided to take his claim. I initially represented Luke as a legal aid lawyer but later, when funding was withdrawn, acted on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.

I submitted details of Luke’s claim but the Metropolitan Police denied liability, saying that the police dog handler acted within the police’s guidelines when deploying the dog, ‘Storm’.

They claimed that Luke was running away, that the officer shouted a warning before releasing Storm, and that the force used was reasonable and necessary.

As this was a very different version of events to the one Luke had told me, I had no alternative but to take Luke’s compensation claim against the police to a full jury trial.

Compensation Claim Against the Police Wins at Jury Trial

On Wednesday 11 December, at the conclusion of the three-day trial at the Central London Civil Justice Centre, the jury returned a verdict indicating that they did not believe the Metropolitan Police officers’ account.

They heard evidence that the police officer in control of Storm was 110 metres away from Luke and his friend when the dog was released. The police dog handler claimed that he:

  • was able to make a positive identification from this distance;
  • shouted an audible command to Luke to stop running; then
  • released Storm.

I had seen the police officer’s statement long before the trial and was sure that this was impossible.

Manchester United’s football pitch is 105 metres from goal to goal.

Photo of Manchester United's football pitch.
View of Manchester United’s football pitch.

The officer claimed that he could see further than that distance in the dark and positively identify Luke and his friend as the people they were searching for.

The jury disagreed with the police’s version of events. They were not satisfied that Luke and his friend were running, or that the decision to release Storm was necessary or reasonable.

Paying for a Compensation Claim Against the Police

Instead of apologising and offering fair compensation, the Metropolitan Police fought Luke’s genuine claim so that he had no alternative but to go to an expensive, and unnecessary, jury trial.

The legal costs on both sides in Luke’s case will be many times more than the compensation he is paid. Because he won, all costs will be paid by the Metropolitan Police, who in turn are funded by taxpayers.

At a time when the Metropolitan Police’s funding is being closely examined, I hope those responsible will think long and hard about their conduct.

If you want to make a compensation claim against the police contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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Image credit: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Paul: http://flickr.com/photos/vegaseddie/6160401568/

Why Andrew Mitchell got lucky

Iain Gould, Actions Against the Police SolicitorBy Iain Gould, Solicitor

Andrew Mitchell, the ‘Plebgate’ MP and former Chief Whip, appeared at a press conference yesterday in his ongoing case against the police.

Mr Mitchell, who I have previously written about here, is angry that the Crown Prosecution Service (‘CPS’) declined to prosecute PC Toby Rowland, the police officer at the centre of the story who reported the incident on 19 September 2012.

While his case continues, in my opinion, Mr Mitchell got lucky.

Andrew Mitchell’s disputed case against the police

On 19 September 2012, there was an incident at the gates of Downing Street between Mr Mitchell and PC Rowland.

The police officer declined to allow Mr Mitchell to exit on his bicycle via the main security gates, which were closed.

The officer instead directed Mr Mitchell to a nearby pedestrian gate which he opened for the politician.

In response, PC Rowland claims that Mr Mitchell said,

‘You should know your f***ing place, you don’t run this f***ing government, you’re f***ing plebs.’

Mr Mitchell, however claims that he simply said,

‘I thought you guys were supposed to f***ing help us.’

Although the exact wording of what was said is disputed, both say that the officer warned Mr Mitchell for swearing.

In the following weeks, newspapers published a story quoting the ‘plebs’ comment, Mr Mitchell resigned as Chief Whip, and a Channel 4 investigation cast doubt on the police’s version of events.

Following an expensive year-long investigation, the CPS have decided to prosecute only one police officer, PC Wallis, who claimed to have witnessed the incident in an email to his MP. All other police officers involved, including PC Rowland, will not face criminal charges.

Five police officers face gross misconduct charges, and three face lesser charges. PC Rowland is not among them.

Andrew Mitchell’s response to the CPS

At Tuesday’s press conference, Mr Mitchell explained the personal effects of the ‘Plebgate’ story.

As a result of the alleged lies of PC Toby Rowland, Mr Mitchell claims that:

  • his reputation was destroyed;
  • he was vilified relentlessly;
  • he received over 800 hate emails;
  • he and his family were driven from their home because of the press pack outside;
  • his mother in law was pursued in Swansea;
  • he was spat at in the street; and
  • he lost his job as chief whip.

In a direct challenge to both the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions, the politician said,

‘I wish now to make clear that PC Toby Rowland, who was responsible for writing those toxic phrases into his notebook, was not telling the truth.’

He intends to sue The Sun newspaper for libel. The tabloid was the first to use the ‘pleb’ remark and stands by its story. In suing the newspaper, Mr Mitchell hopes to call PC Rowland to give evidence and allow a jury to decide whose version of events is to be believed in his long-running case against the police.

How Andrew Mitchell is lucky in his case against the police

Both the police and Mr Mitchell agree the basic facts of the incident on 19 September as outlined above.

So, even after a public argument with the police in which Mr Mitchell admits swearing at an officer, all he received was a warning.

Unlike many of my clients, he was not:

  • assaulted;
  • arrested;
  • handcuffed;
  • escorted to a Police station;
  • obliged to provide his fingerprints or DNA sample;
  • required to have his details kept on the Police National Computer;
  • detained in police custody;
  • interviewed; or
  • prosecuted.

Don’t get me wrong, I sympathise with Mr Mitchell and his plight but as a specialist in actions against the police, I believe that Mr Mitchell was lucky to simply end up with a warning.

I am contacted by many clients who are not so fortunate.

Peter Garrigan’s case against the police for fabricated evidence

Picture of Peter Garrigan, a man who won a claim against the police after they fabricated evidence against him.
Peter Garrigan, showing a black eye caused after a police assault.

A few weeks ago, my client Peter Garrigan (details used with permission) was awarded £13,000 compensation after a unanimous jury verdict that police officers had fabricated evidence following a four-day trial at Liverpool County Court.

You can read the full report of his case against the police here.

Mr Garrigan was arrested and assaulted by officers of British Transport Police at Lime Street Station on 19 March 2009 as he attempted to assist his younger brother Daniel.

Daniel was detained by a ticket inspector as he had an invalid train ticket.

The inspector called the police when Mr Garrigan refused to leave his brother’s side.

British Transport Police officers appeared and told Mr Garrigan to leave.

Peter refused and attempted to explain the situation on behalf of his brother.

One officer took Peter’s arm. As Mr Garrigan broke free, telling the officer that force was unnecessary, the officer:

  • pushed Mr Garrigan against a wall;
  • kneed him in the stomach;
  • punched him;
  • forced him to the ground with a ‘leg sweep’;
  • pinned him face down on the train station floor;
  • put him in handcuffs; and
  • arrested him.

Mr Garrigan, who had never been arrested before, was taken to Wavertree Police Station.

Following an interview, Peter was issued a Fixed Penalty Notice for a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act for using ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour’.

After Mr Garrigan indicated that he would appeal against the notice the police dropped the case against him ‘for procedural purposes’.

In a case against the police which has parallels with Andrew Mitchell’s story, Peter claimed that the police officers who assaulted him lied in their written accounts about how the incident had occurred to cover up the police assault and arrest, and to justify prosecuting him.

The threat of police prosecution hung over Peter for several months. He was stressed and upset as although the proposed prosecution was short-lived, it was of great significance in that a conviction could have ruined his dream of joining the army.

The police assault left Peter with visible injuries to the head, face and shoulders, as well as headaches and pains which lasted for several months.

Peter was determined to take a case against the police for the police assault, unlawful arrest, fabrication of false evidence, and misfeasance in public office.

After three civil court trials (read the case report for why) a jury found that the police officers assaulted Peter and fabricated evidence.

Peter won his case against the police, received an apology, £13,000 compensation, and legal costs.

Another case against the police after acquittal at Crown Court

I have just settled Mr. Thomas’s case against the police for substantial damages and legal costs.

Unlike Andrew Mitchell, Mr. Thomas (name changed), who used less colourful language in his encounter with the police, was prosecuted and convicted at court for a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

He had to appeal to the Crown Court to have his conviction overturned, and instruct me to pursue a civil case against the police to obtain justice.

You can read Mr. Thomas’s case report on my blog.

On 9 August 2008, Mr. Thomas was shopping in Morrisons Supermarket when he saw a uniformed police officer also doing his shopping.

He asked the officer,

‘There is a 9.2 million pound deficit forecast for the next 3 years and you are here shopping for bloody shoelaces and shoe polish.  Do you think this is acceptable?’

The officer replied that he needed shoelaces to chase criminals and warned Mr. Thomas that he considered his conduct amounted to a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

As with Peter Garrigan, the policeman said that he used ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour’.

Mr. Thomas was shocked to hear that and advised the officer that he would lodge a complaint as he considered this an unjustified response to a legitimate question.

He visited the nearby Police Station and filed his complaint.

Two months later, Mr. Thomas was charged with breaching Section 5 of the Public Order Act and the case proceeded to trial.

The officer gave evidence to the effect that Mr. Thomas was aggressive and intimidating.

CCTV footage, which would have helped Mr. Thomas, was not disclosed by the Police or Crown Prosecution Service.

Mr. Thomas was convicted at the Magistrates’ Court and appealed to the Crown Court.

The CCTV evidence was shown at the appeal. It supported Mr. Thomas’s case that he was not aggressive or intimidating, and that the policeman himself did not seem alarmed or distressed.

Two years after the charges were brought Mr. Thomas’s appeal succeeded and his conviction was overturned.

I was contacted by Mr. Thomas in 2011 and asked to pursue a case against the police for malicious prosecution on his behalf.

I agreed to act by way of conditional fee ‘no win no fee’ agreement.

The claim was denied and I was obliged to issue Court proceedings against Leicestershire Police.

They vigorously fought the claim but shortly before trial Leicester Police agreed to negotiate.

They eventually paid my client fifteen times more than they originally offered in damages and legal costs.

Picture of Andrew Mitchell, 'plebgate politician' involved in a police misconduct matter.
Andrew Mitchell, ‘plebgate’ politician

Lucky man

Andrew Mitchell has been harshly treated by the police, media and his political party.

For a while, he was held up as a poster boy for everything wrong with the out-of-touch Tory party, the elite ruling classes, and modern Britain in general.

He was lucky though.

He was never assaulted, arrested, or pursued in the courts.

He had access to powerful friends and media contacts that could assist him in proving his case.

Afterwards, he could use his public profile to force the authorities to thoroughly investigate. He can pursue a libel case to clear his name.

Compared to my clients above, and the vast majority of us, he remains a privileged man.

If you want to pursue a case against the police contact me via my firm’s website or call 0151 933 5525. Alternatively, read more on my blog www.iaingould.co.uk.

 

British Transport Police ordered to pay compensation after police fabricated evidence

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Yesterday, British Transport Police (‘BTP’) were ordered to pay £13,000 plus legal costs to my client Peter Garrigan after serving police fabricated evidence.

Peter, a 26-year-old Liverpool man, was awarded compensation after a unanimous jury verdict following a four-day trial at Liverpool County Court.

The jury found that:

  • PC Paul Quest of British Transport Police unlawfully assaulted Mr Garrigan;
  • the police unlawfully arrested him, issued him with a Fixed Penalty Notice for breach of s.5 of the Public Order Act and, most shockingly of all;
  • one or two serving officers of British Transport Police fabricated evidence against my client ‘in order to cause him to be punished for  something they knew he had not done or to escape punishment for their own misconduct’.

Compensation claim against the police after fabricated evidence

Peter (shown below and details used with permission) instructed me as I specialise in civil compensation claims against the police. You can read more about me and the work I do by clicking on the link.

Picture of Peter Garrigan, a man who won a claim against the police after they fabricated evidence against him.
Peter Garrigan, showing a black eye caused after a police assault.

I previously wrote about his case as it involved a jury trial, where unfortunately a jury failed to reach a verdict. After another jury heard the evidence, they all agreed that the allegations of police assault, misconduct and police fabricated evidence were proven.

Mr Garrigan bravely took on the police, endured three trials where his evidence was tested under cross-examination, and waited four years for justice. He had never been in trouble with the police before, or since. His impeccable character has been confirmed by this significant court judgment.

His case has parallels with the Andrew Mitchell ‘plebgate’ story, which I have written about here. Mr Mitchell is currently dealing with his own case where the police allegedly fabricated evidence.

This is yet another example of abuse by serving police officers that proves that the experience of Andrew Mitchell is not unique.

Both my client and I hope that the negative publicity and judicial criticism British Transport Police have received will make serving police officers think twice before fabricating evidence in future.

You can read a full case report by clicking on the link.

If you believe that the police fabricated evidence to prosecute you and want to claim compensation, contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website. Alternatively, read more by clicking the home page link.

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Can the Police be trusted to Police themselves?

(NOTE: 10 June 2015. This post has been updated to reflect that two of the police officers involved in the Taser story below were subsequently re-instated to Merseyside Police following their dismissal. My thanks to Jeremy Clarke-Williams of Slater and Gordon for bringing this to my attention.)

 By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

A man was forced to pursue numerous appeals to ensure that his police complaint was upheld.

At first blush, this would appear to be entirely unrelated to the Andrew Mitchell story, which I have previously written about.

In fact, they are linked by a common thread:

  • the mis-handling of complaint investigations by senior police officers, and
  • whether police can be trusted to police themselves.

Police Complaint after Taser assault in Liverpool

Picture of a Taser being discharged.In December 2009 PCs Simon Jones and Joanne Kelly, were on patrol in Liverpool with a Sergeant (who has since been dismissed for an unrelated matter), when they arrested Kyle McArdle for urinating in a street.

Mr McArdle was put in the back of a police van and shot with Tasers five times. (You can read my thoughts on the increase in Taser use by clicking on the link.)

The Taser barbs, metal hooks which attach to the body to transmit the electric current, were removed by an officer rather than a medical professional, contrary to guidelines (unless there is an ‘operational necessity’).

To add insult to injury, Mr McArdle was prosecuted for assaulting two of the officers. He was found not guilty at the Magistrates’ Court, and pursued a formal complaint.

Mr McArdle’s initial complaint was made to Merseyside Police themselves. He argued that the use of Taser force in the back of the police van was disproportionate. The police accepted that their officers should receive guidance on the use of their powers only and rejected the rest of his complaint.

So Mr McArdle was forced to appeal to the IPCC. They returned the complaint to the Force to consider whether the use of Tasers would have been considered proportionate if he had been lawfully arrested.

Merseyside Police’s leading Taser instructor said that the Taser assault was ‘necessary, proportionate, reasonable and in line with the officers’ training and Association of Chief Police Officers guidance’.

Given this opinion, the Force maintained their denial.

Mr McArdle again appealed to the IPCC. They re-considered the case and decided that, contrary to Merseyside Police’s internal investigation, the officers involved should have been served with notices for gross misconduct and interviewed under caution. PCs Jones and Kelly were then subsequently dismissed following the misconduct hearing.

UPDATE: I have since been informed that PCs Jones and Kelly appealed their dismissal to the Police Appeals Tribunal (“PAT”) and were re-instated to Merseyside Police following a hearing on 28 June 2014, in which their solicitor states that “the PAT unequivocally rejected the determination of the misconduct tribunal in the clearest possible terms”. Their reinstatement is confirmed in the IPCC’s updated press release which can be read on their website here.

Aside from the officers’ dismissal and subsequent re-instatement, the IPCC Commissioner criticised Merseyside Police’s investigation of the incident. In particular, he said, ‘it is a concern that Merseyside’s lead Taser instructor lacked objectivity and presented as fact the officers’ version of events without challenge’.

Andrew Mitchell’s ‘plebgate’ saga

Picture of Andrew Mitchell, 'plebgate politician' involved in a police misconduct matter.
Andrew Mitchell, ‘plebgate’ politician

The Andrew Mitchell affair (which I have commented about on numerous occasions but most recently here) revealed that the four police officers and their associates initially involved in the saga fabricated evidence about the incident at Downing Street on 19 September 2012.

At a subsequent meeting on 12 October involving three senior members of the police officer’s union, the Police Federation, Mr Mitchell sought to explain his comments and re-iterated that he had not used the word ‘pleb’, which is short for ‘plebeian’, or commoner.

Immediately after the meeting, Inspector Mackaill, one of the officers at the meeting, told waiting journalists that Mr Mitchell had not provided an account of the incident and called for his resignation.

Unfortunately for the officers at both the initial incident, which was caught on CCTV and can be seen here, and the subsequent meeting, which Mr Mitchell secretly recorded, the evidence showed that they had not told the truth.

West Mercia Police carried out an internal investigation into claims the three officers had been trying to discredit Mr Mitchell. It concluded that there was no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct and found that there was no deliberate intention to lie to journalists.

The IPCC, which oversaw the West Mercia investigation, said West Mercia Police had been wrong to conclude the three police officers had no case to answer for misconduct.

Deborah Glass, the IPCC deputy chair, said in her statement that the false account of the meeting provided by the police officers involved ‘indicates an issue of honesty and integrity, not merely naïve or poor professional judgment (sic)’.

She has called for a misconduct panel to be held to establish whether the three officers gave a false account in a deliberate attempt to discredit Mr Mitchell in pursuit of a wider agenda.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the IPCC’s report “made troubling reading”.

Police complaints procedure

Only serious complaints against the Police are directly referred to the independent Police watchdog, the IPCC, for investigation. These include cases involving:

  • death in custody,
  • serious injury,
  • matters involving sexual assault or sexual offences,
  • serious corruption, and
  • certain criminal offences.

All other cases are dealt with internally, by the appropriate police force’s complaints department (also known as the professional standards department (‘PSD’).

Up until May 2012, when the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act (2011) came into force, all complainants had a right of appeal following local and supervised investigations by a PSD to the IPCC.

Now that right of appeal to an independent body is restricted to only the most serious of cases, so that there is less opportunity to hold the police to account.

In both the McArdle and Mitchell cases described above, serious issues meant that the IPCC were involved. The IPCC allowed the individual police forces to investigate and decide whether there was wrongdoing or not. Following internal investigations, the complaints investigators said that there had been no misconduct that required sanction.

On appeal/review by the IPCC however, it was found that such findings were seriously flawed.

So, can the Police be trusted to investigate themselves?

Photo of Sir Hugh Orde, Chairman of ACPO
Sir Hugh Orde, Chairman of ACPO

Speaking on BBC Radio, Sir Hugh Orde, the Chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers and a former Chief Constable, said that it is ‘critical’ that there now be a fully independent police investigation system. (You can listen to the interview by clicking here).

I agree. The current system where the police investigate themselves is deeply flawed and, to restore public confidence in the police and the police complaints process, independent investigations in each and every case need to be conducted.

But is it enough simply to point the finger at the IPCC, who would no doubt say that the Mitchell and McArdle cases described above did not fit within the criteria, so that they had no authority to conduct investigations from the beginning?

Don’t the police have some responsibility too?

It strikes me that blaming the investigations process merely deflects attention away from the core issue: trust.

Public trust is damaged when we routinely hear about police misconduct at the rank and file level which is then covered up by their superiors or force complaints departments.

It is made worse when, rather than apologise and accept responsibility, senior police officers and their representatives blame everyone but themselves.

At today’s House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee meeting, the Chief Constables of West Mercia, West Midlands, and Warwickshire Police, will explain why they declined to pursue misconduct charges against the three officers involved in the October meeting.

It is hoped that the meeting will be productive and not merely a repeat of the blame game played out in the media since September last year.

The Chief Constables should be reminded of Robert Peel’s principles to define an ethical police force, and in particular, this quote attributed to him: 

‘The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.’

For more information on pursuing a civil action against the police go to www.iaingould.co.uk. Contact me using the form below or via my firm’s website.

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Images:

Taser: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Marcelo Freixo 50123:http://flickr.com/photos/marcelofreixo/8188041975/

Andrew Mitchell: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by DFID – UK Department for…:http://flickr.com/photos/dfid/4603106939/

Sir Hugh Orde: cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Liberal Democrats: http://flickr.com/photos/libdems/3940872401/

Why it’s time for the Police to face the music

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

By Iain Gould, Solicitor and specialist in actions against the police

Peter Oborne’s article in The Telegraph today (click on the link to access it) makes a number of interesting points about police misconduct in the aftermath of the Andrew Mitchell ‘plebgate’ scandal.

I have previously blogged about the Mitchell case here, where I make the point that the police routinely fabricate and exaggerate evidence, and in this blog post where I question whether an ordinary citizen would receive the same treatment as a government minister.

Mr. Oborne says that, when first hearing about the Andrew Mitchell affair, his initial sympathies were with the police. As The Telegraph’s Chief Political Commentator he frequently sees senior politicians behave in a rude or overbearing manner to people they consider beneath them. With this in mind, it was not hard for him to believe the police’s claim that Mr. Mitchell used the word ‘pleb’ while insulting them.

But his views changed when, after a Channel 4 investigation produced CCTV footage which contradicted the police’s version of events, officers involved in the initial incident were arrested on suspicion of misconduct.

Picture of Andrew Mitchell, 'plebgate politician' involved in a police misconduct matter.
Andrew Mitchell, ‘plebgate’ politician

Further, Deborah Glass, the Deputy Chair of the IPCC, recently stated that a ‘clear the air’ meeting between Mr. Mitchell and serving police officers in the Police Federation resulted in more police misconduct.

She asserts that the three police officers concerned gave a false account of the meeting in order to add more political pressure on Mr. Mitchell, and questions the police’s own investigation which found that those officers had no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct.

As the internal report by the IPCC initially proposed disciplinary action, the matter is continuing with Home Affairs Committee Chairman Keith Vaz demanding an explanation.

Royal Commission into Police Misconduct

Mr. Oborne argues for a Royal Commission to restore confidence in the police who have been rocked by this scandal, Hillsborough, the Jean Charles de Menezes affair, the Stephen Lawrence enquiry, and many others.

One such case he refers to was that of my client Karim Allison. (You can read the case report on my website by clicking on the link.)

Karim Allison was prosecuted after making a complaint about a police officer.

Like Andrew Mitchell, he was the subject of a police conspiracy in that police officers joined together to fabricate evidence against him. Unlike Mr. Mitchell, Karim had to endure the stress and upset of a lengthy criminal prosecution which only ended on appeal at the Crown Court.

It was at that point that he instructed me as a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police.

Despite the high risks involved in accusing the police of misconduct, I pursued Karim’s case all the way to trial.

The police fought hard, denied liability and any wrongdoing, but after the trial a jury found that the officers involved had fabricated evidence. The finding, which was not appealed, confirms on the court record that the police lied to secure a conviction of an innocent man.

Picture of a protester holding a sign referencing Andrew Mitchell, involved in the 'plebgate' police misconduct case.
Protester holding a placard referencing Andrew Mitchell.

Police Misconduct investigation

I support Mr. Oborne’s call for a Royal Commission. There has to be an in-depth and impartial enquiry into at least:

  • police conduct at the lower level, where prosecutions are started and stories fabricated, and
  • at the higher level, where police officers who are guilty of misconduct, fabrication etc. are treated leniently by their superiors in the Police.

There can be no more easy rides for the police. Penalties must be harsher to act as a deterrent to future misconduct.

The option of early retirement must be removed for those in the Police who are found guilty of misconduct, and, where appropriate, they should be prosecuted in the criminal courts to the full extent of the law.

If ordinary citizens like Karim Allison are expected to defend themselves in court when charged with criminal offences, then why shouldn’t their accusers?

If you have been prosecuted for an offence where you suspect the police fabricated or exaggerated evidence, contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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Images:

Andrew Mitchell: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by DFID – UK Department for…: http://flickr.com/photos/dfid/4603106939/

Protester: cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by Alan Stanton: http://flickr.com/photos/alanstanton/8110650330/

Why did Christopher Jeffries’ false imprisonment claim fail?

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

I read on the BBC website today that Christopher Jeffries, the man wrongfully accused of the murder of Joanne Yeates in December 2010, has accepted a written apology and a small amount of compensation for damage to his home following the police search.

Nick Gargan, the Chief Constable of Avon & Somerset Police (shown below) has written to Mr. Jeffries and was interviewed on camera confirming that:

  1. Mr. Jeffries is no longer a suspect in the case, and
  2. that the police regret the suffering he experienced as a result of them not making it clear that Mr. Jeffries was no longer a suspect on his release from bail on 5 March 2011, and
  3. inviting Mr. Jeffries to meet with him to ‘discuss any lessons’ the police could learn from his treatment and experience.
Picture of Nick Gargan, Chief Constable
Nick Gargan, Chief Constable of Avon & Somerset Police

However, no compensation has been paid for Christopher Jeffries’ claimed ‘false imprisonment, breach of human rights, and trespass to person and property’.

False imprisonment and reasonable suspicion

As I outlined in a blog post I wrote for Charon QC last year, Mr. Jeffries’ case for false imprisonment was on thin ice from the beginning due to the very low threshold the police need to meet to justify an arrest. Having a ‘reasonable suspicion’ to arrest means merely something more than a hunch, but less than formal proof.

It would appear that, nearly three years on, Mr. Jeffries has accepted the strength of the police’s defence to his false imprisonment claim. No doubt this will be very disappointing for him.

Alternatives to compensation in an actions against the police claim

The failure of such a high-profile claim for false imprisonment shows how difficult actions against the police claims can be. Despite this, as a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police, I have successfully recovered compensation for many people against police forces throughout England & Wales, and continue to represent numerous clients in their false imprisonment claims. You can read some case reports of police claims I have successfully pursued here.

But these cases cannot be measured purely in financial terms. Often my clients seek not only compensation, but like Mr. Jeffries, they also seek an apology and assurance that lessons will be learned.

Despite the failure of his false imprisonment claim, Christopher Jeffries has had his name cleared. He has received a very public apology from the Chief Constable, libel damages from eight newspapers, and public sympathy and support from Lord Chief Justice Judge, who described his treatment at the hands of the tabloid newspapers as ‘vilification’.

No doubt he also feels that, after three years in which his life changed immeasurably, enough is enough.

If you believe you have a false imprisonment claim and want help, contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website. Alternatively, please read more about me here.

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Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Policy Exchange: http://flickr.com/photos/policyexchange/6760509047/

Why has Taser use more than doubled in two years?

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

A Home Office report which was published yesterday confirms that Taser use more than doubled between 2009-2001, following the issue of 10,000 more Tasers to the police once the initial testing period ended in 2008.

The latest figures which cover the period 2009-2011, unsurprisingly show that as the police have been issued with more Tasers, the ‘stun-guns’ have been more extensively used. Figures for 2011-2013 are expected to show a further increase.

In 2011, 25.7% of the time the Taser was discharged, causing injury to the victim. 

Police assault using a Taser

Naturally, the public should be concerned especially as the Independent Police Complaints Commission is currently investigating three deaths where Tasers were used.

On numerous occasions I have written about the police’s seemingly uncontrolled use of these potentially lethal weapons (you can read my previous posts here, here, here, and here).

I am being contacted on a regular basis by potential clients who have suffered a police assault by officers using their Tasers. We should not forget that these ‘statistics’ are actually people, some of whom have had their lives irreparably changed as a result.

Picture of a Taser being discharged.

Police assault by Taser causes serious injuries

In itself, 50,000 volts being shot through a person’s body is enough to cause serious injury, heart problems, and psychological upset. But for some unfortunate victims, the more serious injuries arise from the secondary impact caused by being Tasered.

Having been Tasered, the body freezes in temporary paralysis, causing the victim to become imbalanced and fall forward, giving rise to a risk of serious head injuries, including brain damage.

A client I am currently representing was shot in the back by the police with a Taser as he ran away. This caused him to fall forward and land, face-first, on the concrete ground below. He was unable to protect himself because he could not raise his arms due to the paralysis, and lost or damaged 5 teeth as well as sustaining facial and other injuries.

His injuries have already cost him thousands of pounds in dental treatment, he is now facially disfigured, and feels that his life will never be the same.

Today’s BBC Radio interview about Taser use

I was interviewed today by BBC Radio Merseyside to provide my thoughts.

You can hear the BBC Radio interview in full by clicking on the ‘play’ arrow below:

While I readily accept that, in certain situations, the use of a Taser may be appropriate, I am concerned that the training police officers receive should stress more strongly that Tasers should be a weapon of last resort, and should be used in extreme circumstances only.

The Association of Chief Police Officer’s guidelines state that a Taser can only be used where officers face violence or when the police are in a situation where the threat of violence is so severe they need to use force to protect the public, themselves, and/ or the person they are dealing with.

Certainly in many of my clients’ cases I would argue that:

  • they present no threat whatsoever, and
  • that the police have acted with undue haste, and
  • in some cases I have dealt with, the police have exaggerated the threat and fabricated an account to justify Taser use and excuse the police assault.

Hopefully the figures presented today will generate further public awareness and debate as to whether police officers should be routinely equipped with a Taser and in what circumstances such a weapon should be used.

If you have been injured as a result of a police assault using a Taser, contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website. Alternatively, read more about me, my website or blog for more information about actions against the police claims.

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Image of Taser cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Marcelo Freixo 50123: http://flickr.com/photos/marcelofreixo/8188041975/

Why the police assault in ‘The Newsroom’ is more fact than fiction

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

In tonight’s edition of the Newsroom, the fictional HBO drama currently airing on Sky Atlantic, Neal Sampat is subjected to a police assault and wrongfully arrested at a New York protest rally.

His character, played by Englishman Dev Patel, is seen filming the protest and telling the police that he is a journalist, only to be assaulted by a police officer, arrested and held in a police cell. He is freed after an hour when anchorman Will McAvoy (a former lawyer) shows the custody sergeant Neal’s footage of the protest, including proof of the police assault and unlawful arrest.

Aside from being a good story, I am glad that the often- harsh treatment of protesters exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression is now being shown in popular media.

Police assault at a peaceful protest

As a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police I am frequently asked to represent clients who have been subject to a police assault, unlawful arrest and detention and, on occasion, malicious prosecution, simply because they exercised their right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression.

My former client Audrey White (name and details used with permission) received compensation following a police assault when she was protesting at a ‘Stop the War’ rally in Manchester. Mrs. White, who was 56 at the time, is an articulate, successful businesswoman, who was well-known to the police as an organiser and steward at these events.

To get publicity, for much of the day she wore a Gordon Brown facemask while carrying a banner-sized mock cheque which was payable to the ‘Oil Companies and Arms Industry for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq- the sum of 12 billion pounds, the blood of one million Iraqis and the deaths of 300 British soldiers’ and ‘signed’ by Gordon Brown (see photograph below).

Audrey White, Stop the War campaigner, wearing the Gordon Brown facemask which the police forcibly removed.
Police assault Stop the War campaigner wearing a Gordon Brown mask

The protest went off without incident, but near the end, a female police officer and colleague told Mrs. White to remove the mask. When Audrey asked why, they had no answer. Mrs. White refused, so the police officers forcibly removed the mask, dragging her to the ground.

Audrey White suffers from low bone density and was injured in the police assault. She was in pain, upset and humiliated by the police’s shocking and unjustified treatment.

Later, Audrey filed a police complaint about the assault, but as is often the case, the police rejected her complaint saying that their action was reasonable, necessary and proportionate.

Compensation claim after a police assault

Mrs. White instructed me to pursue a civil action against the police. Again, the police denied that they had done anything wrong, arguing that they had the power to remove disguises under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. This Section is meant to prevent people from hiding their identity to the police.

I obtained the police officer’s notebooks, which showed that they did not believe that the mask was being worn to conceal her identity, so that they had no right to remove it.

As such, the police assault was unlawful and breached Audrey’s legal right to freedom of expression.

Following negotiations, I recovered compensation for the police assault, a formal apology, and full legal costs for my satisfied client.

I am glad that The Newsroom highlighted the importance of the civil right to protest, and the police’s often overly- aggressive approach to dealing with protesters. Even though it is fiction set in New York, my client’s experience is remarkably similar, showing that civil liberties are under threat no matter where we are.

 

If you have been subject to a police assault, unlawful arrest and/or detention at a protest rally and want to claim compensation, contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website. Alternatively, read more about me, or more blog posts, by clicking on the links.

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Why Greater Manchester Police should review their policies

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

Sir Peter Fahy, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (the second largest police force in England & Wales) and vice-president of the Association of Chief Police Officers said yesterday that only 40% of reported cases of crime were being investigated.

He blamed a lack of resources and said that his force followed a strategy “adopted” by other police forces.


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by University of Salford Press…

Sir Peter (shown above) was interviewed on camera on The Independent’s website and, in a statement released by his Police force, said:

In the same way that the health service concentrates on the most serious illnesses and the treatments likely to have most effect, the police have to concentrate on the most serious crimes and those where there are lines of investigation likely to produce evidence of the offender. In practice, this translates into about 40% of crime being actively pursued at any time.

He added that there is:

A balance between investigating crime after it happened and targeting known offenders. Most crime is committed by a relatively small group of persistent offenders.  So in continuing to reduce crime, we balance between investigating offences after they have happened and targeting those who we know are out there every day, looking for criminal opportunities.

Police abuse of powers

Whilst such a strategy may be acceptable to the public at large, the danger is that it will result in police officers simply rounding up ‘the usual suspects’ without evidence to suggest that those individuals are responsible.

I highlighted in an earlier blog that this can result in a situation where the police abuse their legal powers.

As I explained, the police must have ‘reasonable grounds’ to arrest in line with Section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (‘PACE’).

In the absence of lawful authority, such an arrest can lead to a claim for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and possibly misfeasance (see my website’s ‘what are actions against the police?’ section for more details).

Sir Peter’s comments only go to highlight my experience that many police forces abuse their power to arrest. As I explained in my previous blog post, people like ‘Mr. X’ (name withheld as his case continues) have suffered as a result of this policy of police abuse.

I urge Greater Manchester Police and all other police forces to review their policies to prevent further miscarriages of justice.

If you have suffered police abuse contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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Why do police assaults continue eight years after Azelle Rodney’s death?

Iain Gould, Actions Against the Police SolicitorBy Iain Gould, solicitor

On 30 April 2005 an armed police officer of the London Metropolitan Police fatally shot Azelle Rodney (shown below), a passenger in a car believed to have armed criminals inside, in a bungled ‘hard stop’.  Although weapons were subsequently found in the vehicle, Mr. Rodney was not holding a gun when killed by the police.

Investigations by both the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Crown Prosecution Service found no reason to criticise the police’s conduct. No inquest was held, and eventually political pressure persuaded the Lord Chancellor to establish a Parliamentary Inquiry on 10 June 2010.


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by 4WardEver Campaign UK

The recently published Azelle Rodney Inquiry Report is critical of:

  • the Metropolitan Police’s planning procedures,
  • the execution of the ‘hard stop’,
  • their handling of the aftermath of the shooting, and
  • concluded that there was no lawful justification for shooting Mr. Rodney so as to kill him.

Specifically, the report criticised the conduct of the ‘hard stop’, a tactic used by the police to ‘box in’ a suspect vehicle and use overwhelming force to shock the occupants into compliance. The report’s authors considered this ‘hard stop’ fell short of Police standards.

They found fault with:

  • the decision to ‘box in’ the vehicle directly outside a pub when better opportunities for the manoeuvre had previously presented themselves,
  • the deliberate ramming of the suspect vehicle on two separate occasions,
  • the officers who alighted from the police vehicles failed to wear caps so identifying themselves as police officers,
  • the officers fired a shotgun into the suspect vehicle’s tyres after it had been rammed and hemmed in when there was no likelihood of the vehicle escaping
  • the disproportionate force used by the police officer who shot Azelle Rodney, who opened fire only 0.06 seconds after his car stopped alongside the suspect vehicle with first six bullets, then followed up with two more shots. Shots 5-8 were found to have been directly to the head.
  • the evidence given by that officer was unreliable. The report found that the officer could not have seen or believed that Azelle Rodney had picked up a gun and was about to use it, despite his earlier statements. It considered that the policeman would be liable in civil and criminal law for the killing as there was no basis for firing the fatal fifth to eighth shots
  • the post-assault procedures, in which Mr. Rodney’s body was left on the pavement for more than 16 hours, his blood was not cleaned away prior to his family attending the scene, and unauthorised press reports were released.

The report recommends that the Metropolitan Police conduct a thorough review of their procedures.


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by West Midlands Police

Police assaults as a result of ‘hard stop’ action

Our modern police force has evolved to deal with changing threats. In particular, the risks caused by firearms and weapons means that the police have developed a tactic to create ‘shock and awe’ in the minds of their suspects. The police will now use the ‘hard stop’, expletives, physical force, ‘boxing in’ (where police vehicles are used to corner a suspect’s vehicle), and other aggressive behaviour to dominate and intimidate. They justify this by stating that they may have to deal with the threat of lethal force from potentially armed suspects.

The bungled ‘hard stop’ which tragically resulted in Azelle Rodney’s death was over eight years ago. Have the police learned from their mistakes? As two of my cases involving the London Metropolitan Police show, a pattern of unjustifiable police assaults is emerging that may suggest not.

Police assault, hard stops and ‘verbal stunning’

My clients Claire Clarke, James Barber, Nicholas Fairbairn and Ruth Fairbairn were on the receiving end of aggressive police assault tactics, described in an official response to their complaint as ‘verbal stunning’, when they were driving home from visiting friends on 19 April 2010. (You can read a case report here.)

The four friends in their late twenties were driving in Harrow when their car was boxed in by three marked Police cars while executing a ‘hard stop’.

A number of armed police officers surrounded them and trained their weapons on the car. James (the driver) had his car window was smashed, was roughly pulled out, thrown to the glass-covered ground and handcuffed. The armed police officers screamed expletives and contradictory instructions at the terrified friends. Nick and Ruth were also forcibly removed and handcuffed. The friends were separated. After 20 minutes the police explained they had made a mistake, and that they had stopped the wrong car.

All suffered physical and emotional distress as a result. As with Azelle Rodney’s case, the Independent Police Complaints Commission rejected their complaint saying there was no evidence of misconduct. I disagreed and instigated a civil action on their behalf and ultimately recovered compensation for my clients for this police assault on the basis that the police failed to conduct basic checks before executing the ‘hard stop’ on the friends’ car.


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Dave Crosby

Police assault with gun during a ‘hard stop’

My client Mr. A had just walked into an underground car park on 04 September 2009 when he was set upon by five or six armed men, all dressed in plain clothes. One of the men approached him and without warning smashed the butt of his gun into the side of Mr. A’s right temple, causing him to fall to the ground.

Mr. A was dragged away from the car park doorway by his attacker.

When Mr. A asked ‘why are you beating me?’ the man said ‘keep your f**king mouth shut’ and struck Mr. A with the butt of his gun again in the right temple.

Mr. A adopted a foetal position on the ground. While defenceless he felt people pulling at his limbs, kicking his heels, ribs and left hip. He was stamped on by the men. Then he was struck with the butt of the gun a third time to the head by the same man, who shouted ‘F**king c*nt, move!’

Mr. A, who was bleeding heavily and in great pain by this time had no idea who was attacking him, or why.

The man with the gun was told to ‘back off’ by a colleague, who came over and said ‘it’s not even f**king him’. Despite this, Mr. A was told that he was being arrested.

It then dawned on Mr. A that he had been repeatedly assaulted by police officers, not gangland thugs. As with Azelle Rodney’s case, the officers had failed to wear caps or other identifying clothing.

Mr. A was arrested (even though the officers would not tell him why), taken to hospital and thereafter a London police station where he was held for over 24 hours before being released, even though the police had clearly arrested the wrong man.

Ultimately, no action was taken against him.

He has suffered serious  injuries which have left him with permanent scars to his face and scalp, and emotional trauma. I am now pursuing an actions against the police claim for his police assault, wrongful arrest & false imprisonment. Mr. A seeks additional compensation for the police’s arbitrary, oppressive and unconstitutional conduct.

The police have denied liability and refused to apologise for their conduct. I have issued court proceedings on his behalf and the case is ongoing.

Police assault failures

There are chilling similarities between my clients’ cases and that of Azelle Rodney.

Eight years on, when faced with a potentially lethal threat, police officers are still failing to comply with proper procedures, using unnecessary force and mishandling the aftermath, knowing that they will be protected by the IPCC and their solicitors. We can only hope that the criticism of all involved in the Azelle Rodney case will convince the police to clean up their act.

 

If you are a victim of police assault and want to make a claim for compensation against the police, contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via the www.dpp-law.com website.

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Police abuse powers to arrest the ‘usual suspects’

Iain Gould, Actions Against the Police SolicitorBy Iain Gould, solicitor

 Despite the strict requirements of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), it would appear that at least one police force, under pressure to increase the detection rate in relation to serious offences, admit to simply rounding up the ‘usual suspects’ without any evidence to suggest those individuals are responsible.


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by J

Police abuse power of arrest

In a report commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, Vicky Kemp reviewed 5000 arrests made over a 3-month period in 2012 by Nottinghamshire Police.  She found that ‘a significant minority’ involved suspects who were known to be prolific in the past but who had been wrongfully arrested with no evidence linking them to the crime for which they had been detained.

Such a policy has strong historical roots in British policing. It is a form of ‘social control’.

According to some police officers who were interviewed:

  • arresting persistent offenders;
  • detaining them for up to 24 hours;
  • confiscating their mobile phones and shoes for forensic examination;
  • imposing bail conditions; and
  • searching their homes

will all help reduce crime.

Police legal powers abused

While it is debatable if such an approach to ‘social control’ was ever in place, cultural and technological changes in the 1970’s introduced a more professional and tolerable model of policing reinforced by the provisions of s.24 of PACE (1984), which stresses that the police must have ‘reasonable grounds’ for arrest. The law states that –

24 Arrest without warrant: constables

(1) A constable may arrest without a warrant—

(a) anyone who is about to commit an offence;

(b) anyone who is in the act of committing an offence;

(c) anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be about to commit an offence;

(d) anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be committing an offence.

(2) If a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, he may arrest without a warrant anyone whom he has reasonable grounds to suspect of being guilty of it.

(3) If an offence has been committed, a constable may arrest without a warrant—

(a) anyone who is guilty of the offence;

(b) anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be guilty of it.

(4) But the power of summary arrest conferred by subsection (1), (2) or (3) is exercisable only if the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that for any of the reasons mentioned in subsection (5) it is necessary to arrest the person in question.

(5) The reasons are—

(a) to enable the name of the person in question to be ascertained (in the case where the constable does not know, and cannot readily ascertain, the person’s name, or has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name given by the person as his name is his real name);

(b) correspondingly as regards the person’s address;

(c) to prevent the person in question—

(i) causing physical injury to himself or any other person;

(ii) suffering physical injury;

(iii) causing loss of or damage to property;

(iv) committing an offence against public decency (subject to subsection (6)); or

(v) causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway;

(d) to protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question;

(e) to allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question;

(f) to prevent any prosecution for the offence from being hindered by the disappearance of the person in question.

(6) Subsection (5)(c)(iv) applies only where members of the public going about their normal business cannot reasonably be expected to avoid the person in question.

So, aside from the very specific grounds detailed in the Act, the police do not have the power to arrest without a warrant. Any arrest outside of these terms is an abuse of police powers, and can lead to claims for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and misfeasance in public office, especially if repeated as described in the Ministry of Justice report.

As a specialist actions against the police solicitor, in my experience it is not just Nottinghamshire Police who are abusing their power to arrest. Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have repeatedly reported on police abuse, for example in describing the Andrew Mitchell ‘plebgate’ affair, and when discussing South Yorkshire Police’s claims that they have changed post-Hillsborough.

Police harassment of a current client

I am currently representing a 57-year-old man who wishes to sue Greater Manchester Police.  Mr X will openly admit that he has a chequered past but has served his time and says his offending days are over.  Despite this, he has been arrested for burglary at least nine times over the last 5 years and maintains that on each and every occasion, there has been no evidence linking him to any of the crimes (burglary or robbery). Certainly, no arrest has led to any successful prosecution.

Consequences when the police abuse their powers

Mr. X’s case highlights a policy that not only wastes police time and resources but also causes distress and yet further damage to the reputation of the police while the real offenders escape justice.


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Insomnia Cured Here

The classic film, Casablanca, ends with Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick Blaine killing the Nazi, Major Strasser. Captain Renault saves Rick’s life by telling the investigating police to ’round up the usual suspects’. While that may have saved the hero in the famous wartime story, police officers in real-life England and Wales have no such excuse.

Advice for victims of police abuse

If you are a victim of police abuse and want advice about pursuing a compensation claim against the police, contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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Why have jury trials in actions against the police?

Iain Gould, Actions Against the Police SolicitorBy Iain Gould, Solicitor

It is a little-known fact that some actions against the police compensation claims (specifically cases involving claims for false imprisonment and/or malicious prosecution) can be decided by a jury.

The right to trial by jury in such cases was preserved for such claims against the police after it was abolished for most other civil actions in 1933.

Putting such a case before a Jury does not, however, come without complications.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by zzpza

Hung jury in an actions against the police claim

I am currently representing Mr. G who is suing  British Transport Police for false imprisonment, assault, misfeasance in public office, and malicious prosecution. Although, there is some limited CCTV footage, Mr. G’s actions against the police compensation claim essentially rests on his word against two Police Officers. Last week, his case went to trial before a Jury.

On the fourth day, having heard the evidence, the jury of eight retired.

After a long and stressful week in court, Mr. G hoped for Judgment in his favour in his police compensation claim.

Unfortunately, the jury were unable to reach unanimity.

In the County Court (as in this case) after a reasonable period of deliberation, the Court can accept a majority verdict of 7-1.

In Mr. G’s case, after several hours, it was clear that the jury were unable to agree to that and, in the circumstances, the Judge ordered a re-trial.

As it now stands, he must ready himself for another week in court sometime in the next year, and I will have to prepare his case for trial yet again.

So why bother having a Jury?

Judicial guidance in police claims

By s.69 of the Supreme Courts Act 1981, a party wishing to claim the right to have their case heard before a jury has to apply for it within 28 days of the service of the Defence.

Should either party fail to make such an application, the case must be tried by a Judge alone unless the Court in its discretion orders trial by jury. As May LJ noted in Times Newspapers Ltd v Armstrong (2006),

‘the discretion is now rarely exercised, reflecting contemporary practice. Contemporary practice has an eye, among other things, to proportionality; the greater predictability of the decision of a professional Judge; and the fact that a Judge gives decisions.’

Reasons to keep jury trials in police abuse claims

Given ‘contemporary practice’, why then encourage (as I routinely do) a victim of police abuse to elect jury trial?

Because an individual’s belief in the rule of law is shaken when they are a victim of wrongdoing by the police.

The police are agents of the state. The courts can be considered the same way, and I often hear scepticism of judicial independence and the need to avoid the ‘involuntary bias towards those of their own rank and dignity’ (Frank Cook v Telegraph Media Group Ltd (2011)).

Some might query whether my faith and confidence in jury trials in cases involving police abuse has been knocked.

My answer is an unequivocal ‘no’.

Having taken many civil actions against the police to trial with a jury, I remain convinced that, win or lose, my clients are far more accepting of a judgment given by their peers rather than by a Judge who may be perceived as solitary, conservative and out of touch.

Certainly, Mr. G is un-phased and is keen to have his actions against the police case heard again, confident that a new jury will find in his favour.

For all of us, but especially those making actions against the police claims, it is important that this basic right is preserved.

If you have been a victim of police abuse and want to claim compensation, please click here to read more or contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via the contact form at dpp-law.com.

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Why the Metropolitan Police continue to bungle a mistaken police raid

Photo of Iain Gould, a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police
Iain Gould, Actions Against the Police Solicitor

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

I read this week about the Metropolitan Police’s attitude to wrongful forced entry (‘police raid’) cases.

An article on the Londonlovesbusiness website states that the Metropolitan (or ‘Met’ for short) Police are directly responsible for around 1,000 mistaken raids on innocent peoples’ homes every year.

Defending the Met, Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation Gill Barratt is quoted as saying,

‘Often decisions to enter a property are made in fast-moving situations where the officer has to balance the welfare of the occupant against damage caused. Whilst any damage is regrettable, the welfare of the occupant must always be paramount.’

As a case I am currently pursuing shows, occupant welfare appears to be less important to both the police officers conducting the raids, and those dealing with subsequent compensation claims.

cc licensed ( BY SA )  flickr photo shared by West Midlands Police

Bungled police raid in London

I am currently representing Mr. M, his wife and (at the time) 5 year-old daughter following a terrifying police raid at their home.

At 4.a.m in October 2011, Mr. M, a 29 year-old, 5’5” Asian male, was asleep in bed with his wife in their Hounslow, Middlesex flat. They were awoken by two loud bangs.  He and his wife got up and rushed out of their bedroom. As they did so, there was another loud crash and the front door splintered and flew open. The couple was confronted by several large men who were wearing helmets and pointing guns at them.

Both Mr. and Mrs. M didn’t understand what was happening and believed they were being robbed.

The armed men shouted a succession of contradictory commands. One told Mr. and Mrs. M to freeze. Another told them to put up their hands. Only then did Mr. M realise that the intruders were police officers.

Mr M saw his daughter standing at her bedroom door and he took a step forwards to console her. An officer told him to ‘freeze’ or he would be ‘struck down’.

Several officers manhandled and handcuffed Mr. M and escorted him outside into the cold in his underwear. The officers were abusive to him, swearing at him and pushing him around.

While being held outside he could hear his daughter screaming.

After 10-15 minutes, the handcuffs were removed and Mr. M was allowed to return inside his flat to be re-united with his wife and daughter.  The terrified family was then told by the Police that they had made a mistake in raiding the flat.

All three have been deeply traumatised by the police raid at their home.

Compensation claim for police raid at home

Mr. M instructed me as I specialise in compensation claims against the police.

As well as damages for the trauma he and his family have suffered, he wants answers.

I have established that the mistaken raid came about because the police were searching for a 17 year-old, “stocky” black man, about a suspected firearms offence.

They had an address recording the suspect at ‘Flat 1A…’.

Mr. M and his family live at Flat 1: there is no Flat 1A.

Knowing this, it defies logic to think that the police would raid Mr. M’s home in the first place, and then make matters worse by handcuffing and removing Mr. M, a man who bears no physical resemblance to the person they were searching for.

Despite the open-and-shut nature of this case, because of the Metropolitan Police’s conduct, I have had no alternative but to issue Court proceedings.

In response the Met Police have denied liability. The grounds in support of their denial were scant and so I have been obliged to raise formal questions to establish the full background. All this costs time and money which, if Mr. M is successful, will be paid by the taxpayer.

Occupant welfare paramount?

Gill Barratt claims that ‘the welfare of the occupant must always be paramount’.

If that is so, why didn’t the Met Police check the address before raiding Mr. M’s flat? Why was Mr. M (who looks nothing like the suspect) manhandled, handcuffed and removed from his home and family by armed officers? Why are the Met Police continuing to defend the family’s entirely proper claim for compensation?

As a result of the mistakes made in bungled police raids in and around London, the Met Police have paid out almost £1 million in compensation over the past three years, as well as the associated costs of repairing damage to property and dealing with litigation and compensation claims.

We should not forget that as well as the financial cost to the taxpayer there is also the considerable emotional cost and loss of trust experienced by the victims of the bungled raids, their families, friends and neighbours.

To continue to fight Mr. M’s claim only makes things worse for the Metropolitan Police. As Vice Chair, I can only hope that the authority of Ms. Barratt’s words will result in positive action for my client and future victims of police negligence.

If you have been a victim of a bungled police raid on your home, contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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A Caution is for life not just for Christmas

Photo of Iain Gould, a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police
Iain Gould, specialist actions against the police solicitor

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

On a regular basis, certain crimes are resolved at the Police Station shortly after arrest by way of a simple (a.k.a police) caution.  Many observers view such a disposal as a slap on the wrist without serious consequences. They are wrong. Let me explain why accepting a police caution could be one of the most serious mistakes you ever make.

 What is a police caution?

A police caution is a formal warning given to adults for minor offences. It is an alternative to prosecution in minor cases and is usually issued by the police, but can also be handled by other enforcement agencies, such as Local Authorities. Cautions cannot be issued in indictable-only (serious) offences, but otherwise the police retain a broad discretion to issue them.

 The consequences of accepting a police caution

 Although a caution is not a criminal conviction, if it is imposed for a recordable offence:

  •  it will be entered on the Police National Computer and any subsequent court proceedings,
  • it may be used as evidence of previous misconduct where this is permitted,
  • it may prevent a further caution being offered in the future,
  • fingerprints and other identification data can be taken and retained,
  • in the case of a relevant sexual offence, the offender is placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for two years,
  • if the person cautioned is in a notifiable occupation the police should disclose the caution to the employer. This may have especially serious consequences for people who work with children or vulnerable adults.

 How the police issue cautions

 In 2008, the Home Office issued Circular 016/2008 about ‘Simple cautioning of Adult Offenders’ to provide guidance on the use of the simple caution. It states that a simple caution ‘may be used for disposing of (low-level) offences when specified public interest and eligibility criteria are met’.

 Relevant extracts of the circular are as follows:

 The aims of the simple caution are to:

 (a)          deal quickly and simply with less serious offences where the offender has admitted the offence

 (b)          divert offenders where appropriate from appearing in the criminal courts

 (c)          record an individual’s criminal conduct for possible reference in future criminal proceedings or relevant security checks; and

 (d)          reduce the likelihood of re-offending.

 When deciding when a Simple Caution is appropriate, a police officer must answer the following questions: 

  • has the suspect made a clear and  reliable admission for the offence either verbally or in writing?…
  • Is there a realistic prospect of conviction if the offender were to be prosecuted in line with the Code for Crown Prosecutors,  
  • Is it in the public interest to use a Simple Caution as a means of disposal?  Officers should take into account the public interest factors set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, in particular the seriousness of the offence… 
  • Is the suspect 18 years or older? 
  • Is a Simple Caution appropriate to the offence and the offender?  (with reference to ACPO’s gravity Factors matrix and the suspect’s criminal history). 

Other Considerations

  • Has the offender been made aware of the significance of a Simple Caution? 
  • Under no circumstances should suspects be pressed or induced in any way to admit offences in order to receive a Simple Caution as an alternative to being charged. 
  • Has the suspect given an informed consent to being cautioned. 

“Informed consent” can be given when the suspect has received in writing an explanation of the implications of accepting a Simple Caution before he/she agrees to accept a Simple Caution.  After receiving this, if the suspect does not give his/her consent, the police may choose to continue with the prosecution in accordance with the Directors Guidance on Charging.  Officers must avoid any suggestion that accepting a Simple Caution is an “easy option”. 

Making the decision

When considering the suitability of an offence for disposal by Simple Caution, the decision should be referred to an officer of at least Sergeant rank. 

Consequences of receiving a Simple Caution 

The significance of the admission of guilt in agreeing to accept a Simple Caution must be fully and clearly explained to the offender before they are cautioned. 

Other legal guidance about police cautions

  1. The Code for Crown Prosecutors 

The Full Code test for deciding the appropriate disposal of a case has two stages:

  1. the evidential stage, i.e. whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction, and
  2. whether in all the circumstances, it is in the public’s interest for there to be a prosecution. 
  1. The ACPO Gravity Matrix 

The Guidance requires an officer to apply the “ACPO Gravity Factors Matrix” when assessing the gravity of an offence.

All offences are given a gravity score (‘1’ for the most minor offences and ‘4’ for the most serious). Other factors, either aggravating or mitigating may raise or lower the score for a particular offence, by 1 point only.

So, for a total score of 1, the guidance states there should always be the minimum response applicable to the individual offender, i.e. No Further Action, Simple Caution or Penalty Notice for Disorder.

For a score of 4, the guidance states to always charge.

How the courts interpret the law on police cautions

It is apparent that police officers responsible for applying the Home Office Circular enjoy a wide margin of appreciation as to the nature of the case and whether the pre-conditions for a caution are satisfied.

As Lord Justice Schiemann put it in R v Metropolitan Police Commissioner ex parte Thompson [1997] I 1 WLR 1519 

“it will be a rare case where a person who has been cautioned will succeed in showing that the decision was fatally flawed…”.

Cases where a police caution has been removed after the event: 

  1. How CCTV saved Mrs O’Reilly 

In a case that I was involved in against West Yorkshire Police, I obtained CCTV footage of the Custody Suite that provided “clear evidence that a caution was not explained in full or correctly” to my client Mrs. O’Reilly, in breach of the Circular’s guidance.

The facts

Mrs O’Reilly was arrested for obstructing an officer in the execution of his duty.  She was taken to Dewsbury Police Station where she was kept in overnight.

The following morning, she was advised that she was to be offered a police caution. She was given no explanation as to what it meant to have a caution, nor given a choice in the matter.  She was told that she would not have to disclose it and was told to sign a piece of paper stating that she agreed to be cautioned.

West Yorkshire Police’s position

Mrs. O’Reilly’s initial complaint to the police was ignored. She sought me out as I am a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police.

But for the incontrovertible CCTV evidence, I have no doubt that West Yorkshire Police would have rejected her complaint and my client would still have a caution against her (otherwise) unblemished name.

Result: removal of the police caution

As a consequence of Mrs. O’Reilly’s reliance on CCTV evidence to support her insistence that she had been mistreated, West Yorkshire Police agreed to expunge the caution from their system/the Police National Computer.

2. Judicial review of the Metropolitan Police 

In another recent case brought against the Metropolitan Police, a decision to caution and its subsequent confirmation was challenged in Judicial Review proceedings.

The Court found that the suspect had made a clear and reliable admission, but on review considered:

  • the circumstances of the offence and offender, 
  • the investigating officer’s thought process when deciding how to resolve the case (i.e. to take no further action, to offer a caution, or to prosecute), and 
  • determined that he should have concluded that a prosecution was inconceivable, and that the public interest did not warrant a caution. 

Accordingly, the Court decided to intervene and the caution was expunged.

A cautionary tale

Given the clear Home Office guidance and judicial support described above, successful challenges to the imposition of police cautions are rare.

Careful consideration has to be given by the Police as to whether to offer a caution, the suspect as to whether to accept, and a Criminal Defence Lawyer, if engaged, to advise whether to accept or reject.

The fact remains that challenging a caution after the event will be exceptional and accordingly, for the vast majority who accept a caution at the Police Station this will be on their record for ever-more.

If you (or your clients) have been wrongly issued with a police caution, contact me for confidential advice and assistance using the online form below, via my firm’s website, or call me on 0151 933 5525.

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