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Lockdown, no Lockup?

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

I was dismayed to read this week that a former Detective Constable from Lancashire Police, Stuart Lunt, managed to escape jail despite having being convicted of misconduct in public office for offences against vulnerable women whom he had met and exploited, through his Police role.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how Lunt formed, or attempted to form, sexual relationships with several women he met in the course of his Police duties (either as victims of crime or witnesses), exploiting both their trust and the honour and responsibilities of his profession.

Lunt received a sentence of 18 months imprisonment, which was suspended for 2 years only after the Judge David Aubrey QC heard that during the current pandemic Lunt was required to be at home to care for his children, as his wife was the deputy manager of a pre-school nursery and hence designated a “key worker.”

Judge Aubrey was clearly minded only to suspend the sentence because of the exceptional circumstances created by the Coronavirus, condemning Lunt in the following terms –

You gained the trust of vulnerable women and utilized that trust for your own sexual advantages and desires. You crossed the boundaries of your duties as a police officer and did so knowingly. All of the women were vulnerable to exploitation and that is precisely what you did. I am satisfied your conduct was akin to grooming.”

In short; whilst the rest of us are subject to ‘lockdown’ it has proved a useful means for this particular corrupt officer to escape lock-up…

Reflecting on this judgment, I am obviously pleased that more and more officers are being brought to account for this type of crime in the criminal courts. However, the approach which the Police then take to the legitimate claims subsequently brought by the Officer’s victims in the County Court all too often continues to be unnecessarily obstructive and combative, in my experience.

I recently had to fight a contested application in a case where Cheshire Police were seeking to withhold disclosure of key documents in a case where my client was, tragically, the victim of a predatory Police officer who groomed and raped her when she was only 13 years old. The Police were, in effect, seeking to withhold from my client and her family, documents which I believe will reveal significant culpability on their part in failing to properly ‘vet’ the Officer, and then in further failing to supervise him so as to prevent the terrible crime he committed against my client.

Quite rightly, the Court has ordered that Cheshire Constabulary provide full disclosure of the documents within the next 6 weeks – notwithstanding an attempt by their lawyers to substantially delay their compliance with the order by reference to – you guessed it – the ‘exceptional circumstances’ created by the Coronavirus outbreak…

Let us all hope that across both the criminal and civil court systems, justice continues to be done, notwithstanding the challenges presented  by Covid- 19; I will certainly be continuing to play my part to ensure that it does.

Police Powers Under the Covid Lockdown

Reflecting on the current Covid-19 crisis which has engulfed the world – we are for once, literally, ‘all in this together’ – my first thoughts are to wish all readers of this blog well, and to hope that you and your families stay safe during this time of physical, emotional and financial upheaval, which is absolutely unprecedented for the vast majority of us.

The ‘Lockdown’ of the country has given many pause for thought. Obviously the Police, along with the other emergency services, are on the front-line of the fight against the virus, and have a difficult job to do in enforcing the new rules and regulations which have been brought in by the government. But the very difficulty of striking that balance, between freedoms and restrictions, and the voices of criticism which have, quite rightly in my opinion, been raised by some in regards to Police Officers overstepping the mark and being too heavy handed in their enforcement or interpretation of the new rules set out in the Health Protection (Coronarivus Restrictions) Regulations 2020 are actually signs of the robust health of our democracy and civic society. Would people prefer to have all discretion taken away from them, as in a society such as China where political freedoms and opportunity for free speech are severely limited? Draconian steps were taken by the Chinese government to ‘freeze’ the city of Wuhan, at the epicenter of the outbreak, in a strange post-apocalyptic scenario where people were literally forbidden from stepping outside their homes; yet this ‘protection’ goes hand in hand with the local authorities earlier persecution of the whistle-blowing doctor, Li Wenliang, who was one of the first to warn about the spread of the virus, who was forced into a public recantation of his (clearly legitimate) concerns, and who, tragically, subsequently became one of the virus’s victims himself.  Surely even in a time of danger we do not want to live in a police state, but rather a state where the police are part of society, the ideal of ‘citizens in uniform’.

In this regard I echo the warnings voiced by the former Supreme Court Judge, Lord Sumption, who lamented the heavy-handedness of Derbyshire Police who had turned themselves, in his opinion, into over-zealous, glorified “school prefects” in their use of tactics such as using a drone to spy upon a Sheffield couple walking their dog in the Peak District, and sought to ‘shame’ them by posting images of them on Twitter. North Yorkshire Police, meanwhile, was reported to have set up check-points to allow them to stop people travelling and question them as to their destination. “Papers please!” might be the next demand; is that a place we want to go to as a society?

Other news reports identified cases in which Forces were telling people they could only exercise for an hour a day, or issuing a summons to a household for shopping for what were deemed to be “non-essential” items, or forbidding shops from selling Easter eggs! Here we see the obvious dangers of over-zealous policing in new and uncertain times. The Police in those cases were racing ahead of the law and behaving in a draconian manner; perhaps out of the best of intentions; but this is the danger of the mindset many officers seem to adopt. Many Officers seem to assume that their daily purpose is to look for opportunities to use their powers to punish and restrict people’s behaviour – even when they may not fully understand what those powers are (a classic example being the misuse of powers to enter a person’s home without a warrant under Ss.17 and 18 of the Police & Criminal Evidence Act, as I have blogged about on several occasions) and when rather they should be operating from a mindset of looking for all avenues of resolving, diffusing or leaving a situation ‘be’ without the use of punitive powers/intervention as a default. There is a real danger of over-eagerness in Police action sometimes; the psychological pull of being given new toys and wanting to play with them.

As Lord Sumption cautioned, the Police must act to enforce only the actual law, and not the personal preferences of senior government ministers; that is the crucial difference between living in a liberal democracy and a ‘police state’. The Police are here to help the law of the land function in a healthy and open and proper manner, as fellow citizens invested with a special, but not exclusive, responsibility; their purpose is not to act as paramilitaries for the executive or the strong-arm of government. Of course, individual freedom brings with it individual responsibility in equal measure and we must all do what we can to sensibly limit the spread of this terrible virus. But just as with the threats posed by terrorism, we should be careful not to react to this threat by going too far in the opposite direction. An Englishman’s home, as has been said before in this blog, in his castle; it should not be his prison!

I was thankful to read the words of the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary who speaking to BBC Newsnight last week, agreed that the consent of the public was key, and that “we’re not going to enforce our way out of this problem.”

The fact, however, that many front line officers were going further than what the new legislation actually allows them to do, was sadly not a surprise to me.

I hope that Officers the length and breadth of the country will take to heart the latest guidance issued by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs Council, rather than over-zealously interpreting and implementing both the actual powers given by the emergency legislation, and those phantom powers which some officers assumed that they had, as the above examples suggest. The key principle of British policing is set out in the following words in the new guidance, and it is this type of spirit of the law which should always predominate over the letter of the law, particularly in ‘grey’ areas of interpretation, in my opinion –

“We police by consent. The initial police response should be to encourage voluntary compliance. There is no power to ‘stop and account’. The police will apply the law in a system that is flexible, discretionary and pragmatic. This will enable officers to make sensible decisions and employ their judgment. Enforcement should be a last resort.”

Whenever the Police are given new powers to interfere in people’s lives, it is crucial to ask the question, who will police those powers and prevent their abuse? That is why it is right for lawyers and journalists to highlight and criticize situations when we believe the Police are going too far in seeking to restrict people’s freedoms, even in this time of crisis. Sometimes, freedoms once infringed upon, cannot always or completely be taken back and the thriving of our open, liberal society in the long term depends not only in dealing with the shocking, often scary, but only temporary crisis of Coronavirus, but in also a slower, wider and determined sense, maintaining the correct balance between personal freedom and responsibility, the enforcement of the law, and state supervision over and intervention into our lives, which must be kept to as little as is healthily possible.

Police Complaints : A System Which Needs Fixing

Back in October 2017, The College of Policing issued new guidance specifically to those who preside over Police Misconduct Proceedings.  This was to ensure consistent and proportionate determinations by reference to relevant criteria which included the officer’s record, culpability for the misconduct, the harm caused, aggravating factors and mitigation.

The guidance is, in my opinion, clear and comprehensive and the decision to publish it very commendable.  But I question why the guidance is said to be issued only to those chairing misconduct proceedings, i.e. Senior and Chief Officers and independent legally qualified Chairs and not to all those involved in the entire misconduct investigation (from start to finish) and in particular, those involved in determining the level of misconduct once an allegation has been investigated (i.e. ‘the Appropriate Authority’).

What do I mean?

Misconduct for Police Officers will involve a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour which are;

Honesty and Integrity 

Police officers are honest, act with integrity and do not compromise or abuse their position. 

Authority, Respect and Courtesy 

Police officers act with self-control and tolerance, treating members of the public and colleagues with respect and courtesy.

Police officers do not abuse their powers or authority and respect the rights of all

individuals. 

Equality and Diversity 

Police officers act with fairness and impartiality. They do not discriminate unlawfully or unfairly.

 Use of Force

 Police officers only use force to the extent that it is necessary, proportionate and

reasonable in all the circumstances.

Orders and Instructions

Police officers only give and carry out lawful orders and instructions.

Police officers abide by police regulations, force policies and lawful orders.

 Duties and Responsibilities

 Police officers are diligent in the exercise of their duties and responsibilities.

 Confidentiality

 Police officers treat information with respect and access or disclose it only in the proper course of police duties.

 Fitness for Duty

 Police officers when on duty or presenting themselves for duty are fit to carry out their duties and responsibilities.

 Discreditable Conduct

 Police officers behave in a manner which does not discredit the police service or

undermine public confidence, whether on or off duty.

 Challenging and Reporting Improper Conduct

 Police officers report, challenge or take action against the conduct of colleagues which has fallen below the standards of professional behaviour expected.

 Each case of wrongdoing is categorised as either misconduct or gross misconduct.  Misconduct is a breach of the standards of professional behaviour whilst gross misconduct is a breach of the standards of professional behaviour so serious that dismissal is justified.

An allegation of misconduct can lead to an internal Misconduct Meeting, whereas an allegation of gross misconduct leads to a Misconduct Hearing which is usually held in public.

An appearance at a Misconduct Hearing can lead to the officer being sacked, whilst a Misconduct Meeting’s maximum penalty is a final written warning.   The distinction is not only pertinent as regards outcome but also public scrutiny; only Misconduct Hearings (with some exceptions) are held in public.

I have long considered Professional Standard Departments to be too protective of those Officers accused of misconduct and their efforts to keep complaints ‘in house’ suspicious.  Yes, sometimes there is a right of appeal to the ‘independent’ IOPC that is exercised and yes, sometimes the IOPC will intervene and reclassify misconduct as gross misconduct and direct consideration by a Misconduct Hearing but in my experience this rarely happens and too often, allegations of misconduct which are clearly serious and ‘gross’ are dealt with, or ‘covered up’ in house.  Take for example the case of PC Norman, which you can read about here.

One case that does buck the trend is that involving a client I am currently representing.

Back in April 2017, my client was at home when she was visited by an Enforcement Officer in respect of an outstanding/unsatisfied debt.

My client went outside to meet the Enforcement Officer and noticed that her vehicle had been fixed with a clamp and a seizure notice.

My client also noted another vehicle, parked in front of her own, which she believed, at that time, to belong to the Enforcement Officer.

My client did not have the financial resources to immediately settle the debt and was content to allow seizure of her vehicle.

At or about this time, my client’s son and cousin also arrived at the scene.

As my client believed that her vehicle was to be seized imminently, she began to remove personal items from the car and transfer these to her home address.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the Enforcement Officer alleged that a parcel had been removed from his vehicle and that damage had been caused to his vehicle.

My client advised the Enforcement Officer she had no knowledge whatsoever of either issue.

The Enforcement Officer indicated his intentions to contact the Police and my client witnessed a phone call taking place.

My client suggested to her son and cousin that they should leave the area, in order that they did not become embroiled with the Enforcement Officer’s spurious allegations.

My client’s advice was heeded and the two males walked off.

My client overheard the Enforcement Officer providing a description to the Police of her son and cousin and their direction of travel.

My client collected the final few personal items from her car and went inside.

A few minutes later, a Police Sergeant arrived.  He was aggressive from the outset.  He advised my client that he was looking for an unspecified parcel, wished to enter her home to look for it and if she didn’t open her front door voluntarily, he would force entry.

By this stage, a second uniformed officer arrived at the scene.

The Officer continued to insist that he be allowed entry, otherwise he would force entry.

My client refused to allow the Officers entry and so the Officers attempted to force entry to my client’s home.

Concerned that the Sergeant would cause damage, my client agreed to allow the Officers access and opened her front door. My client was however anxious to ensure that the Enforcement Officer did not gain access and so locked the door behind her.

The Sergeant demanded that my client unlock the door and she reluctantly complied.  The Sergeant then demanded that my client hand over her house keys. My client refused.

Both Officers then moved towards my client, who fell onto her sofa. The  Officers then attempted to physically remove the keys from my client, which my client resisted.

During the struggle, my client received a number of heavy blows (which she believes were punches from one or both officers) to her head.

To her horror, my client at one stage witnessed the Sergeant wielding a  CS gas  incapacitant, which he threatened to deploy against her.

Eventually, both officers managed to overpower my client and seize her house keys.  My client was then restrained in handcuffs and advised that she was under arrest for “breach of the peace”.

The Sergeant proceeded to open the front door and invited the Enforcement Officer to enter the house and recover whatever he “wanted”.  To be clear, the Enforcement Officer had no right to enter in the circumstances, nor did the Sergeant have power to let him enter.  This was a gross disturbance of the privacy of my clients’ home, a trespass invited and encouraged by the Officer who had attacked her.

Despite the motivations of the Sergeant being expressed as ‘looking for a parcel’, no such search was carried out.

The Enforcement Officer then carried out a search of the address and concluded that there were no items of sufficient value to satisfy the remainder of the debt and left.

My client was then released from her handcuffs.

The Police Officers and the Enforcement Officer then drove away from the scene.

The next day my client attended her local Police Station to report the conduct of the Officers and was subsequently contacted by Professional Standards who recorded the complaint and commenced an investigation.

Misconduct or gross misconduct?

Upon initial assessment, an Officer considered the Sergeant’s alleged actions to constitute gross misconduct, specifically that 

“it is alleged that the Sergeant has abused his authority and had gained unlawful entry to the complainant’s property. Whilst within the property has used force on the complainant when arresting for a breach of the peace, in circumstances that may make the arrest unlawful.  The complainant states that she has been hit several times and threatened with CS by the Sergeant.  Taking into account the chain of events, I consider the totality of the conduct alleged if proven or admitted to be a breach of the standards of professional behaviour so serious that dismissal would be justified.  Therefore on the information known at this time I assess this as Gross Misconduct which could proceed to a Misconduct Hearing.  The use of force could also amount to a criminal assault”. 

The complaint was then investigated and the evidence was reviewed and assessed by the Force’s Appropriate Authority, a Detective Superintendent who clearly identified the failings of both Officers who had entered my clients’ home and which to a large extent were admitted.  Both Officers accepted in interview that they did not have any lawful powers to enter and/or search my client’s property.  As such any force used upon my client whilst in her home would also be unreasonable and excessive.

However, the  Appropriate Authority took a somewhat different view as to the appropriate outcome than had the initial reviewing Officer.  She considered the case suitable for a referral to a Misconduct Meeting only.  Dismissal, in her view, “could not be justified” and “rehabilitation through the sanctions available at a misconduct meeting” was deemed appropriate.

With my help, my client appealed this decision to the IOPC.  We argued that the Sergeant’s behaviour clearly constituted gross misconduct and that determination of the outcome by a Misconduct Hearing was appropriate.

The IOPC, on review, agreed with us and found as follows;

Culpability

The Sergeant was a Senior Officer with 15 years’ experience as a Police Officer.

It is entirely unacceptable for Police Officers who are responsible for enforcing the law, to break the law themselves, the seriousness of the offence must be considered.  In this case ……, both Officers’ actions were unlawful in forcing entry, in arresting and in their use of force.  Whilst the Officers sought to explain their actions, the fact remains that they did not have any police powers to take the actions that they did.

 Many people come into contact with the Police when they are at a particularly difficult or distressing point in their lives and they are entitled to be treated professionally.  Even though the Police were called by the Enforcement Officer as a result of his car being damaged and a package being stolen from his car, the complainant was in a vulnerable situation, in terms of her social circumstance, she was experiencing financial difficulties and dealing with a distressing situation with a bailiff.  The Sergeant paid no regard to this and concentrated immediately on assisting the bailiff and in gaining entry into the property and not in investigating properly the allegation of crime by the Enforcement Officer.

Harm

The complainant was [wrongfully arrested and caused physical injuries] as a result of the use of force by both Officers.

Mitigation 

In interview, the Sergeant stated he was direct, possibly too direct and abrupt in his approach to the Complainant but denied being aggressive.  The evidence suggested otherwise.  When interviewed, the Sergeant had the opportunity to reflect upon and pass comment on his behaviour and accept responsibility for his actions.  He did not, particularly given he had no powers to do any of the actions taken by him. The Sergeant failed to recognise how his behaviour had had an impact on the Complainant.

In short, the IOPC found that in light of these aggravating factors in terms of the culpability and harm caused, specifically the abuse of trust, my client’s vulnerability and cumulatively, the multiple allegations and breaches of standards of behaviour, this was clearly a serious case that warranted referral to a Police Misconduct Hearing and as such the Force in question was directed to hold a Misconduct Hearing. Months later, the Misconduct Hearing took place, at the conclusion of which the Sergeant was dismissed for gross misuse of his Police powers.

However, the Sergeant appealed to the Police Appeals Tribunal (PAT) arguing that his dismissal was ‘unsafe’ because of an impression of actual or apparent bias on the part of the Misconduct Hearing Panel (another story, another blog).  The PAT agreed and accordingly a second Misconduct Hearing was convened.

Following that second hearing, it was decided once again that the Sergeant should be dismissed.  The new decision, of course, gave the Sergeant a fresh right of appeal and yes, he lodged a further appeal.  He  now has a new representative and a new angle; the sanction imposed (i.e. dismissal),  he argues, was too harsh and should be replaced with a lesser sanction.

Part of the Sergeant’s new appeal relates to the conduct of the Appropriate Authority, specifically her initial decision that his case was not gross misconduct.  Obviously, I feel that initial decision was wrong (as did the IOPC) but it is concerning to me that the Appropriate Authority’s apparent inexperience and lack of training led her to make that incorrect decision, giving the Sergeant a ‘lifeline’ in this case that I do not think he deserves. Perhaps if the AA had had better grounding in the COP Guidance then she would not have made that incorrect decision in the first place.

I remain very optimistic that the Sergeant’s latest appeal – notwithstanding the fact that Police Officers committing acts of  misconduct often seem to have ‘more lives than a cat’ – will be rejected and his dismissal confirmed.  It is the only appropriate sanction for his gross abuse of power.  What is concerning, however, is that without my assistance, leading to the intervention of the IOPC, the Appropriate Authority would have classed this case as “simple” misconduct only (not gross), leading to the Sergeant avoiding the appropriate sanction (dismissal) and being given a mere ‘slap on the wrist’ by comparison.

Sadly, this is yet another example of why the Police cannot yet be trusted to ‘police themselves’ when it comes to complaint investigations, and why the College of Police Guidance should be inculcated at all levels of the decision making chain – from the Officers initially reviewing the complaint, to the Appropriate Authority and upwards – or else it will be pointless, as case of gross misconduct may never come before the Hearing Panels to whom the Guidance is currently directed, allowing rogue Officers such as the Sergeant in this case, to escape justice.  A more wider dissemination of the Guidance would, in my opinion, help to ensure a more healthy, unbiased and effective culture in the Police complaints system.

Police Sexual Abuse – The Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

A hot topic for Police forces throughout England & Wales of late has been identifying and dismissing officers who have sought to exploit their position for sexual gain. The issue has been highlighted by various agencies charged with holding the Police to account including the IOPC and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary .

In my experience, Anti-corruption units & Professional Standards Departments have finally begun to treat the issue seriously. Often, the Police will receive a report of inappropriate behaviour by an officer that leads to an investigation which establishes that the first complaint is just the tip of the iceberg.

In 2017, Yvonne called me and ask that I take on her case.  She had been contacted by the Anti Corruption Unit of her local force. They were investigating an officer, PC A, for Misconduct.

A vulnerable woman had contacted the force & disclosed that PC A, who had attended upon her regarding a domestic situation, was in contact with her on a social basis and she was considering forming a relationship with him.

PC A’s personal telephone data  was obtained for the previous 12 months which showed contact with 4 females whom PC A had come into contact with during the execution of his duties as a Police Officer and with whom PC A had sought to establish or had established a relationship.  One of these women was my client, Yvonne.

I have written about Yvonne’s story previously (‘How Police Guidance Fails Sexual Abuse Victims’).  In essence, she was a long-term victim of domestic violence,  now groomed by PC A who had been assigned to her case and then encouraged to enter into a sexual relationship with him.

But what of the other women?

The second woman identified, Joanne who was a recent divorcee and single mother, had been involved in a minor road traffic accident. PC A attended. He recorded that her tyres were bald & that she had no valid MOT but he failed to instigate a criminal prosecution. Instead, he called her later from his personal mobile phone and explained that she wouldn’t get any points because he had “sorted it out”. He subsequently made further calls and sent text messages attempting to establish a relationship. Joanne wasn’t interested and  got her brother to call PC A and pretend he was her boyfriend.

The third woman identified, Kelly, had called the Police to report her estranged husband for emotional abuse. PC A attended upon her. He advised that no criminal case was made out, but that he would keep in contact with her in case there were any further developments. He used his personal number to contact her and once again tried to establish a relationship. Ultimately, Kelly  was confident enough to advise PC A that she wasn’t interested & contact tailed off.

The fourth woman, Anne, was another recent divorcee and single mother. Her estranged husband reported her for the theft of a bike and PC A attended upon her. The allegation was groundless but once again PC A  came up with an excuse to contact her using his mobile phone with a view to establishing a relationship.  Once again, Anne was eventually strong enough to advise PC A that she did not want a relationship and once again contact ended.

Unsurprisingly, the investigators established from a review of his phone records that PC A was not in the habit of providing his personal mobile number to members of the public who were male or who were female and in a stable relationship. He was cynically targeting the most vulnerable members of society, the very people most in need of Police protection, for his own sexual gratification. We can rightly describe his behaviour as predatory.

Whilst there may be a distinction between sexual predators, who specifically seek employment as Police Officers with the intention of gaining access to vulnerable women and children – the real ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ – on the one hand, and those who may commence their Police careers with honest intentions but who through  some default of character or temperament, succumb to the temptations and corruptions of power and opportunity, there is no doubt that all men who seek to exploit their station in the Police for sexual gratification must be rooted out and their victims given all available help and support.

Police Complaint system overhaul 2020

I presently represent a young black man. Back in 2012 when he was just 21 years old, he was  in the park when he was targeted by a Police Officer for a stop and search. My client has always believed that the only ‘grounds’ for the search was the colour of his skin.

During this encounter, he was subjected to an aggressive assault by the officer, who used a choke-hold around his neck, causing my client to fear he might die.  He was then taken into Police custody where he was further subjected to the indignity of a strip-search.  The search was, of course, negative; my client was entirely innocent and had been doing nothing more in the park that day than walking his dog and eating a sandwich.

The Officer falsely maintained that he had suspected my client to have been a drug dealer, but during the course of a subsequent misconduct investigation it came to light that the Officer’s superior had concerns about the Officer’s pattern of conducting stop-searches on individuals during his lunch-hour, apparently in order to justify him putting his feet up for the rest of the day.

My client was, it seems the Officer’s latest victim in this regard, being subjected to a totally unnecessary level of force and humiliation.

My client immediately pursued an official complaint against the Officer, which to his increasing despair dragged on for nearly 6 years before resulting in the complete exoneration of the Officer at a Police misconduct meeting.

Undeterred, my client commenced Court proceedings against the Police  for false imprisonment and assault and battery.

The Police filed a robust defence to the claim disputing my client’s account of events. Then three months before the scheduled trial, out of the blue, the Defendant Force admitted liability – though without any apology even after all this time, and making it clear that from their point of view they were admitting liability only ‘on a technicality’.

The case is now awaiting an Assessment of Damages hearing.

In addition to basic damages for pain, suffering and loss of liberty, my client claims aggravated and exemplary damages.

  • Aggravated damages

Aggravated damages are awarded at the Court’s discretion in addition to basic damages in exceptional cases where:

             The Police have acted to aggravate the Claimant’s basic loss by causing injury to feelings, for example by insulting, humiliating, degrading, distressing and/or outraging the individual; and

             It could result in the Claimant not receiving sufficient compensation for the injuries suffered if the award was restricted to a basic damages only.

Accordingly, aggravated damages are usually awarded in cases involving very serious misconduct/ misbehaviour on the part of the Police (whether individually in the form of the Officer committing the wrongful behaviour in the first place, or institutionally in the way the Police as an organisation have responded to the person’s claim/ complaint).

The Court has given guidelines on the circumstances which might justify an award of aggravated damages including:

  1. humiliating circumstances; or
  2. any conduct of those responsible in the incident which shows they have behaved in a high-handed, insulting, malicious or oppressive manner.

Aggravating features can also include the way litigation and trial  are conducted.

  • Exemplary damages

An award of exemplary damages is even more exceptional than an award of aggravated damages, as the object of exemplary damages is to punish the Police rather than to compensate the individual.

The principle behind other types of damages (basic and aggravated) is to ‘make up’ to the Claimant for the wrong that has been done to him, and to, insofar as possible, put him back in the position he would have been in were it not for the wrongdoing. Exemplary damages go beyond that, in being designed to punish the Police, almost in the way of a ‘fine’ which they must pay (to the Claimant) on top of the other damages.

Exemplary damages can only be awarded if the Police’s wrongdoing constituted oppressive, arbitrary and/or unconstitutional action. They are designed to have a ‘deterrent’ effect to prevent such behaviour occurring again in the future.

There are, in my opinion, numerous reasons as to why aggravated and exemplary damages should be awarded in my present client’s case, but in particular because of how badly his complaint was investigated and handled, specifically:

  • There was an abject failure by the Defendant’s Professional Standards Department to uphold my client’s complaints, despite clear evidence supporting what he said.
  • My client had to repeatedly appeal to the then Police watchdog, the  IPCC.
  • The Defendant force has failed and continues to fail to provide any or any proper explanation to my client and/or to take full responsibility for the actions of its Officer.
  • The Defendant force took no action against the Officer following a misconduct meeting.
  • The complaints process lasted six years and concluded with no action.

Tomorrow, changes to the Police Complaint system come into effect which will, according to the Home Office, “shake up” how complaints against the police are handled. The changes will (they say) ensure that complaints are dealt with “quickly, effectively and proportionately, not just for the benefit of the public but also for the police”.  As well as simplifying the complaints system, it is said that the changes mean Police and Crime Commissioners will have a greater role to increase independence and improve complaints handling.

Policing and Crime Minister Kit Malthouse has said that when Police Forces fall short of their professional standards:

“it is important to have a system that can quickly establish what has gone wrong, hold officers to account where necessary and ensure lessons are learned. These reforms will deliver this and ensure the public can maintain confidence in the integrity of our world-class police.”

The Home Office add that:

“the reforms will also deliver a more efficient system for dealing with police misconduct, making the investigation processes simpler and therefore quicker, including a requirement to provide an explanation where investigations take longer than 12 months and importantly, the reforms aim to make the discipline system more proportionate and encourage a much greater emphasis on learning from mistakes.”

The Home Office maintains that it has worked closely with various bodies to develop a comprehensive package of improvements. These include:

  • simplifying the complaints system, making it easier to navigate and putting a greater emphasis on handling complaints in a reasonable and proportionate manner. An enhanced role for Police and Crime Commissioners will strengthen independence.
  • further measures to increase the IOPC’s effectiveness and independence in investigating all serious and sensitive matters involving the police
  • focusing the formal discipline system on breaches of professional standards that would result in formal disciplinary action, enabling line managers to focus on improving individual learning and behaviours in response to lower level conduct matters – based on a new Reflective Practice Review Process
  • there are new provisions to improve the efficiency and transparency of misconduct investigations
  • increasing the transparency of appeals against misconduct findings by replacing the current retired police officer as a member of the panel with an independent layperson and introducing new provisions to improve the timeliness and efficiency of proceedings.

Whilst certainly I welcome some of these proposals – specifically those geared towards greater transparency in proceedings, and increasing the independence of the misconduct panels, as well as beefing up the IOPC – long experience has taught me to be cautious about how much real change we will see as opposed to mere ‘window dressing’.

I am also highly suspicious of such phrases as “simplicity and proportionality” which could be used by Police Forces to minimise investigations of certain complaints, or even dispense with them all together, under the guise of “proportionality”.

Proportionality, i.e attaching a theoretical price tag to everything, can sometimes come at the expense of important matters of principle and is, in my opinion, often the enemy of justice and the last refuge of the scoundrel. Proportionality is, after all, a vague and subjective concept which here will be a tool in the hands of the Police, not the Complainant. What is very important to an individual who has suffered wrong at the hands of a Police Force, may be something arbitrarily deemed “disproportionate” to investigate by the Police themselves, for self-serving ends.

In the meantime, I’m not holding my breath in the hope that the new reforms will herald a sea-change in the way the Police conduct complaints, I will continue to pursue meritorious claims such as that of my present client, hoping to achieve a significant result in terms of an exemplary damages award which might go a longer way to encouraging the Police to treat complaints more fairly and independently, than all the pious words of a government report.

Are the Police putting pride before the public purse?

What price an admission of liability in a claim for wrongful arrest?

Upon initial instructions, clients will almost always tell me that their priority is

  • to secure justice
  • for the police to admit wrongdoing, to apologise and/or
  • admit liability.

Financial compensation is a secondary consideration.

The sad reality is that despite, or perhaps because of, their status as a public body, the police are very defensive when accused of knowingly acting outside their powers, and highly reluctant to admit ‘in black and white’ that they have done so. In this respect, Police Forces are aided by the Civil Procedure Rules which as a general rule operate under the assumption that civil claims are all about financial compensation and therefore if the Defendant offers enough, a Defendant can “buy off” a claim without admitting liability, or having their actions scrutinised in the light of day at trial.

The Court has however, on certain occasions, recognised that the purpose and aim of civil justice is not always met by the simple payment of compensation and that sometimes a financial settlement  alone does not provide a Claimant with the vindication he/she seeks.

I am currently acting on behalf of a woman  who is bringing a claim against her local Police Force.

Julie was arrested in 2015.  At this time, Julie was struggling to cope with the behaviour of her 15 year old son Kieron who was prone to violent outbursts. She contacted the Police on a number of occasions to report these concerns and asked for assistance from the Police/Social Services.

On a day in March,  there was a further incident between Julie and her son, when Julie returned home to establish that Kieron had damaged her bedroom door.  Julie asked Kieron why he had caused the damage. In response, Kieron told Julie to “fuck off” and immediately stormed out of the house. When Kieron did not return, Julie contacted the Police to report events and subsequently received a telephone message from a Police Sergeant confirming that Police were looking for Kieron.

Throughout the night, Julie was understandably worried about her son’s welfare and contacted the Police again the next morning for any update.  Julie thought it was best that she and her daughter try to continue as normally as possible, and accordingly she got herself and her daughter ready and accompanied her daughter to school.  At school, Julie  then saw a teacher at the school gate and advised that Kieron was missing.

Later that morning, Julie telephoned her children’s school and was informed that Kieron had attended.

Subsequently Julie’s daughter telephoned Julie in distress, so Julie attended the school to establish what was happening.  Upon arrival, Julie saw and comforted her daughter, and was then asked to speak to two police officers in private.  She was told that Kieron had been out all night. Julie explained what had happened and that she had notified the Police of this. One Officer advised that the Police had no record of her calling.  Julie confirmed that she had and that in response, she had received a voicemail from an Officer and that she could play back the message.  However the  Officers present were not interested and declined to listen to the message.

One Officer radioed through and again it was suggested that there was no record of Julie having reported Kieron missing.  Again, Julie disputed this and again made reference to the message on her phone. However at 12.40, whilst still on the school premises, Julie was arrested on suspicion of child neglect.  Julie was transported to the local Police Station where her detention was authorised.

Julie is a person of good character having had no previous adverse dealings with the police. Given the circumstances that were unfolding, Julie was understandably “upset and emotional” as recorded in the Custody Record.

Julie was processed, searched and then detained in a cell.

Two and a half hours later whilst in her police cell, Julie was informed that no further action was to be taken and she was to be released. Julie was informed that her son would hereafter be accommodated by Social Services and her daughter would be returned to her.

Julie was advised that her call reporting Kieron missing had been inaccurately logged but had now been correctly located.

Upon her release from police custody at 16.05,  Julie was again recorded to be “quite emotional” and transport home was arranged.

Julie was traumatised by the allegation and her arrest. She considered herself to be a devoted mother who was dedicated to, and lived for, her children who were always loved and well cared for.

She stated that she was always amongst the first five parents at the school gate, waiting to collect her children at the end of the school day; she had often helped out on school trips when her children were younger; and she had been a parent helper at swimming classes, at school fitness events, and with reading.  She always attended parents’ evenings and school awards ceremonies, and was very proud of her children’s achievements.  She was emphatic that she was never neglectful, she had always “made a constant effort”.

She reported that in or around 2014 the behaviour of her eldest child, Kieron became problematic; he was around the age of 15 at the time.  Initially she put this down to “teenage rubbish” and hoped that Kieron would grow out of it.  She described him as being destructive to their home, treating her disrespectfully, and being violent towards her.  She had taken her son to the GP, who referred him to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS), and she had spoken to his school about her concerns that he may have Asperger’s or some other condition.

My client found her arrest to be publicly humiliating and  felt that the record of her arrest would taint her character and employment prospects.

Following review, I decided to take on Julie’s case.  The Police failed to respond to an initial letter of claim, and so it was necessary both to issue and serve Court proceedings.  In response, the Police then filed a Defence denying liability.

Notwithstanding the terms of the Defence, the Police subsequently put forward a financial offer pursuant to CPR Part 36 to settle the claim. By reason of the terms of Part 36, the Claimant must obtain a judgment more advantageous than the stated offer otherwise they will be penalised in legal costs.

The Police’s offer reflected a reasonable valuation of the claim but here, the Claimant’s main objective was not financial compensation but rather securing an admission of liability and deletion of all records pertaining to her arrest.

In the circumstances, and notwithstanding the significant risks of an adverse cost order, but with my blessing, the Police’s offer was rejected.  In turn my client, on my advice, put forward a counter offer, £500 lower than the Police offer on condition that the Police admitted liability –  such that if accepted, the Defendant, a public body, would pay out less money …… surely an attractive option to any cash strapped Police Force in these difficult times?

In response, the Police rejected my client’s counter offer and put forward a revised offer to settle,  £1,000 higher than our offer but again without admission of liability, i.e. yet more money but with no acceptance of responsibility.

Once again, my client wishes to reject the Police’s offer, and I am willing to back her, but the present scenario starkly highlights the risk my client is taking over exposure to adverse costs (and therefore potentially walking away with a “pyrrhic victory” and a costs order against her).  However, she is willing to take that risk because the principle of the Police admitting they were at fault is more important to her than pounds and pence.

If the status quo remains, the case proceeds to trial and the Claimant establishes liability, ‘beats’ her own offer, but fails to beat the Defendant’s offer, I am optimistic that the Court will not penalise my client.  Why?  The reason is that had my client accepted either of the Police’s offers, the real issue would still have been outstanding and my client would not have established that her arrest was unlawful and thereby restored her reputation. That is the real purpose of this litigation.  My view is supported by the recent High Court decision of MR V Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis  (2019) which cited with approval, the House of Lords decision of Ashley v Chief Constable of Sussex (2008); in essence that the remedies provided by the law of tort are not limited to obtaining of financial compensation.

In the MR case, (which, like Julie’s case was essentially a claim for unlawful arrest), it was held on appeal that the Claimant should be able to recover his legal costs despite not beating the Defendant’s offer of £4,000 at Trial (the Claimant was in fact awarded damages of only £2,750).  The reason for this decision was that the Claimant had prior to Trial made an offer to settle for no damages, but an admission of liability and reasonable costs.  On appeal, Mrs  Justice McGowan found the Claimant’s offer to be a genuine and significant concession.

Decisions such as that in MR give me encouragement that the Judiciary increasingly understands that money does not always make the world go round, and that particularly in claims against the Police an admission, or finding, of liability (which is, in effect, a declaration that the Claimant was unlawfully arrested) is often worth far more than a four or even five figure damages sum.

However, it will take brave Claimants such as Julie, and lawyers who are prepared to back them, to firmly establish this as a principle of law, by not being bought off by monetary offers with no admission of wrongdoing attached.   In other words, don’t let the Police give you ‘zero’ answer on liability, or ‘zero’ apology, by buying you off with more ‘zeros’.

Update

I am delighted to report that Julie’s civil claim for wrongful arrest has now settled with a full admission of liability and payment of damages and costs.

This admission of liability, which the Police were initially very resistant to making (as I have described above) was absolutely worth fighting for.

Once we had won that admission from the Police, with Julie holding her nerve despite the litigation tactics deployed by the Police, the claim was able to be settled, saving both parties substantial legal costs and time AND most importantly giving Julie the opportunity to have the stigma of her arrest entirely deleted from the Police National Computer system, which had been her overriding goal throughout the case – as I describe here.

Why You Should Always Use a Specialist Solicitor to Sue the Police

Just over 2 years ago, a new client emailed me.  Pedro, from South America, had just been acquitted of assaulting a police officer following a trial at the Magistrates’ Court.   He now wanted to bring an action against the Met Police  and was hoping for some “justice”.

I was in London at the time and suggested he call me in the morning.  Later that same day, he replied advising that he had decided to carry on with the same firm that had represented him in the Magistrates’ Court. You can see our text messages below:

After a few days, Pedro called me.  He explained that following enquiries with his criminal defence solicitors he had decided that he wanted me to act.

I obtained Pedro’s file of papers from his criminal defence solicitors and all other available documentation and then met him for a lengthy face-to-face meeting whereupon I took his full instructions.

Following a night out in April 2017,  Pedro had fallen foul of encountered several Metropolitan Police Officers in an incident that resulted in him being violently arrested for allegedly breaching section 5 of the Public Order Act and assaulting 2 officers, during which arrest he suffered multiple soft tissue injuries.  As above, he was subsequently prosecuted and acquitted following trial at Stratford Magistrates’ Court.

In terms of evidence, we had Pedro’s account (somewhat tainted by his admission that during the day he had drank 6 pints of beer and 3 glasses of spirits), the account of 5 police officers and some limited CCTV footage which caught the later part of the incident only.

The first thing I had to do was disabuse Pedro of the notion that just because he had been acquitted, he had a ‘cast  iron’ claim against the Met.

Certainly his acquittal was of paramount importance to his proposed claim for malicious prosecution (no acquittal, no claim).

Furthermore,  the findings of the Magistrates’ Court were certainly helpful to Pedro’s cause and in my opinion, would make it difficult for the police to defend the claim.  Difficult, but not impossible, as the findings of the Magistrates’ Court were not binding upon the civil court and further, involved meeting a different standard of proof (beyond reasonable doubt).

At the outset of my contact with Pedro,  I had alluded to the difficulties that lay ahead for him in his proposed claim.  After many years of experience in this field of law, I am accustomed to the trials and tribulations (literal and metaphorical) of pursuing a successful civil action against the police.  I have previously blogged about such issues in my blog, ‘Attrition warfare’ and Pedro’s case proved  no exception.

Once I intimated a claim on Pedro’s behalf, the Met refused to either admit or deny liability and instead offered £3,000 plus costs in settlement.  It was necessary to issue Court proceedings whereupon, of course,  a robust defence was filed denying all liability.

Notwithstanding these hurdles, relying on  my expertise and knowledge of the law, and familiarity with the way the police litigate these cases, I was able to guide Pedro’s case to a successful conclusion and, I am pleased to confirm that I have just settled his claim for £30,000 plus costs. This is 10 times the amount that the Met initially offered him in settlement of his claim.

I am pleased for both of us that Pedro decided to trust me to handle his case.  This is a very specialist area of law, and to get the right result when you are fighting what is often an uphill battle against the Police, you need the right lawyer.

The following is the very kind testimonial which Pedro provided me at the conclusion of his case:-

I contacted Iain Gould. He offered a meeting and straight to the point explanation of what was the cards he had in hands.

The determination to help and winning attitude sounded like an extra ability and not just fancy words i remember reading on “professionals” websites.

During the period of whole process Iain has worked effectively with detail in every action and procedures which provided me with the peace of mind knowing that the someone was going to pay for the injustice i was put through.

In every single legal term and language on documentation received to be signed there was a phone call from Iain followed by explanations of their meanings, how he was going to proceed and different options for me to choose. Due the full trust gained within very short period of time, i have many times just allowed Iain to decide on his own in what was the best and act upon it on my behalf.

Iain has been Amazing throughout the whole process proving that he is a outstanding  professional with exceptional standards and vast knowledge on the subject; I could not have chosen better qualified or any other Person to deal with.

 

(All names changed.)

Will the Police learn their lesson? The illegal strip-search of a minor.

Historically, the term ‘juvenile’ as used in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) has referred to a child under 17.  Section 42 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (CJCA) extended the definition of ‘juvenile’ for the purposes of PACE to include any child or young person who appears to be under the age of 18, establishing the same protections for all those aged under 18 and bringing the definition into line with that of the  UN Convention of the Rights of  the Child (UNCRC).

Safeguards for children/young people

PACE incorporates a number of safeguards for children/young people caught up in the criminal justice system.  Any contact between a child and police officers can be very frightening and distressing and have long-term adverse consequences for vulnerable young minds which are still in the process of maturing. The need for such protective measures should be self-evident.  Self-evident to all except for some Police Officers it seems.

I have just concluded a claim for John, a young man from Merseyside who’s just turned 19.  Back on 23rd  February 2017, John was just 16 and as is evident  from his custody photograph taken that day, a young-looking 16.

At the time, his older brother, Kevin was dating a girl from Scarborough (Lauren).  The weekend before, Lauren had come over and stayed with Kevin and his family.  On the 23rd February, Kevin agreed to drive Lauren home.  John had never been to Yorkshire before so went along for the ride.

Upon arrival at Lauren’s home address in Scarborough, Kevin parked up and he and Lauren went inside leaving John sat in the front passenger seat.

A short while later, a Police van pulled up close by and a number of officers alighted and surrounded the car in which John was sat before one of them opened the front passenger door and asked him where the driver was.  John explained that his brother was the driver, that he was in a house close by and that he would be back soon.

An officer instructed John to step onto the pavement.

John was required to provide his name and date of birth, which he did, thereby indicating that he was a minor, which was apparent in any event.

John was then told that he would be taken to the police van.  John was escorted to the van by two officers.   He was instructed to step inside the vehicle, whereupon he was told he was to be subjected to a “strip search.”  No legal justification or grounds for the search were provided to him.

Unlawful intimate strip-search

John was instructed to pull down his track suit bottoms and underwear, whereupon the officers conducted an extremely intimate search.

Wrongful arrest

To his complete shock John was then informed that he was under arrest on suspicion of possession of cannabis, irrespective of the fact that no drugs had been found upon him.

John was then detained in the police van for an extended period of time (in excess of 60 minutes) until he was transported to Scarborough police station, which was no more than a mile away , where his detention continued.

Following arrival at Scarborough police station, details of John’s arrest were reported to the custody officer, but details of the strip/intimate search were not disclosed, nor was the negative result of such searches.

Despite John requesting that his father be promptly informed of his arrest, John’s dad was not in fact informed until some three hours later by which time he was unable to attend the police station to act as appropriate adult.  Consequently it was necessary for a representative from the Youth Offending Team to do so.

John was obliged to provide fingerprints and a DNA sample and was then detained in a cell until the appropriate adult arrived whereupon he was interviewed. After six hours in custody, John was finally released.  In due course, John received confirmation that no further action would be taken.

The facts of the case would form a great quiz for trainee police cadets as to what Codes of Practice were breached except for the sad fact that this catalogue of terrors was actually perpetrated against a real person. Focusing just on the search, what did the officers do wrong?

  • The strip/intimate search was conducted in the absence of an appropriate adult to which John was entitled.
  • No authorisation  for the search was provided by an Inspector.
  • John was not told of the legal authority for the search.
  • John was not told of any legal grounds for the search.
  • John did not provide, nor could he provide, consent to the search.
  • The strip/intimate search was carried out by a police officer, when it ought to have been carried out by a Registered Medical Practitioner or Nurse.
  • No documentation of the search was kept or maintained, thereby breaching section 3 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
  • Contrary to Code A paragraph 4.2B, no record of the search was made in the custody record.
  • The officers knew that the fact and/or manner of the strip/intimate search rendered it unlawful or a breach of the Codes of Practice but conducted it regardless.
  • The officers knew that the fact and/or manner of the strip/intimate search (in the dark, in a van, without giving reasons or legal authority and without any appropriate adult) was highly distressing and embarrassing to John but conducted it regardless.

In short, the search was carried out with wholesale disregard for every significant safeguard guaranteed pursuant to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Formal complaint

Upon John’s release from police custody, John’s dad – having been notified of what had happened –  immediately lodged a formal complaint which was subsequently investigated by the North Yorkshire Police Professional Standards Department. Following  investigation, the Professional Standards Department conceded that the actions of their officer were in breach of

(i) the statutory provisions relating to strip searches in the Police and Criminal Evidence act 1984, and

(ii) the relevant Codes of Practice thereto.

Disciplinary action was brought against the two officers who had carried out the search.

Civil claim

Once the complaint investigation had been concluded, I was instructed to pursue a civil claim for compensation on behalf of John.  Sadly but unsurprisingly and notwithstanding the findings of the Professional Standards Department, the Chief Constable denied liability and it was necessary to issue court proceedings.

I am pleased to report that following issue John’s case has now settled for £10,000.00 damages, plus costs.

This settlement is a fair award of compensation but monetary compensation was not the priority for John and his family.  As John’s dad said to me just last week, by bringing this action, the family wanted to expose this abuse of police power in the hope that other children/young people will not suffer as John did. The power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is wholly dependent upon public approval of their actions and behaviour and on their ability to police by consent.  The carrying out of illegal strip-searches on children is a gross abuse by officers of the trust and extraordinary power placed in their hands by our society, and it is for the good of everyone that such abuses be highlighted and prevented, in so far as possible, from occurring in the future.

A child’s first real experience of the Police should not be the degrading and humiliating one which John underwent.  If the Police want the next generation to have trust and confidence in them, they should learn the lesson of this case well.

(All names changed.)

Losing the plot: Unlawful Arrests for Terrorism

The Government announced this week that the UK’s terrorism threat level has been downgraded from “severe” to “substantial” and as such the terrorism threat is now at its lowest since August 2014.  “Substantial” is the third of five ratings at which the threat level operates and indicates a terrorist attack “is likely”.

I am quite sure that the risk of a terrorist attack remains real but whatever the level of perceived threat, it’s incredibly important that previous terrorist attacks and/or the current threat level should not affect the way in which Police Officers approach situations, which should be done in accordance with their training and with approved techniques.

Walking whilst black

 I have recently concluded a claim for a young black Londoner (whom I shall identify as “Steven”) where it is blatantly apparent Officers concerned in his arrest and detention lost sight of their powers and responsibilities and carried out what I consider to be an unlawful arrest.  The Metropolitan Police evidently agreed because although liability was disputed they have recently settled Steven’s claim such that he is to receive a five figure settlement award.

Back in October 2014, Steven was walking along Ealing Broadway having been for a haircut, when he was stopped by two Police Officers.

One Officer said that Steven had been stopped because he was suspected of following another police officer from Ealing Police Station.

Steven, who had never been in trouble with the Police, was shocked at the allegation and politely said words to the effect that he had not followed anyone. He told the officers  confronting him that they were in fact the first police officers he had seen all day.

One Officer nevertheless told Steven to “stand over there” and pointed towards a nearby shop. Steven did as instructed.

Unlawful stop and search

The Officer then conducted a pat-down search and asked Steven for his name and address. Steven found the request intrusive but provided the information as requested.

The Officer then said that Steven “looked suspicious” and that he thought Steven was “linked to something that had happened earlier on”.

Steven told the officers where he had been and what he had been doing over the course of the day.

The Officer then asked Steven if he knew “what had been happening on the news as regards to terrorism”. Steven replied, “No.

The Officer said, “Anyone seen acting suspiciously outside a police station is treated very seriously as the police are on red alert.” Steven replied, “I was just going home.

The Officer then repeated the suggestion that a police officer had been followed outside a police station and implied that Steven was the person who had followed this police officer.

It subsequently transpired that a PCSO had earlier that day reported that she had been followed from the Police station by two black males and then several hours later, another Police Officer had left the Police Station and reported that he had been followed by Steven.

Steven again denied the allegation and questioned why he would do such a thing. Steven reiterated that he had simply been on his way home.

More Police Officers, both uniformed and plain-clothed, joined the first 2 Officers on the scene.

Steven was confused and shocked about what was happening to him.

Steven also felt embarrassed, as he was being treated like a criminal, as members of the public in the vicinity were staring at him as he was questioned by the police.

One of the plain-clothed officers told Steven to hand over his phone, so that he could “have a look through it”. Steven did so and provided his password.

After a little while, Steven asked the plain-clothed Officer whether he had found anything on his phone. The plain-clothed Officer replied that Steven had “some nice food on the phone. Steven knew from this that the Officer had been looking through his photographs.

One of the officers then asked Steven what he did for a living. Steven explained that he was a chef.

Steven then heard one of the officers speak into his radio and attempt to verify Steven’s identity. Eventually the response came back that Steven did not have any previous convictions and that he was not wanted by the police.

Throughout this time, Steven repeatedly asked if he could go.

Steven was eventually informed by one of the Officers that he had called for a Sergeant to come down and speak to Steven. The Officer said that the Sergeant was on his way.

Steven, who had been compliant throughout, felt increasingly worried and victimised.

Steven asked how long the Sergeant would be. The Officer said that the Sergeant would be no longer than around five minutes.

After what felt to Steven like 15 minutes, the Sergeant finally arrived on the scene. The Sergeant spoke with some of the Officers, before approaching Steven.

The Sergeant asked Steven for his name and whether he had his passport on him, where he had been that day, and where he had been going when stopped by the police. Steven answered the Sergeant’s questions and explained that he did not have his passport on him.

The Sergeant then said to Steven, “I don’t believe you and your story.” The Sergeant then asked Steven if he was “selling drugs”.

Steven, as a young Black man, immediately felt that he had been stereotyped, targeted and racially discriminated against. This new accusation clearly had nothing to do with the original allegation that Steven had been following a Police Officer.  Steven replied, “No.”

The Sergeant then said words to the effect of,

Coming from where I’m coming from, if you was in my shoes, how would you look at this?

Steven replied words to the effect of,

I was simply walking with an intention to go home and on my way home to get something to eat. I changed my mind and was walking to the bus. What is wrong with that?

The Sergeant ignored Steven’s response and went to speak to some of the other Officers, who were huddled together in a group.

Terrorism, Drugs or Harassment?

A decision was made to arrest Steven and he was handcuffed to the rear.

One of the Officers told Steven he was “under arrest for suspicion of harassment”.

Steven was shocked, distressed and angry.  He could not understand how the position had seemingly changed from an allegation of following a Police Officer, to being questioned about terrorism and drugs, to an arrest for harassment.

The Officers then escorted Steven to a nearby police vehicle and transported to Acton Police Station.

Once at the Police Station, Steven was put before the Custody Sergeant and booked into custody.

Steven was subjected to a pat-down search and had his property removed from him.

Illegal strip search

Steven was then taken to a room away from the custody desk and subjected to a strip search.

Steven understandably felt extremely embarrassed, humiliated and degraded by this experience; like many people who experience a Police strip-search, he felt as though he was deliberately being stripped of his dignity as well as his clothes.

Steven was taken from the room and had his DNA, fingerprints and photograph taken.

Steven was then placed into a small, cold cell.

After a few hours in the cell, a female Officer visited the cell. The officer informed Steven that he was going to have an interview so that he could tell his “side of the story”. She told Steven that he could do this with or without a lawyer but that it might take some time for a lawyer to arrive.

Steven agreed to be interviewed without a lawyer because he wanted to get out of the Police Station as quickly as possible.

Shortly after this, at or around 23:59, Steven was taken from the cell for interview.

During the course of the interview, Steven answered all questions put to him. This included questions about his views on the Police and his views on Syria.

At the conclusion of the interview, Steven was returned to the cell.

Following interview, Steven continued asking the officers what was happening but was told that the people dealing with his case had gone home.

Steven felt trapped and as if he would never get out of the cell.

Steven eventually managed to fall asleep, but periodically woke up due to the noise of the cell-block and thoughts running through his mind.

At some point, Steven pressed the cell buzzer and asked if he could call his family. Steven was worried that his family would be concerned about his whereabouts. He had seemingly vanished from the face of the Earth.

Steven explained to the person who answered the buzzer that the contact  number was in his phone. Steven was informed that his phone had not yet been returned from the lab.

Steven was not able to call anyone else, as he did not know any contact numbers without having access to his phone.

Eventually an Officer attended the cell and told Steven that he could leave the Police Station. Steven was taken to the custody desk.

At the custody desk, Steven was informed that he was being released on bail, to surrender at a later date.

Steven’s property, with the exception of his phone, was returned to him.

Steven was released at or around 16:35.

Steven walked from the police station to the nearest bus stop and caught the bus home.

Release and Complaint

On arrival home, Steven discovered from members of his family that the Police had attended the premises whilst he was at the Police Station and had searched his bedroom.

Members of Steven’s family were upset about what had happened. Again, Steven felt like his privacy had been invaded.

A few days later, two Officers attended Steven’s home to return his phone.  He was told that the Police knew he was “not a terrorist” and that his bail had been “lifted”.

Steven subsequently filed  a complaint. Following investigation, his complaint was dismissed.  He appealed to the Independent Police “Watchdog” (in reality, often the Police “Lapdog” I am afraid) the IPCC.  The IPCC rejected his appeal. They concluded that the stop was justified given the context (i.e. the then terrorist threat level) and the Officers’ allegations of being followed.

Analysis

It’s quite evident that the grounds for Steven’s ‘stop and search’ were questionable to say the least.  On Steven’s account, on the one hand he was told that he had been stopped because of the offence for which he was later arrested and on the other hand he was informed that he looked suspicious and reference was made to drugs and terrorism.  It seems that Steven’s race/ethnicity was a primary factor in the Officer’ decision-making from the outset.

But I believe that the legality of Steven’s arrest for harassment was also highly questionable given that a single act cannot constitute harassment.  The offence is only committed if there is a course of conduct.  If it was not reasonable to suspect Steven of a course of conduct, it could not have been reasonable to suspect him of the offence of harassment.

Furthermore, in respect of the allegation that Steven was a suspect for having followed a PCSO earlier that day, Steven’s description simply did not match the description of the actual suspects (if indeed the men could have been genuinely suspected of having committed an offence or at least one incident that may have formed the basis of an offence of harassment).  It could not have been reasonable to arrest Steven for an offence based on a description of a suspect or suspects that did not correspond to his appearance.  The only feature, it seems, that was broadly similar was the fact that the suspects and Steven were not white as indeed are millions of people in this country. Suggestions about a climate of terrorism/fear about terrorism do not negate the need for every arrest to be founded on reasonable grounds of suspicion.

If it was not reasonable to suspect Steven of having followed the PCSO, even if it had been reasonable to suspect that Steven was following another Officer based on his (entirely innocent) actions, the requisite course of conduct would not have been made out for the purposes of the offence by following that Officer alone.  It would be necessary to show reasonable grounds to establish a course of conduct, which in my opinion could not be shown, because Steven could not have reasonably been suspected to have been involved in following the PSCO.

In the circumstances, Steven’s arrest for harassment was in my opinion entirely unlawful, as was everything that followed afterwards including his degrading strip-search and the search of his home address. This is reflected in the significant damages and legal costs which are now to be paid by the Metropolitan Police in settlement of Steven’s claim.

Conclusion

I believe that it is highly important to pursue claims on behalf of individuals such as Steven as a natural corrective – sometimes the only remedy available – against Police over-reach of their powers of stop search and arrest particularly where the complaint process has failed the victim, as it so often does.

Terrorists commit ghastly, high-profile crimes but the reality is that the percentage of us that they can directly be harmed by their activities is extremely small.  What terrorism is much more effective at doing is creating a disproportionately big climate of fear, whereby, as I am sure is the terrorists intention, they can scare us into harming ourselves and changing the character of our open, liberal, democratic society by swinging towards ‘draconian’ or paranoid policing.  Steven’s arrest and detention was one such over-reaction by the Police, in circumstances heavily tinged with racism, which we must guard against as keenly as we guard against terrorist attacks themselves.

Police abuse of power is a problem which whilst at a much lower-level of wrongdoing is a more pervasive risk and one which could do greater long-term damage to the fabric of our society.

Have you been arrested in your home for a summary only offence?

Traditionally, when someone was accused of a crime, the Police would invariably arrest them, take them into custody and interview them whilst under arrest.

The law has now changed and the police should only arrest if it is considered necessary, so that people who are suspected of committing (in particular) a low level crime are often approached and asked to voluntarily attend to a Police Station for an interview under caution.

Most people when contacted in such circumstances will cooperate with the Police, arrange a date and time and then attend. The alternative is far less attractive; arrest without further notice at any time of day or night.

Notwithstanding this threat, some choose to ‘run the gauntlet’ and risk arrest on the basis that either they’re innocent (and therefore why should they cooperate with a Police enquiry based on false premises) or because they put their head in the sand and hope the issue will go away.

In this scenario, the Police as a general rule don’t give up, but rather double their efforts to locate and arrest the individual (the “necessity to arrest” criteria easily being satisfied when there is a history of non-cooperation/deliberate evasion).

But it’s important to remember that Police powers to enter premises for the purpose of arresting a “wanted” person are specifically restricted to indictable offences only (per Section 17(1)(b) of PACE.)

An indictable offence is an offence that can be tried in the Crown Court (rather than only in the Magistrates Court), such offences are therefore generally more serious.

Thus a potential trap is set for the particular brand of hapless Police Officer who doesn’t give due consideration to the extent of his powers when seeking to arrest an individual wanted for summary only offences who has failed to cooperate with a request to voluntarily attend the Police Station.

A perfect example is a case I’ve just settled against Essex Police.

Stephen and Tom had a fractious relationship with their neighbours Mr and Mrs G that culminated in an incident that occurred one Friday night in May 2018, when Mrs G returned home having walked her dog.  Stephen was outside his house gardening.  Mrs G alleges that when she walked past Stephen, he told her to ‘piss off’.   When challenged as to his behaviour, Stephen allegedly clenched his fists and bared his teeth (causing Mrs G to be frightened and intimidated) and shouted abuse at her.  Upon returning home Mrs G told her husband, who immediately went to confront Stephen.  By this time, Tom came out.  Upon approach, Stephen allegedly lunged towards Mr G swinging his arms, trying to hit him.  Tom then restrained Stephen and Mr G walked away.

Mr and Mrs G then contacted the Police and gave the above account.  Stephen maintains that Mrs G’s allegations as to his behaviour were false.

Officers made concerted efforts to contact Stephen via phone, email and personal visits to his home address over a 2 month period.  Each contact became more and more threatening, the final note suggesting that his vehicle details would be circulated and “Full stop checks required.”

Stephen was adamant that he’d done nothing wrong and refused to be intimidated by what he considered to be Police harassment. Yet further, he did a little homework and established when and where he could potentially be arrested.

Eventually, one Saturday morning  in July 2018, PC Adams and PC Zahir  attended Stephen’s home address when he and Tom were home. To gain entry, the Officers jumped over a locked gate and then knocked on the front door. Tom answered and immediately  advised that the Officers were not welcome, that they should leave and that they were trespassing.  PC Adams explained that he wouldn’t leave until the matter was resolved and asked  Tom if he was Stephen.

Tom questioned the lawful authority of the Officers to be on his premises and PC Adams  specified that this was by virtue of Section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 – to arrest for an offence.

Despite Tom making it very clear that he was not prepared to engage with the Officers and that they should leave, PC Adams insisted that they would not leave until the matter was resolved.

By virtue of Tom’s refusal to confirm that he was not Stephen, PC Adams then stated that he was under arrest, as he could not be certain that Tom was not Stephen. Tom was arrested and handcuffed to the front.  At this stage Stephen appeared and it became obvious to the Officers that they’d arrested the wrong man.

Tom was immediately de-arrested and the handcuffs were removed.

As this took place, Stephen retreated to an upstairs bathroom, where he locked himself in.

PC Adams followed and threatened that should Stephen not open the door, he would force entry.

Stephen stated to PC Adams on more than one occasion that the offences he was accused of were summary only offences, (only capable of being tried in the Magistrate’s not Crown Court) hence that Section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 did not apply and that he (PC Adams) was a trespasser.

PC Adams rejected Stephen’s representations, maintaining that his presence was perfectly lawful and with that, promptly proceeded to kick the bathroom door open, before affecting Stephen’s arrest and applying handcuffs.

Following his arrest, Stephen continued to insist that Officers were acting unlawfully as trespassers, but PC Adams proceeded regardless.

Stephen was then transported to and detained at his local Police Station.

The arrest details endorsed on the Custody Record clearly demonstrated that both offences under investigation were summary only, specifically harassment and common assault.

The offences of harassment and common assault are always summary only offences.  There was therefore no power for the Officers to enter the premises under section 17 of PACE which is only engaged where the arrest is for an indictable offence.

In the circumstances, I brought a claim for both Stephen and Tom against the Police for trespass, false imprisonment and assault and battery and after negotiation, agreed settlements of £5,000 for Stephen and £2,500 for Tom.

This is yet another example of Police Offices breaking the law by either failing to understand, or flagrantly disregarding the limits of their extensive powers.  As far as summary only offences are concerned, an Englishman’s home remains his castle.

The Police Who Take Advantage of Female Victims of Crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consenting Adults? Police Officers Exploiting Female Victims of Crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Death In Custody : Police Negligence ?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

At 20.30h the custody record states:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Nevertheless, Richard’s continued detention was authorised.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Beware MOJ’s tactics to reduce access to justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passport to Prison? Unlawful Arrests In The Airport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Lies Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S:            Regarding What?  Anti-social behaviour?

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

And a little further into the conversation –

PC:         What is your name?

S:            Regards to what?

PC:         I have got the report.

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

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

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

PC:         No I’m not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In particular I highlight the following –

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

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

BAME: Rounding Up The Usual Suspects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both brothers were kept in custody for 28 hours.

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

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

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

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

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

Festival Season and the dangers of ‘Wild West’ Policing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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