Police Exploitation of the Power of Arrest

Police officers are invested with many extra-ordinary powers vis- a- vis their fellow citizens, and no doubt the greatest of these is the power of arrest pursuant to a criminal investigation: to deprive a person of his or her liberty and make them into a prisoner for the purposes of Police interrogation.

Such a power, which would subject most of us to one of the most onerous and stressful situations we have ever experienced in our lives, must of course be exercised with the utmost discretion by Police officers, and only used when absolutely necessary, in accordance with Code G of the Police & Criminal Evidence Act (PACE). This is not least because the harm caused to a person by arrest does not end with their release from the Police station: the psychological effects can persist for months, if not years afterwards. Furthermore, in today’s digital and interconnected world of databases, even an entirely innocent person leaving Police custody without charge cannot simply and completely ‘shut the door’ on these events. The fact of their arrest, and their personal and biometric information will in many cases be retained by the Police indefinitely, an electronic ‘ghost in the machine’ which could potentially haunt a person of good character for the rest of their lives, showing up on future Police database checks – including by the Disclosure & Barring Service in respect of employment and by national and foreign Border control agencies in regards to travel. By way of example, an arrest for certain offences, even without conviction and on the flimsiest of grounds, can present major problems for a person from the UK wishing to enter the United States.

In light of the above, it is always very satisfying when I am able to use the civil justice system to set right for one of my clients a wrong committed against them by a Police Officer’s misuse – or even deliberate exploitation – of the power of arrest, arising from that Officer’s misunderstanding – or manipulation – of the “necessity to arrest” criteria.

The most recent such case I have concluded, was that of my client Paul Peters, who was successful in his action against Merseyside Police following a multi-day Trial at Liverpool County Court, which concluded on 8 January.

Paul is a man of entirely good character and a self-employed plumber. In June 2013 he attended the home of a woman I shall identify as AM in order to carry out plumbing works, along with his son, who worked for him. During this work, it was necessary for him to move a wardrobe; nothing untoward occurred.

Subsequently, in mid-July 2013, (apparently 2 weeks after noticing that the cash was missing) AM reported missing money to the police. She gave a statement, in which she said the cash in question (£10,000) was being stored in the bottom of the wardrobe which Paul and his son had moved. However, the statement also made it clear that AM had not in fact seen/ checked on the money since January 2013 and that in the intervening months, before Paul came to work for her, she had numerous other workmen in the house, some of whom had been left un-supervised whilst she was away from the property.

DC Mitchell of Merseyside Police was assigned to lead the investigation and went to speak to AM. AM pointed a finger of suspicion at Paul and his son, though it seemed her only real basis for this was that she felt that Paul had been “indignant” when challenged about whether he had taken the money. Of course, most people wrongly accused of theft would very likely respond in the same way!

DC Mitchell recorded the key problem in the case: the money could have gone missing at any point between January and July. He also apparently questioned whether the money had gone missing at all, and this was part of an insurance scam on the part of AM; or whether her partner, who had access to the house, might have taken it. Despite this, as the investigation continued, DC Mitchell at no point chose to question AM’s partner, even when it appeared that he was taking steps to avoid coming into contact with the Officer.

As noted above, our client and his son were only two in a long ‘roster’ of potential suspects in the form of the dozens of workmen who had been in and out of the house during the half year in question, since the money had last been accounted for. I will, however, pause here to note that of all the workmen who had visited the house, Paul and his son were the only ones who were Black.

DC Mitchell made the following entries in the investigation log –

  • 14/7/13  She has confirmed that she has withdrawn £10K from her bank and placed it in her child’s wardrobe for safe keeping whilst having work done on the property. A number of trades have been in the house both whilst she was in attendance and also not at home. She last saw the cash at the start of Jan 2013. She has only realised it was gone after she had gone into the room and checked the wardrobe and found the cash has gone. With not seeing the cash herself since Jan it cannot be confirmed who has taken the money that was kept in the wardrobe.
  • 5/8/13 Research is required on both Peters. It was my intention to complete this research over the weekend and then be in a position to make a decision about a warrant.
  • 5/8/13  I have considered financial investigations in relation to … Paul Peters and his son…the Criminal Assets Team…They have advised that a Judges Production Order  (JPO). May be a viable means of obtaining financial information… Based on the results of my intelligence research a warrant to search the home address of Peters for the cash in question and anything associated with the case (receipt, red money bands) may be sought.
  • 12/8/13 Prior to my leave I was unable to complete my financial checks with the financial intelligence unit. Information from them is required prior to any JPO. Should they be unable to provide me with the information I will consider making a visit to the home address of … Paul Peters and asking him for the information directly. I am considering this actions carefully as it will alert him to the fact that I suspect that he or his son is responsible for the theft. If one or other of them is responsible, they will have ample time to move or hide the money. Without the information however it may be unlikely that a warrant will be granted.
  • 22/8/13 I have been unable to consult with the financial investigators so far over this case.
  • 27/8/13 The information at this time is not sufficient to apply for a warrant [against PETERS].
  • 3/9/13 I am now looking at completing a Judges Production Order and have sought advice in respect of form completion…
  • 13/9/13 I have been unable to progress this investigation as I have been dealing with[REDACTED]
  • 17/9/13 Unable to progress this investigation today, as I have been tasked with[REDACTED]
  • 19/9/13 Call from AM – I have also advised her…that after looking at the information held about the suspects, there is not enough to proceed at this time against Paul PETERS…there is not enough in PETERS’ background to support the notion that he has taken the money. [A further note on the same day indicates that DC Mitchell had now received and was reviewing the financial accounts of AM and her partner – to consider any wrongdoing on their part]
  • 20/9/13 I am unable to progress this case further today as I have been tasked with [REDACTED].
  • 25/9/13 Unable to progress this matter further today as dealing[REDACTED]
  • 28/9/13 I have been unable to progress this matter today as I have been tasked with prisoner [REDACTED]
  • 8/10/13 PETERS was arrested this morning and his house searched. Nothing of evidential value was found.

Paul was understandably shocked and surprised by his arrest, which DC Mitchell stated in official documentation was necessary “to prevent loss or damage to property” – notwithstanding the obvious fact that if Paul had taken the money this event occurred over 3 months previously.

Paul was bailed to return to the station in December 2013, but when he presented himself there was informed that he was (unsurprisingly) being given an outcome of ‘No Further Action’.

Paul was incensed by what had been done to him, and made a complaint to his MP and to the Professional Standards Department of Merseyside Police – the latter of which was, predictably, rejected by PSD who went out of their way to support and excuse the actions of DC Mitchell and the “necessity” of Paul’s arrest.

The chronology of the investigation, as summarised above, leads to the conclusion, in my firm opinion, that DC Mitchell – having run out of ‘leads’ and now contrary to his own earlier analysis of the evidence (which was that there simply wasn’t sufficient evidence to suspect Paul) – acted on 8 October to arrest the Paul simply in order to kick some life into an investigation that was apparently drifting. He may well have felt under pressure to ‘do something’.

DC Mitchell appeared to have unreasonably abandoned his earlier attempts to progress the matter without arresting Paul, which he had previously accepted was not justified. The only thing that happened between 19 September and the date of Paul’s arrest was that financial information relating to the complainant AM and her partner had been received; logically this cannot have changed the grounds or necessity for arresting Paul Peters and notably there was no attempt to obtain a search warrant of Paul’s address (which requires authorisation by a Magistrate). Presumably this was because DC Mitchell’s view was really still that which he had given in August – that it was unlikely a search warrant would be granted given the paucity of evidence/ grounds for suspicion. Therefore, this was, in my opinion, an arrest which was attempted in order to obtain grounds of suspicion rather than vice versa.

The information available to DC Mitchell was in his own words not sufficient to apply for a warrant. How then did it generate reasonable suspicion that Paul was guilty of theft? In reality it appears that DC Mitchell, realising that he hadn’t enough to apply for a search warrant of Paul’s premises, decided to overcome, or rather circumvent, that legal obstacle by contriving an arrest in order to procure entry to the Paul’s premises. This is precisely the tactic which was deprecated by Eady J in Hanningfield v The Chief Constable of Essex Police EWHC [2013].

Note the following statement in the written response provided by DC Mitchell in early 2014 to the initial complaint brought by Paul – Necessity criterion was to secure and preserve evidence and protect property (the cash). The arrest also enabled a search of the premises under section 32 of PACE.

A wish to search premises under section 32 PACE 1984 is not a statutory justification for the necessity of arrest. At all times there was against Paul only a tenuous deduction made from incomplete information. At most Paul should have been offered a voluntary Police interview. There was no basis for an arrest and detention and the reasons stated on the custody record for the necessity of arrest simply do not bear scrutiny.

When I presented a civil claim to Merseyside Police on behalf of Paul, it was met not with humility or apology but by a very combative attitude from the Force, and in particular DC Mitchell, who appeared to be under the impression that my firm should be reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for having the temerity to question his actions.

DC Mitchell and his superiors attempted to justify his arrest of Paul in October 2013 on the basis that it was necessary to protect/ preserve the missing cash…Despite the fact, acknowledged in the following words by DC Mitchell, that in July 2013 –

“Since there was a two week delay in reporting the cash missing, I concluded there was no immediate need to search the homes of any potential suspects. Had the report being taken on the day of the cash being found missing, then it would have been imperative to conduct searches immediately to try to find the cash.”

How can this square at all with the Officer’s subsequent assertion that at a point in time over 3 months later, it somehow once again became imperative to conduct searches to find the cash?

DC Mitchell stated that his reasoning was that the ‘suspect’ would now feel safe enough to spend the money… This is somewhat obscure and bizarre reasoning to say the least, and DC Mitchell’s assertion that the money was now at risk at 3 months after the alleged event but was not, presumably, at risk 2 months after the event, and equally was going to have disappeared by 4 months after the event, appears to be an entirely random and arbitrary assertion, entirely disconnected from either common sense or objective or specific facts about this case.

Furthermore, it would appear to directly contradict the reason the Officer gave (above) for not feeling it was necessary to enter the premises of the suspect when the crime was first reported 2 weeks after the alleged theft, presumably because it was by then already too late to ‘protect and preserve’ the money as it would have been spent or hidden elsewhere. DC Mitchell was in effect arguing that he thought all along that the money would be in the possession of the suspect (Paul), and he was content to leave it there until such a time as he decided (apparently October, over 3 months after the event) that it was now suddenly at risk of being spent.

At the conclusion of the Trial on 8 January, in which I instructed Mr Nick Stanage of Doughty Street Chambers, one of the country’s leading actions-against-the-police barristers to act on behalf of Paul, His Honour Judge Cadwallader accepted our arguments in regards to the glaring obvious facts set out above regarding the lack of any necessity to arrest and Judgment was granted in favour of Paul for false imprisonment, and he was awarded £8,000 compensation. He will now also be able to use this judgment to assist him in getting Merseyside Police to expunge all records of his wrongful arrest so that it will not besmirch his character in the future or hamper his ability to work and travel where he choses. The importance of this victory goes far beyond the counting of ‘pounds and pence’.

Indeed, it was only half way through the Police barrister’s closing speech that Merseyside Police finally conceded that they now accepted that Paul had no involvement whatsoever with the alleged theft. This was in marked contrast to their response to his complaint and his claim over the preceding 6 years, when not only were the Police offering neither an apology nor even an acknowledgement of Paul’s innocence, but DC Mitchell (in a 2014 statement made in response to Paul’s complaint) actually “doubled-down” by insisting that he personally believed Paul was a thief – despite having absolutely no evidence to support this. Neither the Officer nor his Force showed any humility or contrition until – thanks to Paul’s courageous decision to see this case through to Trial despite all the financial and emotional risks entailed – they were finally brought to book in front of a Judge.

In my opinion, DC Mitchell and those in the Force who clearly supported him in their denial of both Paul’s legitimate complaint and legitimate claim were ‘clutching at straws’ to justify Paul’s arrest…but that did not prevent them using those straws to contest the claim for over 6 years and spend tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayer’s money in doing so.

Holding DC Mitchell and his enablers within Merseyside Police to account over this misuse of their powers against Paul  was absolutely necessary in order not only to enable Paul to achieve a personal sense of vindication, and restore his damaged faith in our law & justice system, but also to teach the Police that we will not as a society accept or tolerate abuses of authority – whether careless, reckless or deliberate.

Violence in Police Custody: When Gatekeepers become Rulebreakers.

When a person is arrested and taken to a Police station, it is required that they be brought as soon as possible before the Custody Sergeant, who presiding behind the desk of the custody suite, will determine whether the suspect should or should not be detained. His role is to establish the grounds and necessity for arrest, decide if they are lawful, and ‘interview’ the detained person to establish (in particular) their personal details and whether they have any requirement for medical treatment.

Although in the circumstances a person under arrest – brought before the custody desk like a prisoner before the king – might not see it that way, the Custody Sergeant’s primary function is to ensure the well-being of that person; to order their immediate release if they have been wrongly arrested (a rare, but not unheard of event), to determine if they are at risk of self harm and to arrange any necessary medical treatment. But they also exercise a great deal of power over the detained person, in particular having the authority to ‘sentence’ a person to the degradation of a strip- search.

The ‘job description’ for a Custody Sergeant is defined by the College of Policing to include the following key responsibilities –

  • Upholding the care & welfare of detained persons
  • Ensuring that all Police staff have due regard to the rights and treatment of persons arrested
  • Maintaining high standards of security and safety within the Custody Suite
  • Recognising at all times the dignity and wellbeing of detainees

Whether Custody Sergeants always act in the best interests of the detainees brought before them is open to question. They are only human, and no doubt have to put up with a lot of ‘aggro’ from people under arrest. This can lead to many Custody Sergeants coming across to detainees as cold, uncaring or arrogant – even sometimes actively antagonistic, as one of my clients found when she was brought into a Middlesbrough custody suite by Cleveland Police officers for allegedly refusing a roadside ‘breath test’ in December 2019.

My client, Catherine, was brought before the Custody Sergeant and what then occurred is fully evidenced by the video and audio recording of the CCTV cameras in the custody suite (which is often the only part of a Police station to have constant audio recording, rather than just ‘silent’ movie footage). This is because, as I have indicated above, the Custody suite is almost like the ‘court room’ of the Police station where the Custody Sergeant (in the role of a quasi- judge) determines whether a person should be detained or released and ‘sentences’ them to detention in a cell, strip –search, or calls for medical treatment etc.

Catherine was extremely unhappy about her arrest, and was letting her feelings be known. A scuffle occurred between Catherine and the Officers escorting her, during which a female officer pushed Catherine’s head down so that it almost connected with the custody desk. It is evident that the Custody Sergeant at this point lost his temper, and he leaned across the desk, waving his pen in Catherine’s face and shouted –

Shut your fucking mouth, you drunken little slut.”

Unsurprisingly, this did nothing to defuse the situation and in my opinion it is reprehensible that the senior officer in this situation, whose role as the ‘gatekeeper’ of the Police station is to be a fair arbitrator and is to ensure the welfare and safety of detainees, should speak to someone in such a hostile and deliberately demeaning and degrading way. This particular Officer was certainly not meeting the College of Policing’s definition of the ideal Custody Sergeant as someone “resolute and compassionate…able to set out logical arguments clearly, adapting language , form and message to meet the needs of different people/ audiences” – although perhaps he thought he was…

A similar dereliction of duty by a Custody Sergeant was that in the recently reported case of Gareth Starr, who was found guilty of gross misconduct for mocking and making fun of a drunken detainee who was staggering around his cell, and who slipped and fell in his own urine. What made this even worse, as Starr laughed at the man and failed to go to his aid, was that he did this in the presence of junior colleagues, setting a terrible example of disrespect for human dignity. Starr apparently “actively discouraged” another Officer from going to give aid to the detainee, because watching him was more “amusing”.  Avon & Somerset Constabulary made it clear that Starr would have been immediately dismissed from the Force, had he not already retired.

Sometimes however, inappropriate behaviour from Custody Sergeants towards the detainees in their ‘trust’ goes beyond disrespect or incivility into actual physical violence. Such was the experience of another of my clients, Kevin who had been arrested by the Metropolitan Police. Kevin did not dispute that his arrest was lawful, and throughout his time in custody was calm and compliant with Police instructions, save for a minor incident when he threw a paper cup, half filled with water on the floor, in frustration at not being given appropriate medication for discomfort that he was suffering. This fairly trivial act of ‘rebellion’ by Kevin seems to have caught the eye of, and riled, the Custody Sergeant behind the desk, who I will identify by the name of Brown.

During his time in detention, Kevin requested permission to brush his teeth, and was accordingly escorted to the ‘shower room’ by an officer. Whilst he was brushing his teeth, Sergeant Brown, entered the shower room and ordered Kevin to “fucking” get back to his cell. Kevin quite reasonably protested about this, on the basis that the other officer had given him permission to be there, but Sergeant Brown ignored him, grabbed Kevin’s arm and started to march him back down the corridor to his cell. A second Officer took hold of Kevin’s other arm during this process, and so he was completely under the control of two Officers. Kevin again protested, saying that there was no need to manhandle him, and that he would walk back to the cell on his own, but was again ignored.

When they reached the door of the cell, Kevin turned to Sergeant Brown and asked him “What’s your fucking problem ? I had permission to brush my teeth. I didn’t refuse to go back into my cell.”

In response to this, Sergeant Brown said nothing, but stepped back and then with his clenched fist, punched Kevin in the face. As blood poured from Kevin’s nose, he was pushed into the cell and the door was slammed shut. His nose quickly became swollen and he was in immediate pain, shock and distress. Nevertheless, despite being well aware of the injury he had just inflicted upon this detained person, Custody Sergeant Brown waited over half an hour before calling for medical assistance for Kevin.

Shortly before calling for the Healthcare Professional to attend upon Kevin, Sergeant Brown made the entry in the Custody Record, which constituted, in my opinion, a clear attempt to cover up the unlawful force he had used upon my client (the abbreviation ‘DP’ stands for ‘detained person’; names have been changed) –

At approx 21:58h I walked down the male cell block to ensure that DP was in his cell as he had left FME’s room and became aggressive and thrown a cup of water over the custody floor, I saw DDO Harris near shower cubicle and I told him that DP needs to go into cell as custody was very busy and I needed him.  As I levelled with shower room I saw DP just standing there, I told him that he needed to go back to his cell as I needed DDO Harris, he just stood there staring at me, I entered the cubicle and took hold of DP’s arm to escort him as he became very vocal, swearing and threatening, he is a large built male, taller than myself.  PS Cartwright was behind me, DP leant down towards me pushing his forehead against mine, I feared he was about to assault me, I tried pushing him away with my left hand but he was tensing his body up, fearing for my personal safety I punched DP once in his face, this caused him to step backwards and away from me, PS Cartwright then pushed him into his cell, DP moved forward to get at us, PS Cartwright slammed the cell door shut.

At 23.08h it was recorded in the custody record by PC Purslow that Kevin wished to speak with an Inspector about the assault he had suffered.  It was clear from this, and subsequent entries in the custody record the staff at the station were well aware that Kevin (unsurprisingly) wanted to pursue a complaint in relation to what PS Brown had done to him.

At 00.18h it was recorded in the custody record by PS Cartwright that ICEFLO (photographs) had been taken of Kevin’s nose and the FME (Force Medical Examiner) had noted his injuries. 

Despite this the Metropolitan Police failed to open a complaint investigation and failed to preserve the CCTV footage which would have proved or disproved PS Brown’s account

When I subsequently commenced proceedings on behalf of Kevin, I invited the Court to draw the logical inference from this presumably wilful failure –

  1. PS Brown, in the entry in the custody record made at 22.29h falsely asserted that my client had pushed his forehead against that of PS Brown and falsely asserted that my client was tensing his body up;
  1. Despite being well aware that my client had initiated a complaint in relation to PS Brown’s actions against him, officers manifestly and presumably deliberately failed to record or action that complaint and failed to ensure that the CCTV footage was preserved; 
  1. The false assertions made in the custody record by PS Brown, and the failure of the Officers to action the complaint as set out above, added insult to injury and were an unconscionable attempt to mislead the Court to the detriment of my client and/or were done with the aim of concealing PS Brown’s unlawful conduct towards my client;

The injury sustained by Kevin was not a minor one; it was established that he had suffered a deviated nasal septum, for which a septo- rhinoplasty operation was required to improve his breathing and the shape of his nose.

Kevin’s mistreatment was all the more reprehensible because it came (literally) at the hands of the one Officer above all others whose duty was to ensure Kevin’s safety and wellbeing, which duty very much included making and preserving a proper record of everything that happened to Kevin during his time in detention – but who instead manipulated the Custody Record to disguise his own unlawful assault upon Kevin, tried to deny him his right to pursue a complaint and allowed to be deleted, the crucial video footage.

Although the Met initially filed a Defence denying liability (and endorsing Sergeant Brown’s version of events) they subsequently caved in and settled the claim well before Trial, agreeing to pay for the full cost of the operation Kevin required to fix his broken nose, and additional compensation on top of that for his pain and suffering, together with his legal fees.

The experiences of Catherine, Kevin and many of my clients are a warning that sometimes the real danger to a detained person, at a time when they are likely to be in a highly vulnerable and distressed state, can sadly come from the very person who is entrusted with responsibility for their care, the man whose ‘prisoner’ they are.

It is entirely right to expect the highest standards of behaviour from Custody Sergeants, and to hold them to account when they fall below those standards…sometimes far, far below.

(All names have been changed.)

Racial Profiling: Black Lives in Police Eyes

In the news this week were plenty of stories which did not bring any Christmas cheer, including a number of items highlighting the continued problem of racist attitudes within Police institutions, and how deeply ingrained this problem still seems to be.

The worst of these was the case of 6 “elite” Hampshire officers who were found guilty of gross misconduct after covert recordings of the Force’s Serious Organised Crime Unit captured a culture of regular racism – including officers wishing death on ‘foreigners’ and referring to the section where a black officer worked as “Africa corner” – in scenes reminiscent of the 1970s time-travel cop drama “Life on Mars.”

During the space of a mere 3 weeks, officers were recorded alluding to a black colleagues as mixed-breed dogs, plantation overseers and zoo animals; ‘jokes’ were told about illegal immigrants drowning in the sea, and killing Albanians with a nerve agent – and this is to say nothing about the sexism and homophobia which was also rife in the unit.

The officers await to hear their fates on 4 January, but they will surely all be dismissed from the Force.

The barrister leading the case against the officers, QC Jason Beer commented “When speaking to a black officer, a colleague puts on a fake Caribbean accent – in fact he was from Ghana. A detail like that doesn’t matter, he was a black man after all.”

This, I think, is getting near to the heart of the problem. The Hampshire officers are a gross example of the worst kind of ‘old school’ Police officers whose hideous attitudes towards everyone who is not a ‘straight, white male’ are the badge of membership of their ‘club’ (and apparently, like an awful broken record, the only form of ‘banter’ allowed in it). I do not for one moment think they represent the majority of officers in this respect, but they do – like the tip of an iceberg – hint at a less dramatic but bigger, wider problem of racial profiling generally, ‘below the surface’ of Police culture. Not overt racism perhaps, but racist assumptions leading to greater Police hostility and suspicion on all levels to ethnic minority groups.

We know, for example, that for a long time it has been evident that taser guns are used disproportionally against black people and likewise during the Covid Lockdown policing powers were used disproportionally against black and other people of ethnic minority appearance. Witness also the case of my client Dwight.

This is a problem which, of course, existed long before the recent Lockdown, and sadly, seems set to long outlast it. I have recently settled a claim for my client Brian Maddox, a black man who I believe was the victim of racial profiling in 2017.

On the day in question Brian was hurrying along a street in Brighton, late for an urgent appointment. He is a man of impeccable character. The only crime he could be accused of? “Running whilst Black” it sadly seems…

Suddenly Brian was accosted by a young white male, whom he now knows to have been a plain clothed officer of Sussex Police (PC Barton).  Coming out of nowhere the young male grabbed Brian’s jacket with both hands. Although it is true that he shouted the words “Stop, Police!” at Brian, in the context of this event Brian would have had every reason to think that he was in fact being mugged. He instinctively sought to extricate himself from the man’s grip.

However, within seconds the first man was joined by a second (also wearing ‘casual’ clothes, and only now known to be a Police Officer) who assisted the first male in tripping and bundling Brian to the ground, during which Brian dropped his mobile phone and continued to believe he was the victim of a robbery.

It is distressing to describe what happened next, but in a scene reminiscent of what happened to George Floyd in America earlier this year, Brian now found himself struggling to breathe, pinned down on a concrete road surface, with a knee in his back.

A female officer – the first person on the scene in uniform – then joined in the ‘pinning’ of Brian by sitting on his legs.

Brian was subjected to intensely tight handcuffing, with the metal biting into his wrists, and then pulled to his feet and searched “on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to supply”. He was incredulous and could not believe what was happening to him.

Despite the fact that nothing – of course – was found on him, Brian was kept in handcuffs and transported to Brighton Police station. All of this, humiliatingly, was played out in front of many members of the public on a busy high street. The Police justification for this was that Brian (in attempting to defend himself) had been “resisting” the first plain clothes officer who had accosted him.

Shortly after arrival at the station Brian was “de-arrested” and his handcuffs were finally removed. He was issued with a ‘stop and search’ form and released.

In response to the claim for false imprisonment and assault and battery that I subsequently brought on behalf of Brian, Sussex Police initially denied liability stating that the plain clothes officers had been involved in a drugs ‘sting’ and were seeking to arrest three black men who they suspected of dealing cannabis.

It seems that PC Barton had pursued one of the black men, lost sight of him, and had then fastened onto Brian, the next black man that he saw and given chase to him, believing him to be the drug dealer. PC Barton later admitted that he had only briefly seen the man he was originally pursuing, from a distance of 20 – 50 metres, and therefore couldn’t be sure that Brian was in fact the suspect; however, it seems that Brian’s blackness was enough to trigger an assumption in the officer that he was the ‘wanted’ man, in a way that I firmly believe whiteness alone would not have done.

I issued Court proceedings on behalf of Brian, and notwithstanding their denial of liability, Sussex Police soon came to the settlement table.  I am pleased to confirm that after rejecting their initial, derisory, offer of £1,100. I have now settled Brian’s claim against the police for a sum greatly enhanced.

We have to ask serious questions about how many rank and file Police officers fail to look past the ‘Blackness’ of a person’s appearance, acting as if it were that person’s overriding and most important characteristic, and using skin colour in the absence of any other distinquishing characteristic or mode of behaviour to ‘zone in’ on a black person in a way that ‘Whiteness’ alone would never be used against a white person.

Often, perhaps, is subconscious, but that does little to detract from its harmfulness and hurtfulness; taking a step back to look at the wider problem of ‘racial assumptions’ in the justice system, we can see that there has been yet another case of a black barrister being assumed by Court staff to be the defendant in a criminal case.

The type of attitude that leads to ‘racial profiling’ may not be as grossly barbaric as the behaviour of the ‘Life on Mars’ Hampshire officers, but because it is so prevelant is just as much as a problem and causes untold damage to community relations and the faith and trust that people of colour can have in the Police.

Police Forces need to work much harder to change the mind-sets of their officers generally, and ensure a truly healthy culture of non-racist policing; a task which begins, but certainly does not end, with the throwing out of the rotten apples of the Hampshire SOCU.

Names have been changed.

What price a Police apology?

I have recently received a £40,000 offer of damages from Hertfordshire Constabulary for my client Yvonne Farrell, who was subject to shocking abuse at the hands of several Police Officers.

In August 2018 Yvonne,  a black woman of the Rastafarian religion, was at home when she noticed some activity around her partner’s car, a Renault Megane which was parked across the road (and which was at the time subject to a Statutory Off-Road  Notification).

Out of simple curiosity, Yvonne ventured outside.  She was wearing a loose fitting summer dress and flip flops.

To her alarm, Yvonne discovered that two men operating a tow truck were attempting to take her partner’s vehicle and met her with a rude reply of “None of your business” when she attempted to challenge them.

Yvonne explained that it was her understanding that the road they were on was a private road and hence her partner’s car was not on the public highway, for the purposes of SORN.

The men replied that it was not a private road and then proceeded to clamp her partner’s vehicle.  Yvonne was aware that her partner had certainly not received any prior warning or notification of seizure, and appealed to the men to simply allow her to move the car approximately  3 metres off the road onto private land. The men refused and continued to clamp the vehicle.

So as to stop what Yvonne considered to be an unlawful and unnecessary seizure of the car, she climbed up onto the roof of her partner’s car and sat down.  She attempted to telephone her partner using her mobile, but was unable to get through.

A short time later Police Officers, summoned by the operator of the tow truck, arrived at the scene. They found our client still sitting on the roof of her partner’s car, maintaining her peaceful protest against its seizure. Our client had been entirely calm throughout and at no point had been rude or aggressive to either of the men attempting to take her partner’s car.

Sadly, the Officers rather than attempting to arbitrate the situation in a neutral fashion, immediately took the side of the men who were attempting to clamp/confiscate the car, as Officers are almost invariably wont to do in any dispute between bailiffs/ officials and members of the public.

When Yvonne refused the Officer’s request to climb down from the car they demanded her name. She correctly queried as to whether she was obliged to give the Officers her name; when they told her that she did not, she exercised her right to decline to give them this personal information.

One of the Officers, PC Head, then threatened to arrest Yvonne for “Breach of the Peace”, despite the fact that she could scarcely have been behaving in a more peaceful fashion.  Our client correctly maintained that this was merely a civil dispute and the Officers should not be using their criminal law powers to intervene and take sides in this manner.

After our client again refused to climb down off the car (bear in mind she was doing absolutely nothing other than sitting on top of it, and was not shouting or making any sort of disturbance) PC Head announced that Yvonne was arrested for “Public Order” and grabbing hold of her arm and leg, dragged her from the roof of the car, causing her to land awkwardly on the ground. The Officers then immediately handcuffed Yvonne’s hands behind her; a humiliating, painful and entirely unnecessary (although again, sadly routine) action on the part of the Police.

Yvonne appealed to the Officers to loosen her handcuffs, but was ignored. She was then transported to Stevenage Police Station in a Police van, although not before the incident had caught the attention of a number of local residents, further adding to Yvonne’s humiliation and embarrassment. She was tearful and distressed.

Upon her arrival at the station, Yvonne was brought before the Custody Sergeant, where she again exercised her right to refuse to confirm her identity, knowing that she had done nothing wrong and that she was being unlawfully detained. 

The arresting Officers then falsely alleged that Yvonne had been arrested for “Using abusive language and threatening behaviour” contrary to Section 4 of the Public Order Act. This offence specifically encompasses words or actions which cause another person to be in fear of “immediate unlawful violence” against them. Nothing could be further from the truth, and Yvonne continued to maintain her innocence and her refusal to confirm her identity. It was quite clear that the only person who had been threatened with, or indeed received “immediate unlawful violence” was Yvonne herself, because she had the temerity to refuse the Officer’s demand to get off the car; the arresting officers were thereby using the Public Order Act as a smokescreen for their own violation of that law.

The Custody Sergeant then resorted to threatening to remove Yvonne’s clothing by force if she failed to cooperate with him and when she again refused to give them her name she was taken to a ‘camera cell’ and obliged to remove all of her clothing, including her underwear.

Having seen such tactics utilised by the Police on numerous other occasions, I am firmly of the view that the decision to remove and seize Yvonne’s simple, lightweight summer clothing (which was obviously not bulky, and clearly not concealing anything which could be of danger to Yvonne or the Officers)  was not done out of concern for Yvonne’s safety but rather so as to humiliate, distress and embarrass her with a view to forcing her to ‘confess’ her identity.

After Yvonne’s clothes had been taken from her she was provided with alternative clothing but Yvonne felt it inappropriate for her to don these items on religious and cultural grounds, as her Rastafarian beliefs were that as a woman she should only wear long dresses. Yvonne  was therefore left in a situation whereby she was entirely naked in her cell for almost three hours (during which time a blanket was derisorily thrown on the floor of her cell and at least one male Officer came to the cell door to observe her), before eventually her clothing was returned (why had it been taken in the first place?) and she was allowed to re-dress. During this time, detention staff also refused our client’s request to be allowed to make a phone call, until such time as she gave them her details, a further form of actual, though low-grade, psychological torture.

Meanwhile, a Detective Sergeant had reviewed the evidence and concluded, correctly, that Yvonne’s behaviour did not constitute a “public order” offence. Unfortunately, the Police did not then immediately apologise and release Yvonne, but, as a log which I subsequently obtained shows, put time and effort into considering whether she could instead be arrested for “theft” of the vehicle by sitting on it! That outrageous  idea was, thankfully, soon dismissed – in my opinion it was only given any attention at all because the Police were trying to find excuses for their initial unlawful arrest of Yvonne (a classic example of the Police not using their powers to uphold the law, but to protect themselves from criticism) – but nevertheless Yvonne was kept in the dark about this decision, and her unlawful incarceration continued.

After several hours of detention our client was brought out of the cell and taken to a side room to see her partner.  Under pressure from her partner, Yvonne finally gave her name, date of birth and address to the Custody Sergeant who only then advised her, that following review,  he was satisfied that no crime had in fact been committed and the fact that she could now be released.

Notwithstanding these assurances,  Yvonne was in fact kept in custody for a further 3 hours during which she was obliged to provide her fingerprints, under threat of force and further detention, and she was finally released shortly before midnight, having been detained for almost 11 hours.

No further action, of course, was taken against her.

The following day she attended hospital with bruising to her upper left arm and both wrists, and pain in her back and shoulder. 

Sadly, the psychological affects of this horrendous experience of Yvonne’s would prove even more long lasting than her physical injuries; she developed an anxiety and depressive disorder which has contributed significantly to her decision to relocate from this country to the Caribbean.  

Without legal assistance, Yvonne filed a complaint, which was investigated by Hertfordshire Police’s Professional Standards Department.

The PSD’s findings were set out in a report dated March 2019.  All of Yvonne’s complaints, including unlawful arrest, were rejected.  Specifically, it was stated that there had been a necessity to arrest Yvonne for “unlawful obstruction of the highway”.   This was notwithstanding the fact that Yvonne had not been arrested for obstruction of the highway, but rather for an alleged breach of section 4 of the Public Order Act.

All of this was entirely unnecessary, and amounts to a vast waste of public money and the time of everybody involved.  Yvonne was not committing a crime, and the Officers should not have waded in on the side of the operators of the tow truck, and certainly not in such a heavy-handed and aggressive manner.  The Officers had no power to remove Yvonne from the roof of the car and therefore resorted to lying about her behaviour in order to categorise this as a ‘public order offence’.

All too often in my experience, Police Officers do wrong by following the urge to “over Police” i.e. to see everything through the lens of Policing powers, trying to ‘criminalise’ a situation so that they can exercise their use of force and arrest powers, whereas the situation is actually a non-criminal civil dispute and the Officers are motivated by a perception that their authority is being slighted or ignored.

The fact is however, that Police Officers are not a ‘higher rank’ of individual whom ‘civilians’ must obey in the general course of events and it was entirely lawful (as is now clearly recognised and conceded by the Police) for Yvonne to carry out her peaceful protest and furthermore to refuse to give her details to the Officers attending at the scene.

Sadly, front line Police Officers whose authority is challenged, as I have highlighted in another recent blog post, often respond with the use of force and/or arrest , just as Custody Sergeants so challenged very often make cynical use of their ‘safeguarding’ powers to humiliate and degrade a person by ordering them to be stripped naked so as to compel them to answer questions.

Yvonne’s fight for justice was met with short shrift in the inefficient and unfair Police complaint process, but has now come to fruition thanks to her determination not to give in and the expert advice I was able to provide her with in terms of utilising the strengths of the civil justice system, and commencing Court proceedings. It is important for me to highlight here that Yvonne started this process looking for accountability not compensation, but seemingly had the door to the same slammed in her face by the rejection of her complaint. She has now pursued a meritorious claim, recognised by Hertfordshire’s offer of £40,000, but has still received no apology or even a formal admission of liability. On Yvonne’s behalf I have made it clear that she would accept a lower award of financial compensation than the full value of the claim, if it were accompanied by an apology. I have yet to receive any response from them, but strongly suspect that they will be more inclined to increase their financial offer than put into writing the contrition and humility which Yvonne deserves to receive from them after the flagrant abuse of Police power that was perpetrated against her that Summer’s day.

What price a Police apology? Apparently it is priceless, whilst tax payers are footing the bill for Police pride.

UPDATE: Read my blog post: Police Apology, or Excuse? to find out how matters resolved. The Daily Mail also reported the story.

Taking Advantage of Victims: Police Officer’s Inappropriate Relationships & Sexual Misconduct

A number of recent media reports have highlighted the continued prevalence of the problem of predatory Police Officers who exploit the authority and opportunity of their job for purposes of sexual gratification.

Witness DC Nicholas Pointon who used the police computer system to locate a woman who had previously been involved in a car crash, turned up at her home without invitation and then pursued a relationship with her. A Staffordshire Police misconduct panel convened this month rightly held DC Pointon’s behaviour to be “predatory” and dismissed him from the Force without notice. To make matters worse, DC Pointon, who clearly knew that his sexual pursuit of the woman was a gross abuse of his office had apparently made a false pocket book entry and then attempted to blame an innocent colleague for this.

As Deputy Chief Constable Emma Barnett saidThe public expects police officers to maintain exemplary standards of contact, integrity and professionalism and DC Pointon fell far short of this and undermined trust and confidence in policing so it is right that he is dismissed from the service.” 

Unfortunately, the case of DC Pointon is far from being a rarity. The last month alone has also seen:

·         An unidentified Avon & Somerset Police officer dismissed for using his status for personal advantage, when he wooed a woman he had met online, and whom he was on notice had mental health problems, by sending her a picture of himself in uniform, before meeting her for sex. 

·         Kevin Hathaway, a West Midlands PCSO jailed after starting a relationship with a burglary victim, whom he had met in the course of his duty – and who he frequently met for sex whilst on duty (a very common feature of this type of case in my experience; that the Officer seems to get some perverse sense of extra satisfaction that he is not only transgressing in the fact of his relationship, but that he is transgressing whilst actively on duty and in uniform).

·         DC Rene Murdoch of Surrey Police sacked without notice for gross misconduct for pursuing an improper relationship with a member of the public who he met on duty (and then trying to hide the relationship by deleting messages).

·         An unidentified Devon & Cornwall officer fired for sending sexually explicit messages and images (“sexting”) to a female victim of crime whose contact details he had obtained in the course of his duty (whilst also neglecting the investigation of the crime she had reported, another sadly common occurrence in these cases). 

None of the Officers who have done these things are innocent ‘fools for love’. The Police profession has known for a very long time that such relationships across the line of duty are flagrant breaches of the Police Codes of Conduct. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) have spelled this out time and time again , whilst highlighting concerns about institutional Police failure to control a problem, which on the evidence of the cases summarised above, is not going away.

These offences, often quite rightly recognised and punished not merely as disciplinary matters but as criminal behaviour, are absolute abuses of positions of trust; of the trust of the officer’s colleagues, of the trust the general public has in those given the special powers and confidences of a Police Constable; and above all, of the trust of vulnerable victims of crime who have turned to the Police for help in times of great difficulty or personal anxiety and who instead of being treated with professionalism and respect are eyed up for exploitation by certain predatory Officers, who seem to consider that access to these women is one of the ‘privileges’ of their job.

Over the years I have represented many such female victims of Police sexual exploitation and have won on their behalf hundreds of thousands of pounds of compensation from the Police Forces who are still failing to do enough to weed out the abusers, and stamp out this problem for good.

Knights in Shining Armour?

One of the most dangerous things about putting a man in uniform is the sense of grossly inflated self-importance or impunity that uniform can bestow upon him, putting other people at risk of harm and aggression if the Officer in uniform feels his authority and/or ego is being challenged.

My client Ben Joynes met one such uniformed aggressor in November  2019 in the following distressing circumstances.

Ben was driving home, with his teenage son in his car, when he became aware of a traffic jam ahead. Ben was able to see that a number of Police officers were present, and some individuals were being arrested.

As he waited for the scene to clear, a Police van pulled up behind Ben and an officer whom Ben now knows to be PC Mark Knights approached Ben and asked him to move his car. Unfortunately, there was insufficient space for Ben to do so; PC Knights unreasonably responded by taking pictures not only of Ben’s registration plate, but also Ben and his son. This unjustified action caused Ben to get out of his vehicle, and in turn take a photograph of the Officer. Without warning, PC Knights then attempted to slap Ben’s phone out of his hand- but missed. It is notable, in my experience, that for a cadre of people who are specifically equipped with body worn devices to film those around them whether they like it or not, Police officers seem to have a particular bee in their bonnets about being recorded themselves…

This little incident would have been an unpleasant enough display of bad Policing in itself, but it did not end there. Having returned to his vehicle, Ben was driving off as the traffic started to move forwards again, when he heard the Officer of the law calling him a “fat cunt.”  Understandably upset, Ben got out of his vehicle to remonstrate with PC Knights and started to ask for his name and collar number – whereupon he was immediately head-butted by PC Knights, who then pushed him to the ground, handcuffed him and then dragged him to the back of the Police van. As Ben was dragged away he asked what he was being arrested for, to which PC Knights replied “I don’t know, yet.”

Distressingly, all of this had occurred in front of Ben’s son and Ben was left sitting in the Police van, handcuffed and bleeding profusely from his mouth as a result of the head-butt.

A few minutes later a different Officer came to the van and released Ben. Ben immediately lodged a complaint with Derbyshire Constabulary, though as the weeks went by he became increasingly concerned that no official action was being taken despite the seriousness of the complaint, and that he was being fobbed off with verbal promises that Professional Standards were “looking into it.”

Matters were then escalated when Rob Warner of Crimebodge fame, with Ben’s full permission, commenced a private prosecution against PC Knights by laying information before the Magistrates Court for Common Assault under S.39 Criminal Justice Act 1988 and Corrupt or other Improper Exercise of Police Powers and Privileges under S.26 Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.

This appeared to kick- start the complaint process and the rather tortuously named “Organisational Learning, Culture and Ethics Department” of Derbyshire (trying saying that with a busted lip after a Police Officer has head-butted you) confirmed in August 2020 that PC Knights was being charged with gross misconduct and would in due course appear at a misconduct hearing. The Officer fully admits to head-butting Ben, but claims it was a ‘pre-emptive’ strike in self-defence.

The misconduct proceedings, however, took back seat to the criminal proceedings which had already been instituted by Rob Warner.

That private prosecution was eventually (but quite properly) adopted by the Crown Prosecution Service and I am pleased to report that today following a 2 day trial at Derby Magistrates Court Mark Knights was found guilty of his violent assault upon my client and now inevitably faces dismissal from the force.

I have already initiated Ben’s civil claim for compensation and anticipate that Derbyshire Police will adopt a pragmatic and prompt approach to settlement. Hopefully however they will also take this episode as an opportunity to reflect upon their recruitment criteria and the characters of those upon whom they are bestowing the uniform and powers of a Police Officer.

Locked Up for Lockdown: Police abuse of Coronavirus powers

As we approach the end of the latest period of national ‘Lockdown’, (but prepare ourselves for further restrictions on social life and travel under the regional ‘three tier’ system) questions continue to be asked about the enthusiasm with which police forces have embraced, interpreted, and enforced the extra curricular powers granted to them under the emergency coronavirus legislation (The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020).

Indeed, there is a real danger in extending the powers of the Police to interfere with any given individual’s liberty, particularly by way of ill-defined ‘emergency’ legislation which can lead to ‘inflation’ of those powers in the minds of front-line Officers, and escalations of force and violence, when Officers consider that their newly invested authority is being challenged. FOI data obtained by the Guardian newspaper from 32 Police forces demonstrates that during the initial Lockdown of April – June 2020 crime fell by 15% but there was nevertheless a 12.5% increase in use of force by Officers.

In other words, if Police Constables are not properly trained and directed in how to use such powers sparingly and proportionally, and the more aggressive among them not properly restrained, then use can easily shade over into abuse, whether in the form of excessive violence or unlawful deprivation of liberty.

Witness the example of my client Dwight, who, during the initial Lockdown period in April 2020, was on his way home from a long and tiring shift as a railway worker.

Wrongful arrests under Police Lockdown powers

Dwight is an army veteran who gave 10 years service to this country, service which saw him being ultimately discharged on medical grounds.

At the beginning of the Coronavirus lockdown in March 2020 Dwight was continuing to serve the public at risk of his own health as a key worker on the railway network.

At around 2 am on 18 April, Dwight had just arrived home after a 12-hour shift at work and wanted nothing more than simply to put his head down and sleep. Having parked his car outside the block of flats where he lives, Dwight was intercepted by two Police officers who challenged him to identify himself.

Dwight immediately confirmed that he was a key worker and had just come from work on the railways.

Unfortunately, this was not good enough for the lead police officer who was evidently enjoying his newfound powers of ‘enforcing curfew’ and who took affront at Dwight’s refusal to provide his personal details (which in fact Dwight was under no obligation to do).

The officer boldly  – and incorrectly – went on to assert that if Dwight refused to give his details he was liable for arrest in contravention of “the coronavirus rules“.

Dwight knew that this was incorrect and had a suspicion that the officer was targeting him because of the colour of his skin (Dwight is a black man). All Dwight wanted to do was get to bed, but he nevertheless pulled out from his car his work uniform including his hard hat, high visibility jacket and boots for the avoidance of any doubt.

The Officer’s continued insistence that Dwight had to provide his name so that he could be ‘checked out’ was nonsensical,  as obviously there was, and is, no database of key workers that the police have access to. Dwight had been doing nothing whatsoever which gave rise to any suspicion of a criminal offence.

Dwight validly protested that this whole episode was not only pointless, but was in fact putting them all at risk of contracting or transmitting the virus, as neither he nor any of the Officers confronting him were wearing masks.

I have viewed the body camera footage of this whole interaction and it seems very clear to me that the Officer’s continued harassment of Dwight was not at all in the interests of minimising the spread of the Coronavirus, but was rather motivated by the Officer’s annoyance that Dwight was infringing or rejecting the Officer’s self-perceived power and authority.

One of the Officers then threatened to arrest Dwight for the non-existent offence of ‘failing to give his details’. In frustration Dwight then said that he would phone his manager, who would vouch for him, but perversely, as Dwight attempted to do so, the Officers took hold of him, instructed him to put down his phone and told him he was under arrest “for failing to provide your details”.

The Officers then proceeded to aggressively manhandle Dwight, by pushing him against a wall and handcuffing him to the rear. Dwight was horrified and could not believe what was happening.

Under duress Dwight now provided the Officer with his full name, but unfortunately the Officer was not finished, as he now threatened to arrest Dwight for a ‘Public Order’ offence, as the assault which the Officers had perpetrated on Dwight had caused him to start swearing at them.

The Officer then continued to demand further personal details from Dwight, including his address and when Dwight questioned his authority and motivation in so doing, the Officer announced that Dwight was now “nicked”  “for not giving me your details under the Coronavirus rules.”

Dwight understandably protested that this was nothing short of police harassment.

Unfortunately, the harassment continued as the Officer called for ‘back up’ in the form of further Police units to attend, and threatened Dwight with CS gas spray, using the weapon to force Dwight to kneel on the ground with his hands behind his back. All of this because a tired a key worker had merely grumbled about giving his name to a police officer, who indeed had no right to demand it in the first place, as there was simply no evidence that any offence was being committed.

As Dwight continued his legitimate protest, with around seven Officers now in attendance, one of the Officers started to call Dwight “a fucking idiot” and a “stupid man”.

One of the newly arrived Officers, a female Police Officer, struck a far more reasonable tone, taking her colleagues to one side and suggesting that perhaps they simply needed to let the situation calm down and allow Dwight to go home, which was manifestly all he had wanted to do in the first place. The female Officer also expressed her misgivings at the fact that one of her male colleagues had been swearing at Dwight (as described above) – although it is clear from the recording that her objection was not so much that the officer had spoken and behaved in such an unprofessional way, but rather that his language would have been caught on body camera, and by implication was therefore undeniable…

Dwight once more expressed his absolute frustration at the farcical nature of this situation – he was a key worker risking his own health to do his bit to help fight the virus and keep the country going; and he was being arrested and threatened with violence by the Police when attempting to return home.

Unfortunately, the level- headed advice of the female Officer to her colleagues continued to fall on deaf ears, and after the lead Officer had again berated Dwight for refusing his initial request to provide personal details, Dwight was arrested and taken into custody for an alleged breach of Section 4 of the Public Order Act.

Dwight has naturally instructed me to pursue a claim against the Constabulary concerned, and liability for assault and battery and false imprisonment has been admitted by the Police. The action is ongoing and I strongly suspect that at the end of the case the Officers involved and their senior management will wish that they had heeded the advice of the female Officer to  de-escalate the situation and just let Dwight go to bed.

What a fantastic waste of public money this was – multiple police patrols called in to deal with one man who was manifestly committing no criminal offence; that man being taken into custody after being assaulted and detained for hours in Police custody; and everybody involved being at heightened and unnecessary risk of becoming new vectors in the spread of the Coronavirus which at that point was rampant throughout the country. This was a situation in which the only risk of coronavirus transmission was being engineered by the Police themselves in corralling Dwight, preventing him from getting home, and then calling more of their colleagues to join in.

But more importantly it is a salutary lesson and warning as to the risks of increasing police powers given the common propensity of officers to want to utilise the powers they have to their fullest. Many Officers already tend to react badly to having their authority challenged, and rushing through an apparent and potentially dramatic increase in such powers in a time of emergency, is tempting the type of abuse of power which we saw being perpetrated here against Dwight. Too many Officers, it seems, do not err on the side of caution when they reach a potentially sensitive area at the limit of their powers.

The very purpose of these regulations was to protect public health, not to criminalise people who left their homes – but the Officers involved in Dwight’s case seem to have completely lost sight of this (or indeed, never had sight of it in the first place). It is very concerning to see Officers taking such an aggressive stance – almost as if they were relishing their perceived ‘new’ powers of demanding people’s details and being able to stop anyone they saw in the street. This is the kind of abuse of power which diminishes the trust which people have in the Police, and thereby in the long run diminishes Police authority and effectiveness in fulfilling their core duties of preventing ‘real’ crime. Grabbing people like Dwight off the street – actively preventing him from going through his front door, as if they were playing a game of ‘cops and robbers’ and weren’t going to let Dwight get back to ‘barley’ – is an almost tragically farcical upending of the purpose and intent of these rules: which was to improve public health and minimise contact between individuals; the actions of the Police, calling for backup and manhandling Dwight in a situation where no one was wearing masks, had the directly opposite effect, and, what is more, tend to do longer term damage to the health of the relationship between the Police and the public, which is at all times founded upon proportionate and respectful use by the Police of the extraordinary powers that they have.

The purpose of the Coronavirus Regulations, after all, wasn’t to give the Police extra powers to snoop on people, or to issue fines, but was to encourage as many people who could to remain at home and the first thing Officers should have been doing was directing people to go back inside their houses (which was all Dwight wanted to do!) not preventing them from doing so in order to fine and/or arrest them. We don’t live in a ‘papers please’ Police state, and therefore it is right to criticise and question the Police when many of their officers betray evidence of wishing as though – and acting as if-  we did.

The name of my client in this blog post has been changed.

Halloween Horror of Police Dog Attack

This weekend, various media outlets have reported on the case of my client Jess Andrew who has suffered severe injuries as a result of a Police dog attack at a “rave” on the outskirts of Bristol.

This is a shocking incident which raises real concerns about Police misuse of the powers of violence with which they are entrusted. Whilst the event was illegal, it was a dance party filled with young people having a good time, yet a small army of Police officers and dogs was deployed against them, and this heavy-handed approach by the Police appears to have risked turning the situation into a battlefield.

Police dogs are often anthropomorphised into ‘heroes’, but the fact remains that they are animals with predatory instincts and are not there to serve as faithful companions to Police officers, but as weapons to be deployed, as all weapons should be, as a last resort. What is more, Police dogs are weapons with minds of their own, and are capable of inflicting particularly horrific injuries with the ripping and tending of their jaws.

Jessica Andrew’s right ankle after being mauled by a police dog.

There appears to be no justification at all for the dog in this case either being instructed or allowed to bite Jess, compounded by the lack of care and control displayed by the Police handler who allowed his dog to maintain its attack on Jess for so long.

To date, the Chief Constable of Avon & Somerset, whilst declining to comment on Jess’s case, has nevertheless asserted that “significant violence” was displayed towards the Police by sections of the crowd, and that ‘missiles’ were thrown. Whilst the full facts of what went on in the wider incident remain to be established, I can confirm that Jess herself, as she recounted to The Independent, was doing no more than dancing before the apparently out-of-control dog starting ripping open holes in her leg.

My client has effectively been maimed for life, for the ‘crime’ of attending a dance party. The Police should be held accountable for this, and I urge Chief Constable Andy Marsh to issue a full and frank apology to Jess – in equally prompt and robust terms as his immediate threat to “hunt down” anyone guilty of violence towards Police Officers at this event. The fact is that no Officers suffered any serious injury; the same cannot be said of Jess.

Does the Chief Constable’s vociferous enthusiasm for “hunting down”, and punishing with the full force of the law, perpetrators of violence, extend to Police Officers?

Experience says not; but time will tell.

£83,000 Damages for Police Trespass into Family Home

We are now living through the second in a series of  national ‘lockdowns’ brought on by the Coronavirus Pandemic; an unprecedented era of restrictions in the lives of most of us, in terms of our ability to travel, to see friends and family or even (especially in the earlier months of the pandemic) to access our places of work or education.

Lockdown, whilst alleviating the spread of the virus, has brought its own pressures in the form of isolation, concerns about home schooling and job security, leaving some to complain that they feel like “prisoners in their own homes”. 

If there is one thing worse than being restricted to your own home however, it is having the privacy – even sanctity – of your family home violated by trespassers.

The most grossly obvious example of such an act of trespass would be a home burglary.  A burglary is a traumatic event for anyone to have to cope with, generally causing emotional distress far greater than the mere financial value of any property damaged or stolen. 

A more insidious form of trespass however, is that committed by Police Officers who knowingly or recklessly overstep the bounds of their power on private property, causing emotional distress and even physical harm to the inhabitants, as a Norfolk family who I represented found out in shocking circumstances.

The incident began when PC White and Special Constable Anderson of Norfolk Constabulary attended at the home of my client Linda in order to issue a Police Information Notice (PIN). 

At the time of this visit there were present in the house, along with Linda, her three daughters – 14 year old Annabelle, 12 year old Charlotte, and 5 year old Lucy –  as well as Linda’s sister in law Catherine and brother in law Derek.

Special Constable Anderson requested permission to enter the house (having no Police power to enter without an invitation in the circumstances) and this was duly provided by Linda.

SC Anderson began to explain to Linda that as a result of an allegation of harassment made by her ex-partner, he intended to issue her with a PIN.  SC Anderson omitted to explain, however, that Linda was under no duty to accept the PIN, and furthermore that a PIN did not carry any Statutory force. 

Linda stated to the Officers that she was not happy to be issued with a PIN and that it was in fact she who was the recipient of inappropriate behaviour from her ex-partner, which she had previously reported to Norfolk Police without action.  Linda then insisted that both Officers leave her house immediately.

In a subsequent written statement, SC Anderson confirmed that Linda had indeed requested that he and his colleague should leave the premises, in the following terms:-

“[LINDA] began to shout ‘Get out of my house’.  I replied ‘I will once you have accepted and signed this PIN.’

Under protest, Linda then signed the PIN document.  The fact was, however, that as soon as she had instructed the Officers to leave her home, thereby revoking her consent to their continued presence, the decision of the Officers to remain (and to ‘brow beat’ Linda into signing the Notice) converted their status from lawful visitors into trespassers.

The Police do, of course, have various Statutory powers to allow them to enter or remain upon premises against the owner’s consent – however, not for such a minor matter as discussing or issuing a Police Information Notice. 

Having got Linda to sign the document, the Officers then proceeded towards the front door.  At Linda’s request, 14-year-old Annabelle (holding her 5-year-old sister in her arms) then attempted to shut the lounge door behind the departing Officers, by kicking the door with her foot.  Unfortunately, this clumsy action by a stressed teenager resulted in the closing door striking Special Constable Anderson a glancing blow on his left arm.  This had not been intended by Annabelle who was, frankly, just performing a fairly standard ‘teenager slamming a door’ manoeuvre.

Special Constable Anderson returned to the lounge at this point and stated to Annabelle that it would now be open to him to arrest her on suspicion of assault.  SC Anderson who was over 6 foot in height and wearing body armour, towered over Annabelle, who was still holding her younger sister in her arms.  There was no suggestion that the impact of the door on his arm had caused any significant injury at all. 

SC Anderson then left the room, apparently satisfied that his ‘warning’ to Annabelle was sufficient.

Unfortunately, PC White then stormed back into the lounge and threatened to arrest Annabelle for assault on his colleague.  In response, Annabelle swore at PC White and told him to leave.

In response to this, PC White then grabbed hold of Annabelle’s arm and started pushing and pulling her around, such that Linda had to rescue her younger daughter from Annabelle’s arms. 

PC White then forced Annabelle face down on to the floor and pinned her down, placing his knee against her back.  Annabelle was a slim teenage girl, whilst PC White was a much stronger, taller adult male, both armed and armoured, and his use of force against her was, in my opinion, utterly reprehensible.

PC White then twisted Annabelle around before spraying her directly in the face with PAVA gas, and then handcuffing her in the rear stack position.

PC White also deployed his PAVA spray in a broad sweeping motion towards the adult occupants of the room, all of whom were understandably distressed by the extreme force he was using against Annabelle.

Linda, who had been pushed away by SC Anderson as she attempted to go to the assistance of her daughter, recalls PC White deploying the PAVA spray ‘as if it were an air freshener’.  This was in the close confines of a living room which as well as Annabelle, contained 2 other children, the youngest of whom was only five.

Catherine was also shoved and sprayed with PAVA by PC White, as she attempted to check on Annabelle’s welfare.

Further Officers now arrived at the house, in response to an emergency request which had been made by PC White, and Linda was arrested on false charges of having assaulted PC White in the execution of his duty. 

To Linda’s shock and distress her daughter Annabelle was also arrested (for allegedly assaulting both SC Anderson and PC White) and Linda’s sister in law Catherine was likewise, for supposedly having assaulted PC White.  Neither Linda nor Catherine had in fact done anything other than to protest and attempt to come to the aid of a 14-year-old girl who was being assaulted in the highly distressing circumstances described above.  Nevertheless, both women and the girl were transported to and detained overnight at Bury St Edmund’s Police Station.

All of them underwent the degrading process of being fingerprinted, photographed, having DNA samples taken from them and being incarcerated in a cell.  All were interviewed under caution. 

Linda, Annabelle and Catherine were then released on bail having been charged with assaulting PC White in the execution of his duty, although notably the charge was subsequently reduced to one of common assault against PC White. This was because the Crown Prosecution Service, on review of the evidence, correctly established that PC White had not been acting in the course of his duty at the time of the alleged assaults, for he was at that point a trespasser on the premises having failed to obey Linda’s original instruction to leave the house. 

Disappointingly, the CPS maintained the prosecution of all three of my clients, albeit on the lesser charge; Linda, Catherine and Annabelle maintained their pleas of ‘not guilty’ and were completely exonerated at trial at Norwich Magistrates Court some 4 months later.

At trial, the Court criticised inconsistencies in the evidence offered by PC White and SC Anderson, and in response to a formal complaint that was then brought by Linda, the Professional Standards Department of Norfolk Police admitted that PC White had used unnecessary and excessive force and Annabelle’s arrest was unnecessary in the following terms:-

SC Anderson dealt with Annabelle by speaking to her in an effective manner, however PC White then took it upon himself to further ‘deal’ with Annabelle.  It is considered the actions of PC White, at this stage, were unnecessary and somewhat excessive, and therefore it is suggested that this complaint be upheld, in that instance and the Officer be made subject to Management Action.

Further criticism of PC White was then offered by the determining Officer who reviewed the complaint as follows:-

[PC White’s] decision to arrest Annabelle for an impetuous act which SC Anderson had effectively dealt with, notwithstanding his actions were lawful, on this occasion calls into question his judgment.  I consider that the arrest was unjustified and the matter could have been dealt with without recourse to this.  PC White overreacted in what appears to be an overprotective and unnecessary way which then led to the sequence of events resulting in further arrests.  I therefore consider that the complaint is justified and is upheld.

Notwithstanding that the complaint was (somewhat reluctantly) upheld in this respect, it was disappointing to my client that the only punishment PC White received for his assault upon the family, was the minimal sanction of ‘Management Action’ and furthermore, when I presented a claim on behalf of Linda for trespass, assault and battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, the initial response of Norfolk Constabulary was to contest the claim.

Undeterred, I issued County Court proceedings on behalf of Linda which soon caused the Police to cave in and, after negotiation, agree to settle the claim for £29,000 plus costs.

Further claims which I brought on behalf of Annabelle and Catherine were also subsequently settled by Norfolk Constabulary for damages of £30,000 and £24,000 respectively resulting in a total recovery of £83,000 damages for the family.

I think that this amounted to an entirely appropriate sanction against the Police for what was a flagrant abuse of power perpetrated by their Officers, in particular PC White, completely misusing both the weaponry and the powers of arrest with which they had been entrusted to uphold the law, the whole incident beginning with their arrogant decision to ignore Linda’s lawful command for them to leave the property.

After respect for the person, the law begins with respect for the privacy of the home and Police Officers of all people should understand, acknowledge and uphold this. 

The names of all individuals have been changed.

Discrimination by the Police

Given the many headlines arising from the recent U.S Presidential and Congressional elections – not least Donald Trump’s retreat to his golf bunker and refusal to concede defeat – a story which may have passed below the radar was the landmark election of Sarah McBride, a transwoman and LGBT rights campaigner, to the Delaware State Senate, making her the highest-ranking transgender government official in US history.

Although there is greater awareness than ever in today’s world of transgender rights and non-binary or gender-fluid identities, that doesn’t mean that overt, let alone more subtle, forms of prejudice against transgender people have been extinguished, even where such prejudice is most reprehensible of all – amongst the guardians of law and order, as the case of my client Charlie Tatton (name changed) demonstrates.

Charlie is a transgender male (assigned female at birth) who was, at the time of these events, undergoing testosterone treatment and awaiting surgery. In September 2019 Charlie attended at Swansea Central Police Station, having been informed by his neighbours that Police Officers had earlier called at his address, and on arrival at the station, he was arrested.

Charlie was then detained for around 4 hours before being ‘processed’ for release, which included the taking of his fingerprints and a DNA sample. Whilst this process was ongoing, a female Custody Detention Officer (CDO) was searching the Police computer system for data on Charlie, in the same room.

The CDO suddenly piped up “Right, what was your She Name?…What was your She Name, ‘cause you’re a He Name now aren’t you?”

Charlie did not respond, as he found the question offensive, which resulted in the CDO accusing him of causing them “complications.”

Charlie then did offer his previous name, which caused the CDO to respond, in a grossly insensitive and intrusive manner “So are you going through the process? Do you have the paperwork? So what about your bits? Are you male or female down there?”

The CDO then went on to badger Charlie about having “the right paperwork” to confirm his gender and continued to make unnecessary and offensive comments, which seemed to nakedly demonstrate the CDO’s distaste for/ disapproval of transgender people including an accusation that it was “not nice” for male officers searching a transman not to know if he was, as the CDO put it, “a female [down] there.” This was tantamount, in Charlie’s view, to asking “What have you got between your legs?”

Charlie had been in Police custody before, and had never been treated so rudely; following his release, he immediately made a formal complaint.

Unfortunately, the Inspector designated to deal with the matter, decided that the complaint was so minor it could be dealt with by “Local resolution” rather than an investigation i.e brushed under the carpet.

Charlie quite rightly protested this decision, and in December 2019 the Professional Standards Department of South Wales Police acknowledged that the complaint should have been subject to a formal investigation but as the original Inspector had “effectively investigated the matter”, nothing further would now been done.

Charlie then consulted me, and I sent a letter of claim to South Wales Police, seeking damages for breaches of the Equality Act 2010, the only remedy now open to Charlie after the frustration of the complaint process.

The Equality Act allows any person who has suffered discrimination or harassment as a result of any of the following “protected characteristics” to seek restitution through an award of damages-

·         age;

·         disability;

·         gender reassignment;

·         marriage and civil partnership;

·         pregnancy and maternity;

·         race;

·         religion or belief;

·         sex;

·         sexual orientation.

It is an important piece of legislation, which has recently been praised by Pauline Hughes, an Employment Tribunal Judge, for enabling a new generation of Rosa Parks or Martin Luther Kings to teach valuable lessons to institutions which tolerate discriminatory behaviour amongst their staff, or do not do enough to stamp it out.

In response to the claim, South Wales Police admitted liability for violating Charlie’s dignity  and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment for him, through the actions and comments of the female CDO.

The implication of the questions and comments by the CDO was that the CDO had felt that Charlie should be intimately searched by female rather than male officers, which would have been degrading and humiliating to Charlie. Despite Charlie clearly informing the CDO that her line of questioning was both irrelevant and rude, she had nonetheless persisted, abusing the position of authority she held over him, apparently to satisfy her own personal prejudices/ curiosity. Further insult was then added to this injury, when Charlie’s legitimate complaint was initially deemed so inconsequential that it was suitable for local resolution (a decision effectively upheld by PSD, despite lip service to the contrary).

The Police, having admitted liability, made a derisory offer of settlement of only £1,000 causing me to have to commence Court proceedings on behalf of Charlie. I am pleased to confirm that a final settlement has now been negotiated in the sum of £7,500 damages, though as with so many of my clients, Charlie would have appreciated just as much an early and fulsome apology from the Police, and in particular, the CDO responsible.

In addressing Charlie’s complaint, South Wales Police made it clear that they have produced a Transgender Handbook for Police staff, which has been circulated to remind staff to respect the dignity of members of all communities, including the use of “acceptable terminology”. Frankly, I wouldn’t have thought that anyone needed a booklet to tell them not to be so blatantly and unnecessarily rude as the CDO was towards Charlie, but given that it does appear necessary to teach such lessons to certain members of the “Police community”, I would hope that genuine efforts are made to educate staff and change their behaviour (particularly behaviour towards individuals who are already in the very vulnerable and distressing position of being detainees in Police custody) and that those efforts do not just stop at the printed page, as another form of paying “lip service” to a problem without actually solving it.

£358K Damages Award for Police Baton Brutality: the case of Bryan Allden

This is a blog regarding my client Bryan Allden, whose long fight for justice against West Midlands Police was settled this month, just over 5 years after he had his hand savagely broken by a Police Officer who was carrying out ‘crowd control’ duties outside Villa Park football ground.  

Bryan, a man of good character, was doing nothing more than holding up his phone to film the sights and sounds outside the ground, when the Officer, PC Knowles, struck Bryan’s hand with an overarm blow. There was no warning whatsoever from the Officer, before Bryan’s hand was fractured and his phone knocked to the floor. PC Knowles later claimed that he was being ‘blinded’ by light from the phone, which in my opinion was palpable nonsense; but even on the Officer’s account Bryan was doing nothing more untoward than holding up a mobile – for which the Officer apparently felt entitled to use his baton.

Here is Bryan’s mobile phone footage showing the incident (with the assault shown at 43 seconds in):

At the time of this event, Bryan was a specialist panel beater, and after 25 years of experience, was at the top of his profession. For over three years after the incident he did his very best to carry on working, despite requiring multiple operations to reconstruct his hand, and suffering significant pain and loss of grip strength. Eventually, in  2019 Bryan had to admit defeat, and on the basis of expert medical advice, face up to the fact that he was never going to be able to return to panel beating, and instead must re-train for alternative employment, a daunting prospect for a man in his late 40s. PC Knowles had casually and gratuitously shattered not only Bryan’s hand, but also his career.

Within minutes of the attack, Bryan was reporting the incident to a stony faced officer who displayed no apparent sympathy for his injury, or very much interest in what had occurred (how very different that would be, I suggest, if the person who had assaulted Bryan had not been wearing a Police uniform) and instead fobbed Bryan off by sending him on what Bryan subsequently realised was a ‘wild goose chase’ to find an Inspector to report to.

Notwithstanding this, Bryan persisted through the long- drawn out and often demoralising process of the Police complaints system, involving the Independent Police Complaints Commission (now the IOPC).

The IPCC investigator recognised the serious nature of PC Knowles’s wrongdoing and concluded –

“The overhead downward baton strike luckily connected with a green strike area, could just as easily have connected with a red area and resulted in a fatal injury…”

The IPCC (quite rightly) concluded that PC Knowles had a case to answer for Misconduct but unfortunately, West Midlands Police were allowed to sanction PC Knowles with only ‘management action’,  the lowest form of disciplinary punishment, amounting to nothing more onerous than a type of appraisal with your line manager known as “words of advice” (possibly over a cup of coffee). PC Knowles’s only punishment, as such, was to be sent on ‘Personal Safety’ and ‘First Aid’ refresher courses – which, presumably, he could add to his CV.  

It was the bitterness of this ‘betrayal’ by the Police – those who are charged with being the champions of law and order, going out of their way to make excuses for, and in effect ‘cover up’ a crime committed by their Officer against a member of the public – which shocked Bryan to the core and left him feeling changed inside, having irrevocably lost his faith in the Police and causing him to be haunted by deep feelings of anger and injustice. To Bryan, this is an even more harmful injury than the blow which crippled his hand.

I will let Bryan’s own words speak for themselves in this regard-

I went to a football game in 2015, a regular thing for me and never had a problem. That night my life changed forever because  a person I believed was there to protect me, turned out to be a violent predator, a liar and a person hiding behind his position as a police officer. After his violent and unprovoked attack I have been left a broken and changed man. Not only did this police officer leave me with injuries that have stolen my livelihood and position as a man at the top of my profession – a man folk looked up to and came to for help and advice-  he has left me with mental scars that I don’t know will ever disappear. I was put in a very dark place, I lost my profession and my self esteem. I lost friends, loved ones and caused major upset to my father the man I call my best friend. I lost my home, I had to rely on food banks. I hit rock bottom and all this time the savage attacker was protected and in my view not punished for his actions. I could talk for hours about how I have been affected but I feel it will fall on deaf ears, so to be blunt – WEST MIDLANDS POLICE you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Though they had done all they could to dismiss Bryan’s legitimate complaint, West Midlands Police did at least have the sense to  admit liability promptly in response to the compensation claim which I brought on behalf of Bryan and although for a long time thereafter they refused to admit the full extent of his injuries, they eventually, a month before the case was due to go to Trial, agreed to settle Bryan’s claim for damages in the sum of £358,000.

Furthermore, the Police gave Bryan the following formal apology –

It is accepted that this incident caused a serious injury to your hand, as well as a post-traumatic stress disorder and that you had not taken any action that might have provoked this use of force. During the course of your civil claim West Midlands Police admitted that the use of force was unlawful and we would like to offer you an unreserved apology for what our officer did to you.

As the old phrase goes, the apology is “better late than never” – but how much better it would have been for Bryan’s peace of mind, and, frankly, mental health during 5 long years of suffering if that “unreserved apology” had been delivered to him by the Chief Constable’s own volition as a result of a robust and judicious police complaint system, rather than having to be extracted under threat of financial penalty after years of litigation.

What remains the most disturbing thing to both Bryan and myself is the thought that PC Knowles probably felt ‘enabled’ to use this level of force by a system which clearly functions in practice to shield officers from complaint rather than hold them to account. It is my understanding that he has since been allocated a desk job role within the force, but he remains a serving officer with full entitlement to pay and pension and only the most minor of blemishes on his official disciplinary record.

This was an injury which ended Bryan’s career; in my respectful opinion, it should have ended PC Knowles’s as well.

Pulling the plug: PNC errors lead to wrongful arrest

I was reading this week about the recent incident in which the entire Police National Computer system crashed, as a result of an engineer pulling out the ‘wrong cable’ – bringing to mind the phrase (“For want of a nail…the kingdom was lost.”).

Police Forces nationwide were described as being thrown into ‘chaos’ as they were deprived of access to the PNC for over 10 hours. This is the computer database which officers rely upon to carry out checks on the identity and legal status (and history) of individuals and vehicles and has been described as the “backbone of the country’s policing system.” 

The situation escalated such that two emergency “gold command” meetings of the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) had to be convened, with senior officers complaining that Policing was virtually impossible in the absence of the information flowing through the PNC network.

Fortunately, it seems that the missing plug was eventually put back into its socket and ‘business as normal’ resumed without most members of the public being aware that the outage had ever occurred. 

Clearly, in today’s interconnected, online world any business or profession is going to be significantly hampered by their computer systems “crashing” in this manner, although I would hesitate to think that the Police were as badly affected as has been suggested. A lot of front line, day to day policing work can be performed by human eyes and ears alone, as can investigative work. After all, Sherlock Holmes didn’t need a PC!

But joking aside, I would hope that Officers do not become overly dependent on the PNC in their day to day functions, not only because such technical errors as this could easily occur again (or even worse, a deliberate cyber attack from terrorists or hostile state actors could be perpetrated) but because a slavish adherence to what the PNC says, as if it were the font of all knowledge, or an infallible oracle, can cause significant harm to individuals, as the ongoing case of my client Stephen Santos demonstrates. [Name changed for anonymity whist the matter proceeds.]

In November 2019, Stephen had just returned to the UK after working abroad in Spain. He is a self- employed musician. No sooner had the plane landed and taxied down the runway at Stansted then Stephen was shocked to see 4-5 officers of Essex Police board the plane…and even more shocked when he realised they had come to arrest him under a warrant issued by Bromley Magistrates Court.

The warrant was not for Stephen; he was an entirely innocent man. The warrant directed the Police to arrest an individual known as Emmanuel Salvini, yet the Essex officers arrested Stephen on the basis of information on the PNC indicating that Salvini had in the past used the name of “Stephen Santos” as an “alias”.

I think that most people reading this blog would pause at this point and raise an obvious objection, which, sadly, the Officers acting in obedience to the PNC log, do not appear to have considered. It was known that Salvini was the wanted man, and Santos only an alias of his…how therefore could my client “be” Salvini when he was manifestly not using an alias but was in possession of a passport confirming his actual identity as the “real” Stephen Santos?

Sometimes, it seems, common sense can be unplugged as easily as cables can…

Despite Stephen’s entirely legitimate protests, the Officers took him into custody and he was detained for over 40 hours before being produced before Bromley Magistrates, where the Court staff, applying more common sense, quickly realised that he was not Emmanuel Salvini and released him. 

There is no doubt that Stephen deserves to be compensated for this gross deprivation of his liberty, but so far common sense in terms of dealing with the claim seems to be as far afield as it was when the Essex posse pulled up at the airport. 

Essex Police are hiding behind the E-border Alert on the PNC, which linked the name Stephen Santos to Emmanuel Salvini (notwithstanding that Santos’s true ID should have been blindingly obvious when the Officers saw his travel documentation); they pointed the finger at Cambridgeshire Police and/or the Metropolitan Police – Cambridgeshire on the basis that they were the force which had, several years before, listed Stephen Santos as an ‘alias’ of Salvini, and the Met on the basis that they had uploaded the warrant issued by the Magistrates Court onto the PNC. Both of those Forces, to whom I was duly obliged to present claims, have thus far denied any liability and have sought to turn the blame back upon Essex.

As the representative of Cambridgeshire Police put it –

In respect of your client’s arrest at Stansted Airport, we note that he had just arrived on an inbound flight from Europe. We therefore presume that he was travelling on a genuine passport in the name of [Stephen Santos]. If that was the case then his true identity on the day of his arrest was not in doubt. 

In order to preserve Stephen’s rights under the Human Rights Act (for infringement of his Article 5 right to liberty and security of person) I have now had to commence proceedings against all three Police Forces, as well as the Border Force (who generated the E- Border Alert) and the Ministry of Justice as being responsible for the data processing activities of Bromley Magistrates. 

I can only hope that common sense will, soon and finally, prevail and one of the Defendants deal promptly with Stephen’s claim so as to avoid escalating legal costs. But this is just one of the many cases that I have been involved in where innocent members of the public have suffered as a result of law enforcement officers or agencies “thinking with their PNCs” rather than their heads. 

The PNC must exist as a tool to assist, not replace human policing. 

Fe Fi Fo Fum, I smell the weed of an Englishman…

“It’s a pity mobile phones can’t record scents as well as scenes and sounds, isn’t it ?”

That is a thought that has been at the forefront of my mind on many occasions in recent times, particularly when I was writing my recent blog about the great benefit which the prevalence of mobile phones can offer society in terms of providing a proper record of Police interactions with individuals.

Mobile phone films can give us a full colour, ‘surround- sound’ picture of what was going on during a Police stop-and-search event, but they cannot testify to the truth or otherwise of Officer assertions that they can “smell cannabis” – often the only justification the Police can produce for the stop/search.

I have acted for numerous clients who are adamant that neither they nor anyone in their vicinity was or had been smoking weed, but that nevertheless Officers have made the accusation, seemingly secure in the knowledge that no-one after the event is going to be able to disprove it. From my knowledge of the wider facts of their cases, I am strongly inclined to believe my clients in this regard and can therefore only assume that the Officer has some other motivation for wanting to carry out a stop search (suspicion based on personal characteristics? needing to make an arrest quota?) that he is masking behind the ‘phantom smell’ of cannabis.

A classic example of this is the case of my client Tariq Stanley, whose complaint is currently being investigated by the Metropolitan Police. Tariq was sitting in his BMW car outside his home, watching a You Tube video on his phone (having earlier smoked a tobacco cigarette outside the car)  when the following scene unfolded (as this is the subject of ongoing investigation, I have redacted the Officer’s name)  –

  1. Towards the end of the video, I saw a marked police van pull up in the car park of another block of flats 100 meters or so away. I saw at least six uniformed officers get out. They congregated and were talking to each other. I paid them little attention. After a short time, I noticed one Officer approach in my direction. I understand this officer to be PC G.
  1. PC G continued his approach and I formed the impression that he was going to speak to me. I removed the headphones so they were around my neck. I remained sat in the car. PC G came up to the driver side window and said to me, “what are you doing here?” I told him that I lived here and pointed to my flat, which was directly above us. He said that I had a nice car.
  1. PC G then asked if I smoked. I told him that I had not long had a cigarette. PC G then told me that he smelt cannabis. I told him I didn’t smoke cannabis and I had not smoked cannabis.  I told him that he was lying. There was no smell of cannabis emanating from either myself or the car. The cigarette I had smoked contained tobacco only. I do not smoke cannabis. I had not been in the car for four or five days and no one else had access to it other than my girlfriend. She does not smoke cannabis.
  1. PC G said “I want to search you.”  I said he could, that I had nothing on me. He said  “Get out.” 

I have another ongoing case against Merseyside Police, which began after a young motorist (my client’s son) was stopped, with the Officer who pulled him over alleging that he had smelt cannabis as the young man’s car was passing him (he must have a nose like the Bisto kids) – despite the fact that my client’s son’s car window had been up. The young man did not know whether to laugh or cry at such a ridiculous assertion, but had no ‘objective’ way to disprove the allegation – which the Officer was now repeating for the benefit of any future audience of his ‘body camera’ – other than to insist that the officer carry out a drugs test upon him. Ultimately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the officer declined to arrange such a test and let my client’s son go about his business – instead having seized the opportunity to arrest my client himself after he arrived on the scene to advocate on behalf of his son.

The ‘I smell cannabis’ line is probably the easiest ‘go to excuse’ of lazy/ borderline corrupt Policing practice, allowing an Officer to claim a ‘legitimate’ justification for the search of a person or vehicle, which would otherwise be forbidden by Code A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE).

That similar problematic policing methods are also prevalent on the other side of the Atlantic was starkly highlighted by the comments made by New York City Judge April Newbauer in July 2019, when she deplored the practice of NYPD Officers trotting out the same formula time and time again with these scathing words –

“The time has come to reject the canard of marijuana emanating from nearly every vehicle subject to a traffic stop…So ubiquitous has police testimony about odors from cars become that it should be subject to a heightened level of scrutiny if it is to supply the grounds for a search.”

My own case experience, which leads me to echo the words of the New York Judge,  is borne out by a rigorous investigation/ statistical analysis carried out the College of Policing in 2017. A report entitled “Searching for Cannabis” concluded that “The smell of cannabis was not associated with outcomes…”. Out of a sample of 2,000 stop/search events the College of Policing team found that searches with the smell of cannabis recorded in their grounds were no more or less likely to result in a ‘Criminal Justice’ (CJ) outcome (i.e an arrest, caution, fine etc). This is a striking finding, as if the Officer was genuinely smelling cannabis on a person, wouldn’t you expect a greater likelihood of that individual being found in possession of the substance, than the search of someone who was not smelling of it? To my mind, borne out my own experience as highlighted above, this indicates that in many of these incidents, the Officers were simply lying about the smell of cannabis, to justify a search which had no other grounds.

Of course, the College of Policing did not suggest that falsehoods from the Officers were an explanation for the apparent discrepancy, but the results clearly caused that body real concern as the conclusion which they drew from the report and advocated to Chief Constables was that “a focus of suspect behaviour is much more important than the smell of cannabis in Officers’ grounds for search and is likely to lead to more productive searches in Criminal Justice terms.”

Whilst stopping short of advising that the (alleged) smell of cannabis should never constitute reasonable grounds (on its own) for a search, the College was clearly leaning heavily in that direction, and the current Authorised Professional Practice guidelines for use of stop and search powers warn that “it is not good practice for an officer to base his or her grounds for search on a single factor, such as the smell of cannabis alone…”

The College was doubtless also influenced in coming to this conclusion by a HM Inspectorate of Constabulary  legitimacy inspection in 2017 which found a difference in ‘find rates’ for black people subject to  drug searches of 29% against a higher ‘find rate’ of 37% for white people, suggesting “that weaker grounds might be used to search black people.” For what it is worth, both Tariq Stanley, and my client’s son in the Merseyside Police case, are black.

Sadly however, even the somewhat watered-down guidance issued by the College of Policing in 2017, was far from universally accepted, and was indeed explicitly rejected by many senior officers, including the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Andy Cooke who took to Twitter to boldly proclaim –

Smell of cannabis is sufficient to stop search and I will continue to encourage my officers to use it…”

Indeed, the smell of cannabis might have been shown to be a statistically valid ground for a stop search…if Officers’ claims to have smelt it were always scrupulously truthful.

If Police Officers, and Chief Constables, won’t listen to the logical guidance of their own professional body (the College of Policing) – then is a more radical alternative therefore necessary to tackle this problem?

There are many compelling arguments as to why cannabis should be decriminalised…It would move an industry which can be used to fund organised crime into the ‘straight’ economy, to the financial benefit of society; and it would allow the Police to concentrate their resources on controlling harder, far more dangerous and debilitating drugs, and violent crime. After all, you do not need to be an experienced police officer, lawyer or criminologist to realise that far more crimes of violence are committed under the influence of perfectly legal drug known as alcohol than by those using cannabis, which is also less addictive than alcohol and has recognised benefits to health (in professionally regulated circumstances). Certainly, countries such as Canada and Portugal which have legalised cannabis in recent times have hardly gone off the rails as a result.

But furthermore, a very simple and practical benefit that I can see accruing from such decriminalisation would be to remove any temptation for Officers to use the alleged scent of cannabis as an excuse where no other lawful reason exists to stop and search a person. This would, at a stroke, abolish the need for thousands of totally unnecessary Police-public interactions, saving Policing funds and resources and building up a greater trust between the Police and the communities they serve.

Many more people would escape being left with a bad taste in their mouths, and a distrust in the Police, because of the phantom smell of cannabis.

Police Data breach puts lives at risk

Last week, West Midlands Police were in the news.

Back in late May, a police notebook containing details of operations and a list of young people at risk from, or associated with, gangs was stolen from the back of an unmarked police car. Although the Force described the notebook as containing “rough notes”, the details within included names, addresses, mobile numbers and car registrations. At the time, officers from the gang unit had left the car unattended as they went on a foot chase in the Ladywood area of Birmingham.

According to Assistant Chief Constable Danny Long, “an investigation was immediately launched to determine any threat and risk posed” to any individual and a series of visits were made and formal letters sent to those who might be affected. ACC Long continued, “we did not feel it was appropriate to share this information any wider at the time, as that may have made the situation worse, or put people at further risk.”

Although the Force concluded that the blunder did not directly put anyone at risk, community leaders claim that since the loss of the confidential intelligence, families have been threatened and shootings in the area have increased.

I am presently acting for a family put at risk by a similar “loss” of confidential information by another police Force.

Back in the summer of 2019, police officers attended a residential premises to execute a search warrant of an individual suspected to be in the local Organised Crime Group and involved in the supply of class A drugs. During the course of the search, one officer left behind a key document, a “subject profile” which included sensitive police intelligence about that individual. That intelligence included information provided to the police by my client, Andrew.

Several days later, a member of the Organised Crime Group contacted the Force to confirm that they were in possession of the missing subject profile.

As with West Midlands police, the Force was obliged to report itself to the Information Commissioners Office.

In addition, the Force reviewed a copy of the subject profile to identify any individual put at risk because of the loss.

On review, it was determined that my client faced a high likelihood of “detrimental impact” i.e. that “he might suffer distress or become the victim of a crime”. In the circumstances, my client was contacted and informed.

Although the Force took some measures to help re-locate my client and install additional security measures to his family home, my client and his family believe that the preventative measures taken were wholly inadequate. As a result, my client has had to relocate to another part of the country and his family who remain in the area remain on high alert and feel in danger on a daily basis.

Both this case and the West Midlands case highlights how crucial it is that that data is kept safe and secure and that there is no excuse for these types of “schoolboy errors” which undermine confidence in the police and might very possibly put lives at risk.

Putting the “PR” in IOPC Investigations?

I am currently acting  in a number of high- profile cases for individuals who believe they may have been racially profiled by the Metropolitan Police: the cases of my clients Alice Agyepong and Tariq Stanley have already attracted a great deal of media attention.

They have rightly attracted this attention because there are serious individual questions for the Police to answer in each case, and because they also highlight wider concerns about institutional racism in Policing culture and practices.

Both of my clients were disappointed by the decision of the Independent Office for Police Conduct not to take charge of the investigations into their complaints; rather the IOPC has in each case delegated the investigation to the local Force (in both cases, the Met) albeit that a right of appeal to the IOPC exists at the end of the process.

Although my clients were disappointed, I was not surprised; the IOPC rarely takes a “hands on” approach to complaint investigations, save in the most serious of cases; but how is the seriousness of a case defined by the IOPC and is there consistency in its approach to the same?

Alice Agyepong’s case, as you may recall, involved an armed raid on a family home, with guns being trained on a 12-year-old boy who had been playing (in his own house) with a toy gun. I wrote in the following terms to the IOPC stressing the wider public interest of the case, and my genuine concerns as to the impartiality and potential prejudice of any investigation conducted by the Met themselves –

Our request is in the first part based upon the statement issued by Metropolitan Police Commander Kyle Gordon on 26 July, in which Commander Gordon asserted that he had watched the Body Worn Video footage of the incident and that the Officers involved had “acted in line with their training and my expectations”, and the telephone call  our client received from Inspector Bernie Hayton on the day following the incident (detailed in her complaint) during which the Inspector asserted that the Police response/ use of force was entirely proportionate.

These statements by senior officers seem to form part of a concerted ‘public relations’ campaign on the part of the Metropolitan Police Service  (to assert that there has been no misconduct or mistakes by their Officers) which in our opinion is not compatible with a fair and impartial investigation of our client’s complaint, and rather indicates that the outcome of the complaint has already been determined.

You will also be aware, that our client’s case has garnered a significant amount of attention amongst the national media, leading to the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, during a Radio 4 interview, outrageously accusing our client of using “rhetoric” and “inflaming tensions” about Police behaviour (particularly, Police behaviour towards Black people) despite the Minister clearly not being aware of the most basic fact about this incident i.e that it involved armed Police threatening the use of firearms upon our client and her children.

In the circumstances, given the very serious nature of this case, involving a genuine threat of lethal force against a woman and her minor children, set against a background of genuine national – and indeed international – concern about Police use of disproportionate force against Black people we submit that the right course of action, to assure our client and the wider community that a fair and impartial investigation is being undertaken would be for the IOPC and not the Met to take conduct of the same.

In response to this, the IOPC maintained their decision, replying in the following terms –

The IOPC is responsible for ensuring the police complaints system in England and Wales works fairly and effectively. We do this in a number of different ways. We investigate the most serious incidents involving the police independently, however these make up a small proportion of public complaints against the police.  We are also responsible for reviewing the handling of serious complaints when required.  We set the standards by which policing bodies handle and investigate complaints and monitor/report on the performance of police forces’ professional standards departments. We also work with police forces to improve their complaint handling.

It was never Parliament’s intention that the IOPC would investigate all complaints against the police, and the legislation and statutory guidance sets out the circumstances in which complaints must be referred to the IOPC, and the decisions the IOPC must take upon referral.  This can include requiring a Professional Standards Department of the relevant force investigate the matter.  The IOPC is not, and has never been resourced to consider all complaints. In this particular instance, we considered the referral of this matter and determined it was suitable for local investigation. Whilst the decision not to independently investigate this incident is clearly disappointing to you and your client, we have considered the referral and made our determination, as we are required to do under the legislation. Therefore, the IOPC will not be re-determining their original decision.

The same position was adopted by the IOPC in regards to Mr Stanley’s complaint, notwithstanding that his allegations include racial profiling and grossly excessive force, including entirely unnecessary handcuffing, resulting in serious injury and subjecting him to a strip- search; significant issues as to the integrity and honesty of the Officers involved have been raised. However, the IOPC position is that such a case remains suitable for internal investigation by the Met – despite their acknowledgement that Mr Stanley sustained serious injury. IOPC ‘oversight’ will in that case, as with the vast majority, be limited to sight of the report prepared by the Met’s Professional Standards Unit, and thereafter availability as the designated appeal body.

It was with some surprise, against this background, that I read last week that the IOPC has decided to assume direct conduct of the complaint investigation involving the international athletes Bianca Williams and Ricardo dos Santos, both of whom are protégés of former Olympic champion Linford Christie, who has spoken up on their behalf.

Whilst the events that happened to Ms Williams and Mr dos Santos were no doubt distressing, and doubly so because they took place in the presence of the couples’ young child, all the hallmarks of ‘seriousness’ about the case seem to fall short of the comparative factors in my client’s cases as highlighted above: the perception of racial profiling exists in all of these cases, but the levels of force used against Mr Stanley and Ms Agyepong (and her children) greatly outweigh the force used in the case of the athletes.

By way of a further comparison, I could also offer the case of my client Anthony which involved a stop/search leaving an innocent black man with a broken arm. This matter was also deemed by the IOPC suitable for local investigation (in that case, by West Midlands Police).

There seems to be a significant lack of consistency and transparency being displayed here in how the IOPC is assessing cases and determining whether independent investigation is required, and I am, frankly, concerned that the announcement by the IOPC that it will take direct responsibility for the complaint investigation into the Williams/ dos Santos case is little more than a “PR” exercise, primarily motivated by the public profile of the individuals concerned, and that of their mentor Linford Christie.

How can the ordinary man or woman in the street have faith that the IOPC is diligently discharging its much touted role as the “Police Watchdog”  in a rigorous, analytical and truly objective and independent way if its assessment of “seriousness” seems to have more to do with who the complainants are, than the actual facts of the complaint?

None of the questions my clients frequently raise about the fitness for purpose of the IOPC are being answered by this sort of inconsistent approach; at least, not answered positively.

As ever, Claimants are left with far more likelihood of justice through the Court system than our dysfunctional Police complaint process.

Police Officer Who Broke My Client’s Leg Sentenced To Two Years’ Imprisonment

In a recent blog, I recounted the case of my client (identified as Robert) who successfully sued Hertfordshire Police for damages of £100,000 following an incident in which his leg was broken by a Police Officer who struck him three times with ‘overarm’ baton blows – twice whilst Robert was in fact being held by two other Officers (albeit that he was resisting being pulled out of a car by them) – and for a third time after he had been pulled out of the car and was lying on the ground, leaving Robert permanently disabled. It was a brutal assault upon an unarmed man who, whilst attempting to resist being pulled out of his car, was not being aggressive (rather he was in a state of shock at an over the top Police stop which had already resulted in his car windows been shattered and Robert himself being doused with PAVA gas) and was not offering any violence to the Officers involved.

At least that was my client’s account; it is one which I believe, and I believe you will too, if you have watched the video of the incident, which is embedded in my previous blog.

The one Officer who gave evidence to the contrary – and who accused my client of ‘kicking out’ aggressively at him was – perhaps unsurprisingly – the Officer who delivered the baton strikes. This Officer was PC Nicholas Musto.

It was always my view that PC Musto, who in the evidence he gave at the trial of Robert’s claim highlighted his former career as an actor, was lying about the ‘kicking’ by Robert in a cynical attempt to justify the brutal force he used, and was also grossly exaggerating any risk posed to the Officers in the incident by a torch in the car, or the possibility of Robert using his car as a ‘battering ram’.

Certainly, the trial Judge ruled that Robert had not been attempting to kick any of the Officers, that the presence of the torch in the car had “been given an importance after the incident”  and rejected “any genuine concern that he [Robert] could use the car as some sort of lethal weapon”… although she stopped short of finding that PC Musto had told deliberate falsehoods.

I can now report that PC Nicholas Musto was recently sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for the crime of misconduct in public office. It transpires that PC Musto had been conducting an affair with a female victim of crime, a vulnerable woman with mental health problems, whom he met through the course of his policing duties for over ten years between 2007 – 2018. During this time Musto lied to his superiors, denying in 2013 that he was involved with the woman. The truth was eventually revealed when the woman turned to the Police for help in 2018 and the IOPC became involved. Amongst the evidence she gave was that PC Musto would regularly visit her in uniform, when he was on duty, for casual sex.

This type of ‘sex-ploitation’ of vulnerable female victims of crime, or other vulnerable women (including minors) encountered by Officers in the course of their duties, is sadly a real and present danger in our society. I have represented numerous victims of such crimes by Police officers, and you can read about some of their cases here and here.

It goes without saying that for a Police Officer to exploit the honour and privilege of his position, and the authority which it bestows upon him, to enter into sexual relationships with vulnerable women (often the victims of previous domestic abuse and/or suffering from mental health problems) is a gross abuse of power, and not merely a dereliction of duty but an active inversion of it.

PC Musto must have known that what he was doing was wrong, but shamelessly lied to his superiors and fellow Officers to cover it up. It would hardly seem surprising, therefore, that he would be able to bring himself to tell lies about the victim of his own physical assault does it?

How terribly ironic now are the words with which PC Musto boasted in the statement he gave to the County Court, when attempting to frustrate Robert’s legitimate claim for compensation –

“I have always had a strong sense of what was right and wrong even as a child.”

In the same statement he also said that he had chosen to remain a ‘front line’ Police Constable in order to “best serve the communities that I police”, and furthermore went on to assert “I am proud of the fact that at no time has any substantiated complaint been made against me.” With hindsight, we can now see that his ‘pride’ evidently lay in the fact that – at that time – his ongoing misconduct with the vulnerable woman had not been ‘found out’.

PC Musto may not have faced criminal justice for what he did to Robert, but the good news is that he is now off the streets and following a misconduct hearing, dishonourably discharged from the Police force, and so will never again be in a position to exploit victims of crime for sex, nor gratify himself with the kind of unlawful violence he unleashed upon Robert.   

Trespass by Enforcement Agents: Making the Bailiffs Pay Up





Paragraph 19 of the National Standards for Enforcement Agents, published by the Ministry of Justice on 6 April 2014, states that:

“Enforcement agents must act within the law at all times, including all legislation …”

A High Court Writ is not to be regarded as a kind of blank cheque or a licence to act with impunity and yet certain Enforcement companies appear to think and behave otherwise.

This past week, the Court gave Judgment in an action brought by my client Neil Tunstall following trial. It found that Direct Collections Bailiffs Ltd (DCBL) were liable to my client for trespass, assault and Misuse of Private Information and awarded Neil  £10,000 damages plus costs.

Neil lived in a one-bedroomed ground floor flat in Kent and had done for approximately four months.  He was the lawful tenant.

On the afternoon of the 12th of June 2018, Neil was visited by a Mr Hussain who described himself as an Enforcement Agent employed by DCBL. He said he was looking for Nathan Beck.  Neil denied he was or knew Nathan to which Mr Hussain told Neil that he had to “prove it”. Neil considered Mr Hussain’s approach rude and arrogant and took exception. He said he didn’t have to prove anything.  Mr Hussain then showed some ID and advised that he had a Writ to enter the flat.

Mr Hussain then forced his way into the flat. Neil advised him to “get out” several times because he was causing Neil distress. Neil was obliged to call 999 and as he did so, Mr Hussain began to rifle through Neil’s belongings before taking a photograph of Neil’s tenancy agreement.

Having apparently satisfied himself that Neil was not the debtor, he then left.

The incident lasted no more than 5 minutes but had a profound and lasting impact on Neil.  Neil, who had a pre- existing anxiety condition, and who had previously experienced a period of homelessness, felt intimidated by the Bailiff and was outraged and upset that his personal privacy and the security of his home was being violated in such a disrespectful and uncaring manner.

Neil subsequently described feeling “terrified, helpless and pathetic…unable to assert my rights, unable to force him out.”

Because of how aggressive and rude Mr Hussain was, Neil recorded the encounter on his tablet and passed it to Rob Warner of Crimebodge fame who filed a video blog on You Tube about the case. With Rob and Neil’s permission, I attach the video below for you to view:

On viewing the footage and considering Neil’s instructions, I agreed with Rob that Neil had a good claim for trespass, assault and breach of privacy.

I will add here as an aside, that Neil was so (rightly) outraged by the Enforcement Agent’s behaviour, that he also reported the matter to Kent Police, only to be ‘fobbed off’ by them, notwithstanding the fact that the Police obtained a copy of the Writ and confirmed that Neil was not the debtor named on it, nor was his flat the address identified on it. Sadly, this just confirms my own pre-existing impression that the Police tend to look upon bailiffs/ Enforcement Agents as their ‘little brothers’ and have a tendency to side with them against members of the general public.

On Neil’s behalf I intimated a claim. In response,  DCBL advised that liability was disputed.  In the circumstances, I commissioned medical evidence and issued court proceedings.

DCBL filed a robust defence of surprising breadth, claiming that Mr Hussain’s attendance at the flat was carried out lawfully and in line with Schedule 12 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 and that there could not be a trespass where an enforcement officer executed his enforcement powers pursuant to Schedule 12 of that Act.

Schedule 12 states;

Entry without warrant

14(1) An enforcement agent may enter relevant premises to search for and take control of goods.

(2) Where there are different relevant premises this paragraph authorises entry to each of them.

(3) This paragraph authorises repeated entry to the same premises, subject to any restriction in regulations.

(4) If the enforcement agent is acting under section 72(1) (CRAR), the only relevant premises are the demised premises.

(5). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(6) Otherwise premises are relevant if the enforcement agent reasonably believes that they are the place, or one of the places, where the debtor—

(a)usually lives, or

(b)carries on a trade or business.

Remedies available to the debtor

66(1) This paragraph applies where an enforcement agent—

(a) breaches a provision of this Schedule, or

(b) acts under an enforcement power under a writ, warrant, liability order or other instrument that is defective.

(2) The breach or defect does not make the enforcement agent, or a person he is acting for, a trespasser.

(3) But the debtor may bring proceedings under this paragraph.

In their Defence, DCBL boldly asserted the proposition that – “An Enforcement Agent cannot be liable for trespass in any circumstances as per the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, Schedule 12 Section 66(1)(2).”

In running such a Defence, it is my firm belief that DCBL were displaying ‘from the boardroom’ – as their individual bailiffs often do ‘on the doorstep’  – an arrogant misunderstanding, or even blatant disregard for the law. Essentially, DCBL were attempting to twist a provision which was designed to stop technical breaches of the Schedule, or defects in the writ, rendering a bailiff who was dealing with the actual debtor a trespasser in circumstances in which he would not otherwise be, into some kind of ‘general immunity’ from suit in trespass.

Neil, of course, was not the debtor named in the writ and therefore, I correctly argued, any defence available under s.66 could not apply to his claim; he was not a debtor, but an innocent third party.

If DCBL were correct in their interpretation of Schedule 12, this would in effect mean that Enforcement Agents had ‘carte blanche’ to enter the home of whoever they felt like, on the flimsiest of pretexts, if there was the vaguest suggestion that the premises were in someway linked to a debtor.

Of course, they were not correct, and whether they wanted to admit it or not, the responsibility now lay on the shoulders of DCBL to prove that Mr Hussain was a legitimately licenced High Court Enforcement Agent, that they had a valid writ and reasonable grounds to suspect that Neil’s house was the real debtor’s residence (as it was not the address of the debtor as given on the writ).

Given that the burden of proof lay with DCBL, I expected their solicitors to file detailed evidence in support of their claims.  All I got was a redacted Writ and a ‘search and trace’ result only, which told us very little.  The case proceeded to trial and as it did so I became more and more confident of success.

Why ?

Firstly, DCBL  failed to adduce evidence that Mr Hussain was a certified High Court Enforcement Agent, pursuant to s.63(2) of the Act and Schedule 12 para.2.

63 Enforcement agents

(1) This section and section 64 apply for the purposes of Schedule 12.

(2) An individual may act as an enforcement agent only if one of these applies—

(a) he acts under a certificate under section 64;

(b) he is exempt;

(c) he acts in the presence and under the direction of a person to whom paragraph (a) or (b) applies.

(3) An individual is exempt if he acts in the course of his duty as one of these—

(a) a constable;

(b) an officer of Revenue and Customs;

(6) A person is guilty of an offence if, knowingly or recklessly, he purports to act as an enforcement agent without being authorised to do so by subsection (2).

Enforcement agents

2(1) In this Schedule “enforcement agent” means an individual authorised by section 63(2) to act as an enforcement agent.

Secondly, DCBL failed to adduce any evidence that Mr Hussain held a reasonable belief that the debtor usually lived or might reasonably be believed to be living at the flat. Similarly, there was no evidence to support the assertion in the Defence that the agent had reason to suspect that Neil was the person named on the writ.  There was no suggestion that Neil was of similar age, ethnicity or height to the debtor; basic information which a reasonable Enforcement Agent ought to have ascertained prior to entering a property not stipulated on a writ.

Thirdly, DCBL failed to adduce a copy of the alleged “Notice of Enforcement” which must be sent to the premises prior to a bailiff’s attendance there.  Neil maintained that no such letter/ notice had ever been received.  Such a Notice is a prerequisite to taking control of goods under para. 7 of Schedule 12 of the Act:

Notice of enforcement

7(1)An enforcement agent may not take control of goods unless the debtor has been given notice.

(2)Regulations must state—

(a)the minimum period of notice;

(b)the form of the notice;

(c)what it must contain;

(d)how it must be given;

(e)who must give it.

(3)The enforcement agent must keep a record of the time when the notice is given.

At Trial, having heard evidence from Neil himself, and arguments from DCBL’s barrister (but, rather disrespectfully, no attendance from either Mr Hussain or any other employee or director of DCBL) the Court concluded that DCBL, through the actions of their bailiff had –

  • assaulted Neil (through fear/ intimidation, which does not require a physical ‘battery’)
  • trespassed in Neil’s home (having no ‘blanket immunity’ as they had contested, but needing at all times to show a reasonable belief that these were the premises of the actual debtor, which they had not, and nor had they proved service of a prior Notice of enforcement)
  • misused Neil’s private information by rifling through and photographing his personal documents

The Court also award Neil “aggravated” i.e enhanced damages to reflect the bailiff’s arrogant and high- handed conduct, and his failure to respect Neil’s personal integrity, thereby causing severe injury to his feelings.

Is it asking too much that those companies such as DCBL who make millions of pounds of profit each year through enforcing penalties for breaches of the law, should themselves both know what the law is, and respect it, whether in their company policies or the behaviour of their bailiffs?

Either DCBL do not understand the law which underpins their entire corporate existence and operations, or are blatantly disregarding it, as evidenced by the bogus Defence they put forwards in response to Neil’s claim.

A hostile or forced entry into someone’s home – even in pursuance to a Court Writ – is an invasion of privacy and violation of a person’s security which should be at all times conducted with professionalism and propriety, as well as a scrupulous respect for the law. Too often it is not; and one suspects that the way DCBL conducts itself from the very top (as evidenced by their response to this claim) is conducive to the kind of ‘cowboy culture’ we should not have to put with from those who bear the grandiose title of “High Court Enforcement Agents.”

Hopefully, DCBL will now show their respect for the law by promptly paying Neil’s damages within 14 days – failing which, I may have to send in the bailiffs…


Police Body Camera Footage: Big Brother Turns A Blind Eye?

I was dismayed this week to read the comments of one of the country’s most senior Police Officers, the Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House, who was encouraging his fellow Officers at the Police Superintendents Association to be “more discriminating” when it comes to releasing Body Camera footage.

Whilst I will pause to applaud his honesty – Sir Steve admitted his motivation was to prevent the Police from “looking bad” – I am concerned that his calls for footage to be withheld except “in extremis” will only reinforce a culture of obstruction, delay and lack of transparency when it comes to legitimate requests for the release of this footage, whether that request comes from the general public, the media – or those individuals who have been on the ‘receiving end’ of Police violence.

As matters stand, a number of my clients involved in high-profile cases against the Met have had their very reasonable requests for early release of body camera footage frustrated and delayed by the Met’s Information Rights Unit, which displays a tendency to hide behind jargon rather than facts.

The automatic response of most Police Forces to a request for release of body camera footage by a person who is pursuing a complaint against the Force, is to claim exemption under Data Protection laws which allow refusal of a Subject Access request for data where such release would “prejudice an official or legal inquiry, investigation or procedure” – Section 44(4)(a)(b)(c)of the DPA 2018 (that’s a whole thicket of sub- clauses to hide behind isn’t it?).

How would the release of video footage to complainants in any way ‘prejudice’ the complaint investigation however? Would it not in fact assist in the investigation by allowing the complainant to see that footage and comment upon it early in the process? (It is hard to imagine the Police withholding video footage from a victim of crime until they had decided whether or not the criminal suspect should be charged). When the Met refuses to allow a mother access to the body camera footage of an armed police raid on her house (in which she and her children, including her 12 year old son had guns trained on them), they hide behind the ‘standard line’ of not wanting to cause prejudice to the complaint investigation, without being able to offer a single specific example of how allowing my client to see that footage would be ‘prejudicial’ to the fair outcome of her complaint. Rather, it is the Met’s defensive and obstructive conduct in this regard, which causes my client to – rightfully, in my opinion – fear that the investigation is, in fact, prejudiced against her and in favour of the Officers, from the outset.

Comments from Met leadership, like those of Sir Steve House, are not helping a culture of what I consider to be deliberate delay and obfuscation on the part of the Police – the exact opposite of what the Met should be doing in order to truly live up to its mission statement of “Earning the trust and confidence of every community…”

Or perhaps that mission statement is just ‘jargon’ as well?

In a world in which officers are routinely equipped with these cameras, there should be greater transparency and a greater willingness to show both the good and the bad, for the greater health of Policing culture and the trust people place in that essential institution. 

It is not right that the Police should selectively disclose only the camera footage that they want, allowing officers’s misdeeds to be hidden. This would be to throw away the benefits that would accrue from this technology if people can indeed trust that their interactions in Police encounters are being recorded and preserved on cameras, and will in the future be easily accessible. This helps Police Officers as much as members of the public: false complaints against officers will be easily quashed, and equally it offers protection to people from police violence and misuse of powers.

In my experience, a greater prevalence of Police body camera use is good for everybody. It helps to reassure the public as to Police accountability, and that there will be an objective record of matters which, in the past would have been the domain of ‘one person’s word against two (or more) officers’. This belief is borne out by statistics which show that the introduction of body camera use in recent years led to a dramatic reduction in –

        (a)   Taser use (or misuse): during 2017, the first year following the introduction of body cameras for their Officers, West Yorkshire Police recorded a 27% drop in the number of incidents in which tasers were discharged by their Officers (despite there also being a 26% increase in the number of incidents in which tasers were drawn/ aimed that year).

        (b) The overall number of complaints against Officers: a 2016 study by Cambridge University showed a 93% annual reduction in complaints following the roll out of body cameras (albeit the study involved both UK and US Police forces).

I think there is little doubt that these statistics indicate that Police officers are better at policing their own conduct, when they know that what they are doing and saying is being caught on camera. I would echo here the comments of the academic who led the Cambridge research highlighted above: that Officers “become more accountable” – surely a very good thing – “and modify their behaviour accordingly.”

(It was also of note during the study that ‘control groups’ of front line officers from each Force who patrolled without body cameras were also the subject of less complaints, something which Dr Ariel identified as “contagious accountability” – a sign that good practice and changes in policing culture were becoming embedded across each Force as the number of cameras increased, and Officers adapted to life under frequent, objective scrutiny).

Police leadership should therefore be encouraging greater use of these cameras, and greater transparency through ease of access to this footage, not a culture of keeping the footage under lock and key unless it suits Police purposes. Sadly, rather than learning the positive lessons from this, an officer of the seniority of Sir Steve House now seems to want to ‘turn the clock’ back on accountability, by keeping body camera footage for ‘Police eyes only’ in most cases. In my opinion, this would significantly undermine the benefits of ‘camera culture’ as it would lead some Officers to act more recklessly, rudely or violently, knowing that there was a much reduced likelihood of any incriminating footage seeing the light of day.

By way of example; one of the key features of the case of my client Anthony, highlighted in my previous blog – a black man subject to a negative stop and search which left him requiring an A&E visit after his elbow was fractured – is that none of the Officers, despite initiating the contact with Anthony on the basis that they apparently suspected him to be a drugs dealer, bothered to activate their cameras until after Anthony had been taken to the floor, his arm broken, and handcuffs applied. This in my view is completely unacceptable, the entire incident should have been recorded from the outset and my client allowed access to that footage from day one of his complaint (as it is, almost a year later, the Police are still refusing to release the footage). Surely everyone would agree that this case is a perfect example as to why there should be stricter rules governing Police conduct to require greater use of cameras coupled with greater ease of access to the resulting footage, in the interests of everyone’s safety and the essential maintenance of trust and respect in the Police. Selective, arbitrary use of cameras by front line officers, and then highly defensive comments, encouraging restrictive and secretive practices, like those of the Deputy Commissioner have the opposite effect.

As someone who has viewed hundreds of hours of Police camera footage during the course of my career, I also don’t buy the line Sir Steve House was pushing; that releasing footage may mislead the general public. People aren’t stupid; they know what they are looking at and if Officers’ behaviour on video looks “unnecessary or heavy handed” then the truth is, that it probably is just that.

I would urge the Police leadership to move in the opposite direction to that apparently advised by the Met’s Deputy Commissioner, and embrace this opportunity to be more transparent, fair and accountable in their dealings with the public, particularly those numerous members of  the public who often very legitimately believe they have been wronged by abusive, oppressive or heavy handed Police conduct.

Step into the future; don’t hide in the past.

The GOWISELY Procedure and Unlawful Stop and Search

A story which caught my eye last week –chiming very much with my own thoughts in recent months – was a report in the Guardian newspaper highlighting the fact that ‘stop and search’ procedures conducted by the Metropolitan Police had risen 40% during Lockdown (April – June 2020), equating to over 1,000 searches a day, and yet a lower proportion of these searches than normal (only 21%, down from 33%) led to arrests, fines or cautions. 

I believe this is strongly indicative of bored or otherwise at a ‘loose end’ Officers, with nothing better to do, indiscriminately targeting members of the public without the requisite legal suspicion of criminality. I would echo here the concerns expressed by Maurice Mcleod, chief executive of Race On The Agenda, who said – 

The increased proportion of stops that result in no action suggests that stops are being carried out based on officers pre- existing biases rather than on genuine suspicion of criminality…increasingly disproportionate use of these powers will further damage relations between the police and some of London’s communities. 

It is an undisputed fact that black people, especially black men, are disproportionately the target of Police stop/search procedures, and this has no doubt contributed significantly to the lack of trust black people have towards the Police, as encapsulated in a recent poll by the charity Hope Not Hate, which highlighted that 8 out of 10 black Britons felt that the Police were biased against people from their background/ ethnic group. 

This is despite the fact that Code A of PACE (The Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984), which governs the legal exercise of stop/search powers, specifically provides against Officers using generic “personal factors” – including a person’s race/sex/appearance – as a basis for suspicion of that individual (para 2.2B of Code A). 

Many of the cases which I handle illustrate the human stories behind these statistics. Take, for example, my client James, a black man who was going about his lawful business in London in January 2019, and who was targeted by a (literal) bus load of Metropolitan officers who piled out of their vehicle and ordered him to halt. 

James had being doing nothing more mundane than posting a letter, and we can be sceptical that the officer’s purported suspicions that he was in possession of drugs were anything more than – shall we say – skin deep. 

The officers exiting their vehicle, ignored a white man who was present and quickly surrounded James, stating that he had been behaving suspiciously and they wanted to search him under the Misuse of Drugs Act. However, their grounds for suspicion appeared to be little more than a perception that James had ‘started to walk away’ on seeing their vehicle. 

The distinct impression I drew from watching this video was that the officers had been looking for a stop/search ‘subject’ to ‘blood’ a junior colleague i.e find someone (a black man?) to practice delivering his “GOWISELY” procedure. More apparently experienced officers can be heard orchestrating the search and prompting the younger officer as to what to say. 

What is GOWISELY? 

GOWISELY is an acronym used by officers as an ‘aide memoire’ for the information they are supposed to give to a stop/search subject, prior to commencing the search, to ensure compliance with Code A of PACE. If the GOWISELY procedure is not followed, then the search is highly likely to have been unlawful – 

Grounds – A clear explanation of the reasons for the Officer’s search, i.e why he finds you suspicious

Object – What the Officer will be looking for (e.g drugs)

Warrant – Warrant card to be produced, if the Officer is not in uniform

Identity – The Officer must state their name and collar number  (except in terrorism cases, where the Officer can provide just his collar number)

Station – The Officer must identify the station at which he is based

Entitlement – The Officer must inform you of your entitlement to a copy of the stop/search record (which will be either handwritten or, increasingly, electronically recorded)

Legal – The Officer must specify the legislation under which he is searching you e.g the Misuse of Drugs Act

You – The Officer must clearly explain to you, that you are being detained for the purpose of a search. 

However, GOWISELY is not a magic spell which officers can use as a shield against a valid complaint or claim for damages. Simply because the words have been said, does not mean that the officer’s action in conducting the search is lawful, and in my experience – as in James’s case – officers all too often ride rough-shod over the other sections of Code A, whilst paying ‘lip service’ to the GOWISELY speech. 

First and foremost, the grounds for the search must be based on a genuine and objectively reasonable suspicion held by the officer, and, as highlighted above, that does not include generic assumptions about a person because of their race/ sex or other factors of appearance. 

Furthermore, para 3.2 of Code A enjoins officers not to use force unless it is established that the person being searched is resistant/ unwilling to co- operate. “Reasonable force” – according to Code A (if not the general practice of Officers on the street) – is a “last resort” if absolutely necessary to conduct the search/ detain a person, and hence should not be the ‘norm’. 

In the case of my client James, however, as the body camera footage indisputably testifies, the officers took hold of James’s hands as soon as they commenced the search, as if it were a simple matter of course for them, and, in my opinion, without any reasonable, lawful justification for that use of force. Up until that point, James had been polite and entirely peaceable towards the officers. I feel that all too often, officers are guilty of the kind of lazy thinking which, as I have highlighted in an earlier blog, leads them to equate a reason to arrest with justification for handcuffing, and in the type of incident we are dealing with here, leads them to consider a stop/search subject’s body equally ‘fair game’ for automatic use of force, whether that be laying on of hands, pulling a person’s arms, twisting them behind his back or indeed, handcuffing him. 

When James did no more than protest about two officers unnecessarily holding his hands whilst another officer searched him (he was not refusing the search), matters quickly escalated with  numerous officers combining to force James’s hands behind his back, handcuff him, kick him, force him against a wall – and then drag him to their van stating he was under arrest for “obstruction” of the search. 

James is far from being the only client I am currently representing who has experienced such unjustified uses of force.

Anthony, another client of mine and another black man, was, during the course of a ‘negative’ stop search by West Midlands Police, left at the end of the search free to go about his business…with a broken elbow. All indications are that Anthony, like James, had been politely engaging with the officers – doing no more than, as was his right, requesting information as to the basis of the search – and, just like James, was on the end of almost immediate and almost certainly gratuitous force. One of the officers, indeed, demonstrated his disregard for Anthony and his assumption that use of force was normal in these circumstances, no big deal perhaps, by mocking Anthony’s exclamations of distress and requests for assistance with his broken arm with the words “You’ll win a BAFTA for this…” 

The claims for Anthony, James and many others are continuing. Perhaps by succeeding in claims for damages for individuals like my clients, we will begin to change the police culture of both unnecessary stops and unnecessarily violent searches, which the Guardian’s figures and my own day-to-day experience indicate is a significant ongoing problem. 

Officers need to police the streets; and through the legal mechanisms of complaints and claims, and journalistic reportage, we need to police the powers they use on those streets, otherwise the trust of many people and communities in this country’s system of law and order, may be irreparably damaged.

£100,000 damages for Police Brutality

The shocking footage embedded in this blog captures the moment in May 2014 when my client Robert had his leg broken by a Hertfordshire Police Constable, who delivered no less than 3 ‘overarm’ blows with his baton to Robert’s shin.  The first two strikes were delivered whilst Robert was being held (effectively immobile) by two of the Officer’s colleagues, and the third, and most gratuitous blow, fell whilst Robert was already lying on the ground, howling in agony from the results of the first two (so called) ‘distraction strikes’.

In the moments leading up to this incident Robert, a middle- aged man of good character, had been going about the normal activities of daily suburban life, driving his elderly father’s motor car on his way to get a haircut.

To Robert’s complete shock, just as he was approaching the junction with a roundabout, a Police car with blaring sirens and flashing lights screeched to a halt in front of him and an Officer began aggressively shouting at Robert through the window of his car, demanding that Robert get out of the car, though without any explanation as to why. Almost without pause, the Officer then began to smash his baton against the driver’s window of Robert’s car, which caused Robert to panic and move his car a very short distance, before stopping again.  Other Police vehicles and Officers rapidly arrived and within seconds of the stop occurring, Robert, who was in a state of complete shock, bewilderment and panic, found the windows of his car being smashed in from left and right by Police Officers, showering Robert with shards of glass, and a canister of PAVA spray being discharged into the interior of the car, right into his face.  As a result of the PAVA spray Robert’s face felt as though it was being burned, and his eyes were ‘glued shut’ such that he was now struggling to see anything.

Unbeknownst to Robert, a warrant had been issued for his arrest in connection with a failure to report a change in his financial circumstances to the DWP. This arose from a claim for Housing Benefit and was due to an innocent administrative error by Robert.  The offence of which Robert was suspected was clearly a non-violent offence, and, I think everyone would agree, somewhat lowdown on the scale of seriousness, but nevertheless the Police seemed to be unleashing the kind of force upon Robert and his vehicle that they would utilise if a suspected drug dealer or murderer was inside the car. 

In the circumstances, it is in my opinion not at all surprising that Robert after initially attempting to move his car away (he moved a very short distance before stopping when he realised he had bumped into the car in front – a manoeuvre which caused no apparent damage to either vehicle), then froze in his seat unwilling to get out of the car because he was terrified as to what the Police were going to do to him.

It is quite clear from the attached video that a mere 20 seconds elapsed between the start of the Police stop and when the first Officer commenced smashing in the windows of the car around Robert, and in my opinion it was completely unacceptable that they escalated to this level of violence so quickly without giving Robert a chance to process or understand what was happening to him. 

Robert in the moments that followed was guilty of nothing more than gripping his steering wheel in terror (as many of us might have done in the circumstances). Whilst he did not willingly exit the car, equally he was in no way fighting back, as two Officers took hold of him and pulled him so that he was turned around and facing out of the car, with his feet on the road, and he was in this position when the baton wielding Officer struck. 

The Police Officer who delivered the baton strikes to Robert attempted to justify what he did by a variety of what were, in my opinion, quite deliberate lies and exaggerations, variously claiming:-

·         That Robert was revving his engine and using, or about to use, his car as a ‘battering ram’ to escape.

·         That Robert was not under the control of his colleagues.

·         That Robert was repeatedly kicking out at him and another officer.

·         That Robert was reaching for a weapon inside the car (Indeed – he was subsequently charged with possession of an offensive weapon, but this charge was later quietly dropped – see below).

All of these statements by the Officer were ultimately rejected by the Trial Judge at Cambridge County Court, and the CCTV footage was crucial in helping her to come to these conclusions; she referred to the footage frequently when rejecting the Officer’s allegations listed above, and this is a prime example of the importance of video footage in modern legal proceedings. Without that footage, we have to ask whether the Officer’s untruths would have hoodwinked the Judge – this particular Officer having been, on his own account, an actor in civilian life…

It turned out that the alleged weapon in the car was not only nothing more than a torch, but was something that the Judge, delicately but clearly, concluded the Officers had invested with “importance after the incident”. My own interpretation is that they were looking for an excuse to attempt to justify/explain the degree of brutal force that had been used upon Robert.

Probably the most reprehensible excuse the Officer used was to claim that it was necessary and justified for him to deliver the third baton strike to Robert, because (the Officer claimed) he could hear one of his colleagues calling out in pain.  The fact is that the Officers who had hold of Robert had pulled him out of the car and the three of them had fallen together in a heap on the floor, but Robert was certainly not attacking either of those Officers.

Indeed, it was never alleged that Robert had assaulted any of the Officers, and I would have been very surprised if the baton wielding Officer could have heard any alleged cry from his colleague over the sound of Robert’s screams of pain (his shin bone having been shattered) which are distressingly captured on the second video attached to this blog, which was filmed by a bystander who was evidently horrified by what he was witnessing.

The effects of the Officers’ actions was to break Robert’s right shin bone in two, necessitating an operation to insert a metal rod and screws into his leg, and leaving him crippled in that leg for life.  Robert was unable to weight bear on his injured leg for about four months after this event, and struggled to care for his elderly father during this time. As climbing the staircase was such a struggle during this time, he had to sleep on his couch and keep bottles beside him to urinate in. Prior to this incident, Robert used to run and play football regularly, as well as doing most of the housework and shopping for himself and his Dad. Now Robert was reduced to being an invalid in need of care himself, which put significant emotional strain upon him.

Although the condition of Robert’s leg has improved as the years have gone by, he remains in need of another operation to remove some of the metal work and even after that operation will be left with life-long pain and discomfort in his leg, affecting his ability to kneel down and to use ladders, and which will also restrict his comfortable walking distance. He will never be able to return to playing football or running. He has also been left with mental scars in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

At Trial, the Judge ruled, quite correctly, that the baton strikes were not merely an unreasonable use of force but in fact were ‘grossly disproportionate’.

Nevertheless, Hertfordshire Police were entirely unrepentant and unapologetic, and put Robert through further distress and anxiety by appealing the decision of the Trial Judge, which necessitated further hearings over the course of no less than 20 months in the High Court and the County Court before the original Judgment was reaffirmed and upheld in April 2020.

Despite suggesting that they were going to launch a further Appeal, the Police then opened settlement negotiations and we subsequently reached agreement for a final settlement for Robert in the sum of £100,000 damages.

Whilst this money is undoubtedly welcome, Robert is still left with a bitter taste in his mouth when he reflects on the way the Police conducted this case – their refusal to apologise and their determination to fight it tooth and nail. The Police disregard for Robert, and hostility towards him, did not stop when the baton blows stopped falling.

This case began as a result of the destructive and aggressive actions of one Officer, who was apparently prepared to risk breaking a man’s leg rather than to accept a momentary challenge to his authority from a non-compliant, but also a non-aggressive individual who was suspected only of low level, non-violent crime. 

However in the years that have gone by since the incident it is the arrogant and unrepentant mentality of the Police Force as a whole which has wasted vast amounts of time and money.

In my opinion, the video footage was from day one extremely stark and clear evidence of excessive Police brutality.  It is a great shame that the Police could not, apparently, see this as well, for if they had, they could have moved quickly in a collaborative way to admit liability and offer an early settlement along with treatment and rehabilitation for Robert, thereby increasing not only the trust of Robert and other members of the public in the Police, but also saving themselves, Robert and the Court Service considerable amounts of time and resources.

I now leave you with the video evidence, to judge that question for yourselves.