I never said it would be easy.
When I took instructions from Ishtiaq (‘Ish’) Malik about his family’s claim against the police after an armed police raid, I explained that these cases are not straightforward.
Despite the warning, Ish (details of him, his family, and their claim, are used with permission) was determined to seek justice following the armed police raid at his home.
After nearly two and a half years, they got it when they received five-figure compensation and a full explanation of what happened.
In this case report I will explain the background to their compensation claim against the police, the difficulties we faced, and how we overcame them.
Background to this Claim Against the Police
Ish Malik, is a British Asian man. He is tall and of slim build. He was 29 at the time of the incident.
At 03:53 on 6th October 2011 Ish was in bed with his wife, Wajiha. Their 5-year-old daughter, Aribah, was in her room.
Mr. and Mrs. Malik woke up when they heard banging noises in the hallway outside their flat. They thought they were being burgled. As they went to the front door, it was smashed open.
The terrified couple was confronted by a number of armed men pointing guns at them. (Ish later described seeing a blue light on his chest from the laser sight of a gun.) The men shouted a succession of contradictory commands. One told Mr. and Mrs. Malik to freeze; another told them to put up their hands.
The disturbance woke Aribah. When Ish heard his daughter screaming and crying he started to go to her, only to be told ‘Freeze or we’ll strike you down’.
Aribah and Wajiha watched in horror as Ish, who was wearing only a vest and his boxer shorts, was manhandled, handcuffed to the rear, and taken out of the flat without explanation.
The armed men, who were now clearly police officers, did not explain what was happening to Aribah and Wajiha, who were kept in the living room while an armed police officer blocked the doorway. Other officers searched the flat and went through their things.
After 10-15 minutes Ish was allowed to join his wife and daughter. The family was then informed that the police had made a mistake and that someone would be sent to fix the door.
The Maliks were understandably terrified and upset by this traumatic incident, which caused them to suffer psychological trauma long after the raid.
Making a Claim against the Police
The raid happened on Ishtiaq’s 29th birthday. Instead of a present or a cake, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner sent him what Mr. Malik estimates were 8-10 armed officers.
Determined to seek answers, Ish contacted me as I am a solicitor who specialises in helping people claim against the police.
After a lengthy interview and careful consideration, I decided to take his family’s claim against the Metropolitan Police on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. I felt that the Police should be held to account to explain the raid and agreed to investigate further. But as with all claims against the police, I did not make any wild promises of overnight success. There are no guarantees when it comes to making a claim against the police.
I explained that for reasons best known to themselves, the police often defend seemingly hopeless cases, dragging them out for years if they can.
Despite this, the Malik family were determined to press on. They were as interested as me to find out why the police chose to raid their family home in the middle of the night. Finding this out was easier said than done.
Metropolitan Police Delay
I submitted a claim against the police on the Malik family’s behalf.
The Civil Procedure Rules, which govern claims against the police made in England & Wales, encourage a respondent to the claim to investigate and then either accept or deny liability in a set period of time, known as the ‘protocol period’.
If liability is denied, they must disclose evidence in support to explain why. The time limits are strict and, in the event they are ignored, claimants have the right to either lodge an application for pre-action disclosure (of relevant documents) or issue proceedings.
But, despite the rules and strict time limits, the Metropolitan Police’s legal representatives failed to confirm the Force’s position and explain what had happened within the protocol period.
They did, however, offer some compensation to Ish and his wife, Wajiha.
This was not good enough for my clients, or for me, as we all wanted more than just money. (Even if the case was just about money, in my opinion the sums offered were low on the basis of the information I had at that time so I advised my clients to reject them.)
The police ignored a number of prompts so, to ensure that this claim against the police progressed, I issued court proceedings.
This is not something I do lightly. There are serious costs consequences when court proceedings are issued. They are expensive and raise the stakes considerably. But, without co-operation from the Metropolitan Police, we had no alternative.
It was only when we received the Metropolitan Police’s defence a year after the incident that we got some details about what had happened. And even though the Police had filed a defence, I had to serve a formal ‘Part 18 Request’ for further information to clarify it. It was another 7 months before some limited documentary evidence was disclosed in support of the denial and a further 7 months before crucial documentation was made available.
It took a long time for all the evidence from the Metropolitan Police to come through. This is not unusual in my experience. As I explained to my clients at the beginning, police forces routinely delay and avoid claims against them. When they do get round to dealing with matters they often deny liability without a satisfactory explanation.
And, in this case, as in so many of the claims against the police I pursue, there is a complex legal argument to be considered.
Legal Defence to a Claim Against the Police
The Metropolitan Police’s defence was that they were searching for an individual suspected of a violent crime earlier that day. The suspect, a 17-year-old black youth, had been arrested several weeks before and his address had been recorded on the Police National Computer at 1a, 188 Wellington Road. The Police sent an armed unit to arrest him because of the risk of further violence.
When the armed police arrived at 188 Wellington Road, they established that there was no flat numbered 1a. Following review they decided to enter No. 1, my clients’ flat.
I accept that this was a difficult decision. Entry to Flat 1 was clearly on the basis that it was the address that most closely resembled Flat 1a.
But the legal question to be addressed was:
Was adequate thought or care given to ensuring that the correct address was entered?
The answer would only be known after a trial.
This was an arguable case which could have gone either way.
If, as I submitted, the police failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that their information was correct before conducting the raid, my clients would be entitled to compensation.
But if, as the police argued, they acted properly on the basis of the information held in the Police National Computer, they would be protected from liability for any potential claim. Then the only way to recover compensation would be if it was found by the Court that the police’s conduct after entry was unlawful, i.e. that it was not necessary to physically restrain Ish because he bore no physical resemblance to the suspect. (Ish was a 29-year-old British Asian; the suspect was a 17-year-old black youth.)
Outcome of this Claim Against the Police
As with so many claims against the police, both legal arguments had merit. This is why these cases are so hard to predict, and why I avoid making promises of success.
After proceedings were issued and a defence filed, the Police put forward revised offers. Curiously, they offered less compensation to Ish but more to Wajiha, again without any explanation.
With the case progressing towards trial, the reasons for the armed raid now known and supported by evidence, and with my clients’ agreement, I was able to discuss settlement terms with the Metropolitan Police’s solicitors.
In February 2014, over two years after the raid, I settled the family’s claims against the Metropolitan Police for a five-figure sum plus legal costs. The settlement amount was more than twice the Police’s original offer.
Ultimately, the settlement reflected a reasonable compromise but the Metropolitan Police could have saved my clients a considerable amount of additional upset and frustration by adopting a more proactive approach to disclosure (of both facts and documents) and entered into meaningful negotiations earlier.
If they had done so, they would also have saved themselves (and the taxpayer) a small fortune in legal costs.
As I explained to my clients at the beginning, it was never going to be easy to claim against the police. Despite the difficulties and delays they are satisfied with the outcome. They received an explanation and compensation, which is all they wanted when they approached me.
If you want help with a claim against the police contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.