Grandmother receives compensation following CS gas police assault

I represented a grandmother of three who received an undisclosed amount of compensation from West Yorkshire Police after being illegally sprayed in the face with CS gas by one of their police officers, detained overnight in a police cell and given an unwarranted police caution.

Debbie O’Reilly, a hospital orderly, went for a night out with an old friend in Dewsbury in August 2007. They met up with her friend’s ex-partner, Tim Woods. Later on in the evening Mrs. O’Reilly found out that Mr. Woods was being restrained outside by the police. She asked them why, but was forcibly pushed to the ground by the arresting officer. She approached the police officer again. He pushed her to the ground for a second time then sprayed her in the face with CS gas.

Mrs. O’Reilly was then handcuffed and arrested for obstructing a police officer and taken to Dewsbury police station. Her DNA, photographs and fingerprints were taken and she was held overnight. Although her face was badly burned from the CS gas, she was not given any medical care.

The following day she was given a caution and released. The burns and blisters took three weeks to settle, but Mrs. O’Reilly remained upset and afraid of going out again for a long time afterwards.

Through an internet search she found and instructed me as a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police. I immediately recognised that Mrs. O’Reilly was a victim of police misconduct, police brutality and other claims against the police.

Mrs. O’Reilly had never been in trouble with the police before. After a routine Criminal Records Bureau check done by her employers, she was shocked to find out that the caution was on her file. She complained to the police that she was not given sufficient information before accepting it. Had she known that it would go on her record and indicate that she admitted the offence, she would not have accepted the caution. Following an internal investigation the police agreed to remove it.

West Yorkshire Police initially refused to accept any responsibility claiming that their officers had acted “reasonably”. They produced police notebooks and statements which were created by the same officers Mrs O’Reilly said had acted improperly. I commented at the time that,  “such a reaction by the police is commonplace. They attempt through entirely self serving documents to explain away their misconduct and place the blame on the innocent victim.”

Unfortunately for West Yorkshire Police the incident was captured on a CCTV camera operated by the local council. In addition, a bystander had been so concerned by events that he filmed the incident on his mobile ’phone. This footage contradicted the police officers’ claims that they had acted reasonably, and clearly showed the police misconduct.

Following the issue of court proceedings West Yorkshire Police settled Mrs. O’Reilly’s compensation claim for an undisclosed amount plus her full legal costs.

I am concerned about the police misconduct. The police’s actions on the night of the assault were made even worse by making Mrs. O’Reilly accept a caution without proper explanation and their subsequent denial of liability which they then tried to back up with inconsistent evidence. Without CCTV footage to confirm the truth of what really occurred, Mrs. O’Reilly would have been wronged by the police for a third time. Unlike the police officers, as the old adage goes, “the camera never lies”.

Press coverage of this action against the police claim

You can read the BBC’s take on Debbie O’Reilly’s action against the police by clicking on the link.

The Daily Mail article and website shows the shocking images of the CS gas attack.

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