“From beginning to end I felt comfortable and secure in your judgement and I have nothing but praise and recommendation for you and your company.” Ms. T, Surrey
Deciding to sue the police is a big decision. It’s best done with an expert solicitor who can clarify the legal issues and provide reasoned, dispassionate, and experienced advice.
I am a solicitor who has specialised in helping people sue the police for 20 years. During that time, I have sued most of the police forces in England & Wales. Here I give a detailed explanation of how that experience benefits my clients.
Ms T (name protected for privacy at her request) lives in South East England and is a single mother of two young children, aged 6 and 10.
On 3 September 2013, she was visited at home by a police officer from Surrey Police who explained that she had been accused of harassment by Mr X, a friend of her ex-husband.
The officer told Ms T that ten letters had been sent to local businesses libelling Mr X. The officer explained that either:
- Ms T could attend the local Police Station to be interviewed and provide fingerprints voluntarily; or
- be arrested.
Ms T was understandably shocked and distressed by the police officer’s visit and allegations, and readily agreed to a voluntary attendance.
She was sure she had nothing to hide. She denied any involvement in any criminality and said that she would happily co-operate. She even offered to let the policeman take her computer away for examination.
The officer declined and told Ms T that he wanted to interview her at Guildford Police Station “one evening next week”. Ms T was anxious to resolve the issue and asked if she could attend the station immediately.
The officer said this was not possible but that he would call later that day to arrange a time for her to go to the police station.
Arrest After Voluntary Attendance
The voluntary attendance was set for 10am on 5th September 2013. Ms T arrived on time with her father.
The investigating officer immediately took her into a side room and told Ms T that she was under arrest for harassing Mr X.
Ms T, who had never previously had any dealings with the police, was shocked, traumatised, and began crying uncontrollably.
She was taken into the custody suite. The police took her personal possessions and subjected her to a humiliating search. They took her fingerprints, photographs and a DNA sample.
Ms T asked for a duty solicitor. Instead she was taken to a cell. Ms T suffers with claustrophobia and begged with the custody officer not shut the cell door. The custody officer explained that she had no option and locked Ms T inside. Ms T was frightened, confused, distraught, and couldn’t stop crying.
After about an hour, Ms T was moved into a smaller but open-air cell.
The cell was basic and did not have anywhere to sit. Ms T, who was still desperately upset, asked for a chair as she felt nauseous and her legs “felt like jelly”. The custody officer was unsympathetic and told Ms T to sit on the floor.
After some time, a duty solicitor arrived. Before meeting his client, the solicitor had been briefed by the arresting officer.
The solicitor told Ms T that she had been arrested for sending letters accusing Mr X of molesting a 12-year-old girl.
He explained that the police had taken her house keys from her handbag, gone to her home, and removed her personal computer for inspection.
Ms T was then taken for interview during which she, truthfully and in detail, answered all questions, explained relevant facts, and denied any suggestion that she had acted as alleged.
After the interview, Ms T was returned to her cell.
About 45 minutes to an hour later, Ms T was brought out and taken to the custody desk. The custody officer bailed her and explained that further enquiries would be made. Ms T was told to return to the police station on the 4 October.
In all, Ms T was detained for a period of approximately 4 hours 45 minutes, from 10am to 2.25pm.
Property Seized by Police
Ms T went home to find police paperwork in her hallway confirming that they had searched the house. The paperwork did not say what property had been taken, but Ms T knew that they took her computer, left drawers open, and moved personal items.
On 16th September 2013, Ms T received a telephone call from the arresting officer advising that the police were not going to take any further action. He said that her fingerprints were not a match and that she could collect her computer from the police station.
When she collected the computer the police also gave her several USB sticks that had been removed from her property without her knowledge. She later found out that her computer had been damaged after it was seized and had to pay to have it repaired.
Ms T filed a formal complaint about:
- the arrest
- the police’s conduct
- the damage to her property.
At a meeting on 25th March 2014, the inspector investigating her complaint told Ms T that neither the arresting officer nor any other officer had done anything wrong. He invited her to agree to Local Resolution.
Quite rightly, Ms T refused.
She then received two letters from the police. In the first the investigating inspector dealt with only some of the issues she had raised.
In the second letter, despite Ms T refusing Local Resolution, the police said that the complaint had been locally resolved and confirmed what steps had been taken to resolve the complaint.
Ms T was disappointed and angry that the police could dismiss her genuine concerns in this way. Even though she was nervous about instructing a solicitor she felt that she had no choice but to seek legal help to sue the police.
Procedure to Sue the Police
Ms T researched how to sue the police on the internet and contacted me in December 2014.
I took a detailed account from her to:
- identify the key issues in her case
- consider things for which she could claim compensation
- outline the procedure involved
- set out a likely time scale
- calculate the value of her claim
- discuss funding options
- predict the prospects of success.
I listened as Ms T told me that she had already lodged a complaint. It seemed to me that her complaint had been mishandled by the police and resolved locally without any proper investigation or analysis.
And I identified numerous failings by the police which meant that she could potentially claim compensation for:
- false imprisonment
- trespass to the person
- trespass to goods/conversion.
I was confident that the police would accept liability and that told Ms T that, in my opinion, her case had good prospects. We discussed and dealt with funding, timescales, and the other issues.
I prepared a detailed letter to the police in which I set out the circumstances of Ms T’s claim and the law explaining why the police were liable. Ms T read and approved it in advance.
After investigating the claim, representatives for the police admitted liability and offered £3000 to settle. I reviewed the offer, considered the law, and advised Ms T that this offer was too low. On my advice, she rejected it.
Psychiatric Effects of Unlawful Arrest
My analysis of the offer was based, in part, on Ms T’s experiences after the arrest.
She was traumatised by the “terrifying” episode and was still suffering from sleepless nights and constant nightmares. She told me that her heart raced every time the doorbell rang unexpectedly because she feared it would be the police again.
Ms T’s symptoms seemed to go beyond basic anxiety and distress. I sought her permission to obtain a psychiatrist’s report but she was unsure. I explained that:
- in my long career suing the police I have represented many people who have suffered psychiatric illness as a result of a wrongful arrest;
- I was confident that seeking this evidence was justified given her symptoms; and that
- this would be a worthwhile step to both assess her claim and help her recovery.
I gave Ms T a redacted report on a case similar to her own to help her understand what was involved.
Thankfully, Ms T followed my advice. A psychiatrist close to her home met with my client and prepared a report in which he concluded that, as a result of the wrongful arrest, Ms T had suffered:
- an acute stress reaction;
- a subsequent adjustment disorder; and
- a prolonged depressive reaction.
The report clearly helped prove her claim. But the psychiatrist warned that “the ongoing litigation serves as a reminder of the index event”, and “conclusion of the claim will have a beneficial effect on her mental well-being.”
Court Proceedings to Sue the Police
I sent the police a copy of the psychiatrist’s report and invited an increased offer of settlement. (Ms T sensibly rejected the earlier offer of £3,000 on my advice.)
The police did not respond despite a reminder and the warning in the psychiatrist’s report that early settlement was in Ms T’s interest.
I discussed matters with my client and explained that I had no alternative but to issue Court proceedings to progress matters. I assured her that this step was essential to help her recover maximum compensation, conclude her claim, and aid her recovery.
With Ms T’s permission I issued and served legal proceedings, which resulted in representatives for the police making increased offers of £8,000 and, when Ms T rejected that on my advice, £10,000.
Ms T wanted finality and given my assessment of the value of the claim, she authorised me to put forward a counter-offer to settle for £12,500.
In response, the Police made a fourth offer of £11,500. Ms T was tempted to accept but again, on my advice, she held firm.
After negotiations I agreed with the police’s representatives to settle Ms T’s claim for £12,500.00 plus her legal costs.
I concluded Ms T’s case within 12 months of initial instructions and she received more than four times the original compensation offer, an excellent settlement in my opinion.
Importantly for Ms T, she is now able to draw a line under this unfortunate chapter in her life and try to move on.
Upon receipt of her damages, Ms T wrote me a letter, which I reproduce here with her permission:
Contact me for help to sue the police by completing the form below or at my firm’s website www.dpp-law.com.