Can the Police be trusted to Police themselves?

(NOTE: 10 June 2015. This post has been updated to reflect that two of the police officers involved in the Taser story below were subsequently re-instated to Merseyside Police following their dismissal. My thanks to Jeremy Clarke-Williams of Slater and Gordon for bringing this to my attention.)

 By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

A man was forced to pursue numerous appeals to ensure that his police complaint was upheld.

At first blush, this would appear to be entirely unrelated to the Andrew Mitchell story, which I have previously written about.

In fact, they are linked by a common thread:

  • the mis-handling of complaint investigations by senior police officers, and
  • whether police can be trusted to police themselves.

Police Complaint after Taser assault in Liverpool

Picture of a Taser being discharged.In December 2009 PCs Simon Jones and Joanne Kelly, were on patrol in Liverpool with a Sergeant (who has since been dismissed for an unrelated matter), when they arrested Kyle McArdle for urinating in a street.

Mr McArdle was put in the back of a police van and shot with Tasers five times. (You can read my thoughts on the increase in Taser use by clicking on the link.)

The Taser barbs, metal hooks which attach to the body to transmit the electric current, were removed by an officer rather than a medical professional, contrary to guidelines (unless there is an ‘operational necessity’).

To add insult to injury, Mr McArdle was prosecuted for assaulting two of the officers. He was found not guilty at the Magistrates’ Court, and pursued a formal complaint.

Mr McArdle’s initial complaint was made to Merseyside Police themselves. He argued that the use of Taser force in the back of the police van was disproportionate. The police accepted that their officers should receive guidance on the use of their powers only and rejected the rest of his complaint.

So Mr McArdle was forced to appeal to the IPCC. They returned the complaint to the Force to consider whether the use of Tasers would have been considered proportionate if he had been lawfully arrested.

Merseyside Police’s leading Taser instructor said that the Taser assault was ‘necessary, proportionate, reasonable and in line with the officers’ training and Association of Chief Police Officers guidance’.

Given this opinion, the Force maintained their denial.

Mr McArdle again appealed to the IPCC. They re-considered the case and decided that, contrary to Merseyside Police’s internal investigation, the officers involved should have been served with notices for gross misconduct and interviewed under caution. PCs Jones and Kelly were then subsequently dismissed following the misconduct hearing.

UPDATE: I have since been informed that PCs Jones and Kelly appealed their dismissal to the Police Appeals Tribunal (“PAT”) and were re-instated to Merseyside Police following a hearing on 28 June 2014, in which their solicitor states that “the PAT unequivocally rejected the determination of the misconduct tribunal in the clearest possible terms”. Their reinstatement is confirmed in the IPCC’s updated press release which can be read on their website here.

Aside from the officers’ dismissal and subsequent re-instatement, the IPCC Commissioner criticised Merseyside Police’s investigation of the incident. In particular, he said, ‘it is a concern that Merseyside’s lead Taser instructor lacked objectivity and presented as fact the officers’ version of events without challenge’.

Andrew Mitchell’s ‘plebgate’ saga

Picture of Andrew Mitchell, 'plebgate politician' involved in a police misconduct matter.
Andrew Mitchell, ‘plebgate’ politician

The Andrew Mitchell affair (which I have commented about on numerous occasions but most recently here) revealed that the four police officers and their associates initially involved in the saga fabricated evidence about the incident at Downing Street on 19 September 2012.

At a subsequent meeting on 12 October involving three senior members of the police officer’s union, the Police Federation, Mr Mitchell sought to explain his comments and re-iterated that he had not used the word ‘pleb’, which is short for ‘plebeian’, or commoner.

Immediately after the meeting, Inspector Mackaill, one of the officers at the meeting, told waiting journalists that Mr Mitchell had not provided an account of the incident and called for his resignation.

Unfortunately for the officers at both the initial incident, which was caught on CCTV and can be seen here, and the subsequent meeting, which Mr Mitchell secretly recorded, the evidence showed that they had not told the truth.

West Mercia Police carried out an internal investigation into claims the three officers had been trying to discredit Mr Mitchell. It concluded that there was no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct and found that there was no deliberate intention to lie to journalists.

The IPCC, which oversaw the West Mercia investigation, said West Mercia Police had been wrong to conclude the three police officers had no case to answer for misconduct.

Deborah Glass, the IPCC deputy chair, said in her statement that the false account of the meeting provided by the police officers involved ‘indicates an issue of honesty and integrity, not merely naïve or poor professional judgment (sic)’.

She has called for a misconduct panel to be held to establish whether the three officers gave a false account in a deliberate attempt to discredit Mr Mitchell in pursuit of a wider agenda.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the IPCC’s report “made troubling reading”.

Police complaints procedure

Only serious complaints against the Police are directly referred to the independent Police watchdog, the IPCC, for investigation. These include cases involving:

  • death in custody,
  • serious injury,
  • matters involving sexual assault or sexual offences,
  • serious corruption, and
  • certain criminal offences.

All other cases are dealt with internally, by the appropriate police force’s complaints department (also known as the professional standards department (‘PSD’).

Up until May 2012, when the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act (2011) came into force, all complainants had a right of appeal following local and supervised investigations by a PSD to the IPCC.

Now that right of appeal to an independent body is restricted to only the most serious of cases, so that there is less opportunity to hold the police to account.

In both the McArdle and Mitchell cases described above, serious issues meant that the IPCC were involved. The IPCC allowed the individual police forces to investigate and decide whether there was wrongdoing or not. Following internal investigations, the complaints investigators said that there had been no misconduct that required sanction.

On appeal/review by the IPCC however, it was found that such findings were seriously flawed.

So, can the Police be trusted to investigate themselves?

Photo of Sir Hugh Orde, Chairman of ACPO
Sir Hugh Orde, Chairman of ACPO

Speaking on BBC Radio, Sir Hugh Orde, the Chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers and a former Chief Constable, said that it is ‘critical’ that there now be a fully independent police investigation system. (You can listen to the interview by clicking here).

I agree. The current system where the police investigate themselves is deeply flawed and, to restore public confidence in the police and the police complaints process, independent investigations in each and every case need to be conducted.

But is it enough simply to point the finger at the IPCC, who would no doubt say that the Mitchell and McArdle cases described above did not fit within the criteria, so that they had no authority to conduct investigations from the beginning?

Don’t the police have some responsibility too?

It strikes me that blaming the investigations process merely deflects attention away from the core issue: trust.

Public trust is damaged when we routinely hear about police misconduct at the rank and file level which is then covered up by their superiors or force complaints departments.

It is made worse when, rather than apologise and accept responsibility, senior police officers and their representatives blame everyone but themselves.

At today’s House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee meeting, the Chief Constables of West Mercia, West Midlands, and Warwickshire Police, will explain why they declined to pursue misconduct charges against the three officers involved in the October meeting.

It is hoped that the meeting will be productive and not merely a repeat of the blame game played out in the media since September last year.

The Chief Constables should be reminded of Robert Peel’s principles to define an ethical police force, and in particular, this quote attributed to him: 

‘The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.’

For more information on pursuing a civil action against the police go to www.iaingould.co.uk. Contact me using the form below or via my firm’s website.

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Images:

Taser: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Marcelo Freixo 50123:http://flickr.com/photos/marcelofreixo/8188041975/

Andrew Mitchell: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by DFID – UK Department for…:http://flickr.com/photos/dfid/4603106939/

Sir Hugh Orde: cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Liberal Democrats: http://flickr.com/photos/libdems/3940872401/

Police abuse powers to arrest the ‘usual suspects’

Iain Gould, Actions Against the Police SolicitorBy Iain Gould, solicitor

 Despite the strict requirements of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), it would appear that at least one police force, under pressure to increase the detection rate in relation to serious offences, admit to simply rounding up the ‘usual suspects’ without any evidence to suggest those individuals are responsible.


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by J

Police abuse power of arrest

In a report commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, Vicky Kemp reviewed 5000 arrests made over a 3-month period in 2012 by Nottinghamshire Police.  She found that ‘a significant minority’ involved suspects who were known to be prolific in the past but who had been wrongfully arrested with no evidence linking them to the crime for which they had been detained.

Such a policy has strong historical roots in British policing. It is a form of ‘social control’.

According to some police officers who were interviewed:

  • arresting persistent offenders;
  • detaining them for up to 24 hours;
  • confiscating their mobile phones and shoes for forensic examination;
  • imposing bail conditions; and
  • searching their homes

will all help reduce crime.

Police legal powers abused

While it is debatable if such an approach to ‘social control’ was ever in place, cultural and technological changes in the 1970’s introduced a more professional and tolerable model of policing reinforced by the provisions of s.24 of PACE (1984), which stresses that the police must have ‘reasonable grounds’ for arrest. The law states that –

24 Arrest without warrant: constables

(1) A constable may arrest without a warrant—

(a) anyone who is about to commit an offence;

(b) anyone who is in the act of committing an offence;

(c) anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be about to commit an offence;

(d) anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be committing an offence.

(2) If a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, he may arrest without a warrant anyone whom he has reasonable grounds to suspect of being guilty of it.

(3) If an offence has been committed, a constable may arrest without a warrant—

(a) anyone who is guilty of the offence;

(b) anyone whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be guilty of it.

(4) But the power of summary arrest conferred by subsection (1), (2) or (3) is exercisable only if the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that for any of the reasons mentioned in subsection (5) it is necessary to arrest the person in question.

(5) The reasons are—

(a) to enable the name of the person in question to be ascertained (in the case where the constable does not know, and cannot readily ascertain, the person’s name, or has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name given by the person as his name is his real name);

(b) correspondingly as regards the person’s address;

(c) to prevent the person in question—

(i) causing physical injury to himself or any other person;

(ii) suffering physical injury;

(iii) causing loss of or damage to property;

(iv) committing an offence against public decency (subject to subsection (6)); or

(v) causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway;

(d) to protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question;

(e) to allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question;

(f) to prevent any prosecution for the offence from being hindered by the disappearance of the person in question.

(6) Subsection (5)(c)(iv) applies only where members of the public going about their normal business cannot reasonably be expected to avoid the person in question.

So, aside from the very specific grounds detailed in the Act, the police do not have the power to arrest without a warrant. Any arrest outside of these terms is an abuse of police powers, and can lead to claims for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and misfeasance in public office, especially if repeated as described in the Ministry of Justice report.

As a specialist actions against the police solicitor, in my experience it is not just Nottinghamshire Police who are abusing their power to arrest. Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have repeatedly reported on police abuse, for example in describing the Andrew Mitchell ‘plebgate’ affair, and when discussing South Yorkshire Police’s claims that they have changed post-Hillsborough.

Police harassment of a current client

I am currently representing a 57-year-old man who wishes to sue Greater Manchester Police.  Mr X will openly admit that he has a chequered past but has served his time and says his offending days are over.  Despite this, he has been arrested for burglary at least nine times over the last 5 years and maintains that on each and every occasion, there has been no evidence linking him to any of the crimes (burglary or robbery). Certainly, no arrest has led to any successful prosecution.

Consequences when the police abuse their powers

Mr. X’s case highlights a policy that not only wastes police time and resources but also causes distress and yet further damage to the reputation of the police while the real offenders escape justice.


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Insomnia Cured Here

The classic film, Casablanca, ends with Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick Blaine killing the Nazi, Major Strasser. Captain Renault saves Rick’s life by telling the investigating police to ’round up the usual suspects’. While that may have saved the hero in the famous wartime story, police officers in real-life England and Wales have no such excuse.

Advice for victims of police abuse

If you are a victim of police abuse and want advice about pursuing a compensation claim against the police, contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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Why have jury trials in actions against the police?

Iain Gould, Actions Against the Police SolicitorBy Iain Gould, Solicitor

It is a little-known fact that some actions against the police compensation claims (specifically cases involving claims for false imprisonment and/or malicious prosecution) can be decided by a jury.

The right to trial by jury in such cases was preserved for such claims against the police after it was abolished for most other civil actions in 1933.

Putting such a case before a Jury does not, however, come without complications.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by zzpza

Hung jury in an actions against the police claim

I am currently representing Mr. G who is suing  British Transport Police for false imprisonment, assault, misfeasance in public office, and malicious prosecution. Although, there is some limited CCTV footage, Mr. G’s actions against the police compensation claim essentially rests on his word against two Police Officers. Last week, his case went to trial before a Jury.

On the fourth day, having heard the evidence, the jury of eight retired.

After a long and stressful week in court, Mr. G hoped for Judgment in his favour in his police compensation claim.

Unfortunately, the jury were unable to reach unanimity.

In the County Court (as in this case) after a reasonable period of deliberation, the Court can accept a majority verdict of 7-1.

In Mr. G’s case, after several hours, it was clear that the jury were unable to agree to that and, in the circumstances, the Judge ordered a re-trial.

As it now stands, he must ready himself for another week in court sometime in the next year, and I will have to prepare his case for trial yet again.

So why bother having a Jury?

Judicial guidance in police claims

By s.69 of the Supreme Courts Act 1981, a party wishing to claim the right to have their case heard before a jury has to apply for it within 28 days of the service of the Defence.

Should either party fail to make such an application, the case must be tried by a Judge alone unless the Court in its discretion orders trial by jury. As May LJ noted in Times Newspapers Ltd v Armstrong (2006),

‘the discretion is now rarely exercised, reflecting contemporary practice. Contemporary practice has an eye, among other things, to proportionality; the greater predictability of the decision of a professional Judge; and the fact that a Judge gives decisions.’

Reasons to keep jury trials in police abuse claims

Given ‘contemporary practice’, why then encourage (as I routinely do) a victim of police abuse to elect jury trial?

Because an individual’s belief in the rule of law is shaken when they are a victim of wrongdoing by the police.

The police are agents of the state. The courts can be considered the same way, and I often hear scepticism of judicial independence and the need to avoid the ‘involuntary bias towards those of their own rank and dignity’ (Frank Cook v Telegraph Media Group Ltd (2011)).

Some might query whether my faith and confidence in jury trials in cases involving police abuse has been knocked.

My answer is an unequivocal ‘no’.

Having taken many civil actions against the police to trial with a jury, I remain convinced that, win or lose, my clients are far more accepting of a judgment given by their peers rather than by a Judge who may be perceived as solitary, conservative and out of touch.

Certainly, Mr. G is un-phased and is keen to have his actions against the police case heard again, confident that a new jury will find in his favour.

For all of us, but especially those making actions against the police claims, it is important that this basic right is preserved.

If you have been a victim of police abuse and want to claim compensation, please click here to read more or contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via the contact form at dpp-law.com.

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A Caution is for life not just for Christmas

Photo of Iain Gould, a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police
Iain Gould, specialist actions against the police solicitor

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

On a regular basis, certain crimes are resolved at the Police Station shortly after arrest by way of a simple (a.k.a police) caution.  Many observers view such a disposal as a slap on the wrist without serious consequences. They are wrong. Let me explain why accepting a police caution could be one of the most serious mistakes you ever make.

 What is a police caution?

A police caution is a formal warning given to adults for minor offences. It is an alternative to prosecution in minor cases and is usually issued by the police, but can also be handled by other enforcement agencies, such as Local Authorities. Cautions cannot be issued in indictable-only (serious) offences, but otherwise the police retain a broad discretion to issue them.

 The consequences of accepting a police caution

 Although a caution is not a criminal conviction, if it is imposed for a recordable offence:

  •  it will be entered on the Police National Computer and any subsequent court proceedings,
  • it may be used as evidence of previous misconduct where this is permitted,
  • it may prevent a further caution being offered in the future,
  • fingerprints and other identification data can be taken and retained,
  • in the case of a relevant sexual offence, the offender is placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for two years,
  • if the person cautioned is in a notifiable occupation the police should disclose the caution to the employer. This may have especially serious consequences for people who work with children or vulnerable adults.

 How the police issue cautions

 In 2008, the Home Office issued Circular 016/2008 about ‘Simple cautioning of Adult Offenders’ to provide guidance on the use of the simple caution. It states that a simple caution ‘may be used for disposing of (low-level) offences when specified public interest and eligibility criteria are met’.

 Relevant extracts of the circular are as follows:

 The aims of the simple caution are to:

 (a)          deal quickly and simply with less serious offences where the offender has admitted the offence

 (b)          divert offenders where appropriate from appearing in the criminal courts

 (c)          record an individual’s criminal conduct for possible reference in future criminal proceedings or relevant security checks; and

 (d)          reduce the likelihood of re-offending.

 When deciding when a Simple Caution is appropriate, a police officer must answer the following questions: 

  • has the suspect made a clear and  reliable admission for the offence either verbally or in writing?…
  • Is there a realistic prospect of conviction if the offender were to be prosecuted in line with the Code for Crown Prosecutors,  
  • Is it in the public interest to use a Simple Caution as a means of disposal?  Officers should take into account the public interest factors set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, in particular the seriousness of the offence… 
  • Is the suspect 18 years or older? 
  • Is a Simple Caution appropriate to the offence and the offender?  (with reference to ACPO’s gravity Factors matrix and the suspect’s criminal history). 

Other Considerations

  • Has the offender been made aware of the significance of a Simple Caution? 
  • Under no circumstances should suspects be pressed or induced in any way to admit offences in order to receive a Simple Caution as an alternative to being charged. 
  • Has the suspect given an informed consent to being cautioned. 

“Informed consent” can be given when the suspect has received in writing an explanation of the implications of accepting a Simple Caution before he/she agrees to accept a Simple Caution.  After receiving this, if the suspect does not give his/her consent, the police may choose to continue with the prosecution in accordance with the Directors Guidance on Charging.  Officers must avoid any suggestion that accepting a Simple Caution is an “easy option”. 

Making the decision

When considering the suitability of an offence for disposal by Simple Caution, the decision should be referred to an officer of at least Sergeant rank. 

Consequences of receiving a Simple Caution 

The significance of the admission of guilt in agreeing to accept a Simple Caution must be fully and clearly explained to the offender before they are cautioned. 

Other legal guidance about police cautions

  1. The Code for Crown Prosecutors 

The Full Code test for deciding the appropriate disposal of a case has two stages:

  1. the evidential stage, i.e. whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction, and
  2. whether in all the circumstances, it is in the public’s interest for there to be a prosecution. 
  1. The ACPO Gravity Matrix 

The Guidance requires an officer to apply the “ACPO Gravity Factors Matrix” when assessing the gravity of an offence.

All offences are given a gravity score (‘1’ for the most minor offences and ‘4’ for the most serious). Other factors, either aggravating or mitigating may raise or lower the score for a particular offence, by 1 point only.

So, for a total score of 1, the guidance states there should always be the minimum response applicable to the individual offender, i.e. No Further Action, Simple Caution or Penalty Notice for Disorder.

For a score of 4, the guidance states to always charge.

How the courts interpret the law on police cautions

It is apparent that police officers responsible for applying the Home Office Circular enjoy a wide margin of appreciation as to the nature of the case and whether the pre-conditions for a caution are satisfied.

As Lord Justice Schiemann put it in R v Metropolitan Police Commissioner ex parte Thompson [1997] I 1 WLR 1519 

“it will be a rare case where a person who has been cautioned will succeed in showing that the decision was fatally flawed…”.

Cases where a police caution has been removed after the event: 

  1. How CCTV saved Mrs O’Reilly 

In a case that I was involved in against West Yorkshire Police, I obtained CCTV footage of the Custody Suite that provided “clear evidence that a caution was not explained in full or correctly” to my client Mrs. O’Reilly, in breach of the Circular’s guidance.

The facts

Mrs O’Reilly was arrested for obstructing an officer in the execution of his duty.  She was taken to Dewsbury Police Station where she was kept in overnight.

The following morning, she was advised that she was to be offered a police caution. She was given no explanation as to what it meant to have a caution, nor given a choice in the matter.  She was told that she would not have to disclose it and was told to sign a piece of paper stating that she agreed to be cautioned.

West Yorkshire Police’s position

Mrs. O’Reilly’s initial complaint to the police was ignored. She sought me out as I am a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police.

But for the incontrovertible CCTV evidence, I have no doubt that West Yorkshire Police would have rejected her complaint and my client would still have a caution against her (otherwise) unblemished name.

Result: removal of the police caution

As a consequence of Mrs. O’Reilly’s reliance on CCTV evidence to support her insistence that she had been mistreated, West Yorkshire Police agreed to expunge the caution from their system/the Police National Computer.

2. Judicial review of the Metropolitan Police 

In another recent case brought against the Metropolitan Police, a decision to caution and its subsequent confirmation was challenged in Judicial Review proceedings.

The Court found that the suspect had made a clear and reliable admission, but on review considered:

  • the circumstances of the offence and offender, 
  • the investigating officer’s thought process when deciding how to resolve the case (i.e. to take no further action, to offer a caution, or to prosecute), and 
  • determined that he should have concluded that a prosecution was inconceivable, and that the public interest did not warrant a caution. 

Accordingly, the Court decided to intervene and the caution was expunged.

A cautionary tale

Given the clear Home Office guidance and judicial support described above, successful challenges to the imposition of police cautions are rare.

Careful consideration has to be given by the Police as to whether to offer a caution, the suspect as to whether to accept, and a Criminal Defence Lawyer, if engaged, to advise whether to accept or reject.

The fact remains that challenging a caution after the event will be exceptional and accordingly, for the vast majority who accept a caution at the Police Station this will be on their record for ever-more.

If you (or your clients) have been wrongly issued with a police caution, contact me for confidential advice and assistance using the online form below, via my firm’s website, or call me on 0151 933 5525.

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Have South Yorkshire Police really changed?

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

A former chief constable of South Yorkshire, Richard Wells, who took charge in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, recently said that at the time police forces across Britain had ‘a culture of authoritarianism, defensiveness [and] excessive secrecy’.

Mr Wells statement followed publication of a report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel that found that senior police officers waged a concerted campaign, in the form of private briefings, redacted statements and stories fed to a Sheffield news agency, to “impugn the reputations of the dead” and save that of the South Yorkshire Police.

The current Chief Constable, David Crompton maintained in a BBC interview that “South Yorkshire Police is a very different place in 2012 from what it was 23 years ago”.

Is it? My client, Mr A would strongly disagree. 

Attack by police dog

In February 2012, Mr. A, a 19 year-old football fan, was at Hillsborough to watch the derby between United and Sheffield Wednesday.

As he was walking home from the ground he passed a WPC with a police dog. Suddenly and without warning the police dog lunged at Mr. A, biting his right forearm, drawing blood and destroying his jacket, a recent Christmas present from his mum and dad.

Although he was shocked and in great pain, Mr. A asked the officer for her details as he intended to pursue a complaint about the assault by the police dog. She refused and a male police officer ushered him away.

Mr A walked away and met up with some friends who advised him to return to the WPC to insist that she give him her details. Once again, she refused and once again, he was ushered away by the male police officer who belittled and laughed at him as he did so. At  no time was it suggested that Mr A had committed any criminal offence and at no time was Mr A obliged to give his details.

As he walked away, Mr. A saw another man receiving treatment in an ambulance. He had also been bitten by a police dog . Mr. A approached the paramedics, was treated and taken to hospital for dog bite injuries and shock.

Mr. A, a student has never been in trouble with the police before,  complained to the police the next day and agreed to have the matter investigated by local resolution, an informal process I do not recommend. Before then, the police had no idea who he was.

Malicious Prosecution by the police

A couple of weeks later he was visited at home by two uniformed South Yorkshire Police officers. Rather than discuss his complaint, they served Mr A with a Fixed Penalty Notice for breach of s.5 of the Public Order Act on the day of the derby match, ie that he had caused ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.

Dilemma

Mr. A contacted me for advice. He knew that the s.5 charge was made-up nonsense, but that if he accepted the fixed penalty and paid the £60 fine it would be dealt with and he would not have a criminal record, something of crucial importance to a young man with the rest of his life ahead of him.

However, he also knew that South Yorkshire Police had issued the Fixed Penalty notice merely because he had the temerity to complain. They would not have known who he was, and so would not have served him with the Fixed Penalty Notice if he hadn’t approached them the following day to complain.

Ultimately, Mr. A decided to fight the allegation. Mr A  lodged the appeal and waited. It would appear that South Yorkshire Police then bungled their attempt to prosecute. They are now out of time to do so.

I am now representing him in a compensation claim against South Yorkshire Police.

No change

Although South Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable David Crompton assured us that things had changed, my client was subjected to an entirely unjustified assault and prosecution. I  am not re-assured by the Chief Constable’s words.

It appears to me that the s.5 Public Order Act prosecution was brought to put Mr A in his place. Once again, we would hear the old line of the hooligan football fan being restrained by well-meaning police officers. In short; the same lie South Yorkshire Police peddled in the aftermath of the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy would be repeated following an attack by a police dog at the same football stadium 23 years later.

To put a 19-year-old in this position, where he had to decide between the principle of defending himself from trumped-up charges, or letting the matter lie, is nothing short of disgraceful and points to an institutional failing within South Yorkshire Police which has not been addressed.  Unlike Chief Constable Crompton, I have no doubt that this leopard has not changed its spots.

Iain Gould is a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police compensation claims.

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Would you believe it? Custody CCTV footage and the police

Custody CCTV footage can often be helpful in an actions against the police claim.

Every police station in the country has a CCTV system in place recording everything that happens in the custody suite. Not only does the footage produced by the system provide vital evidence about a Claimant’s general demeanor immediately post-arrest, but it can also confirm or disprove the arresting officer’s initial arrest account. Often it contradicts the stated position of the police in correspondence, for example if they deny allegations of assault, leading to compensation being paid for the police’s wrongdoing.

Consequently, it is vitally important that custody CCTV footage is retained and made available to the Claimant and his actions against the police solicitor as soon as possible.

Many police forces operate a system whereby their CCTV footage is deliberately wiped after 90 days. In these days of digital technology, I often wonder why.

Also, increasingly I am coming across situations where CCTV footage is being wiped, despite my request within time that relevant CCTV footage be preserved. Excuses I have received recently include:

‘The Custody suite footage whilst requested by yourselves prior to the expiry of the 90 day  period was addressed to the incorrect staff…’;

‘Your letter was received but unfortunately not acted upon…’ and;

‘there is no CCTV footage available as data was not captured due to technical difficulties…’

I have no doubt that these excuses are tactical, as they prevent access to evidence which may assist the Claimant and harm the police’s defence.

We all have an interest in how public funds are spent. If CCTV evidence will assist in early settlement of a claim that is in everyone’s best interests, especially the police’s, who will save money and time. Equally, if it contradicts the Claimant’s version of events, that should be known by his solicitor as soon as possible, who may take a different view as to the prospects of success. In short: custody CCTV footage should be retained and produced in every actions against the police case. Failure to do so can only be viewed with suspicion.

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