Compensation Claims Against the Police – What’s the Point?

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

On Thursday, I was contacted by a journalist from BBC Hereford & Worcester and asked whether I would comment on the news that the local police force, West Mercia, had paid out £700,000.00 in the past 7 years for compensation claims against the police.

These related primarily to unlawful arrest, assault, and forced searches claims.

The journalist felt that:

  • this was a significant sum of money to pay out;
  • payment of such a sum indicated that there was a real problem with West Mercia Police; and
  • they needed to get their house in order.

As I have represented a number of people who have brought compensation claims against the police in the West Mercia area, I agreed.

You can listen to the interview here:

As you will hear, initially, I was able to remind the listeners that the police enjoy wide powers over the general public. It is incredibly important that we, the public, hold them to account when they exceed those powers either accidentally (by ignorance) or by design (abuse).

When they do transgress it is important that the police:

  • apologise;
  • admit liability;
  • learn from their mistakes; and
  • pay the modest level of compensation that the law provides.

Origins of Compensation Claims Against the Police

Then the interview took a somewhat different course to the discussion I had with the BBC journalist before the interview.

Andrew Easton, the interviewer, asked me why compensation should be paid in unlawful arrest cases; how does a lump sum of compensation help that person?

I was not expecting such a philosophical debate. In essence, he was asking not about compensation claims against the police, or about the amount of compensation paid out by West Mercia Police; instead he was questioning our system of tort law.

This aspect of law dates back to Roman times (another one to add to the Monty Python “What have the Romans ever done for us?” sketch) even though the word “tort” was only referred to in the 1580s in the legal sense. Compensation is paid by one party (the tortfeasor) to the other. The intention is to put the person who has suffered a loss in the position they would have been in if the civil wrong (a tort) had not occurred.

In 2,000 years this is the best solution numerous societies have come up with, despite the drawbacks. We cannot turn the clock back but, when someone has been wrongfully arrested and suffered such an experience, should they instead receive financial compensation?

Why Pay Compensation After an Unlawful Arrest?

For anyone involved in the criminal justice system, it is easy to forget the immediate shock and upset that an unlawful arrest can cause, especially to someone who has no experience of the system and who considers themselves to be a good, law abiding, and upstanding member of the community.

Irrespective of the circumstances of the arrest (in your home, in the street, etc), you are immediately deprived of your liberty and possibly handcuffed, a painful and humiliating experience. You are then escorted to a Police station. Upon arrival, you:

  • are initially detained in a holding room before then being taken into a custody suite, possibly one of the most intimidating places you could wish to enter;
  • are then presented to a Custody Sergeant and the circumstances and reason for your arrest explained;
  • are searched and stripped of your possessions;
  • are quizzed about your general health and welfare;
  • may or may not be entitled to contact someone to advise that you have been arrested;
  • may or may not be told what is going to happen and how long you will be held;
  • are taken to a cell and the door locked. The cell will probably be no more than a 6 foot by 8 foot room with a wooden bench and small toilet. There may or may not be any natural light.

While locked up you are constantly under observation and completely dependent on the police for anything and everything, even toilet paper and the option to flush the toilet should you need.

Depending on how busy the custody suite is and available resources, the detention staff may or may not respond to any requests that you have.

Often, you may find that if you call for assistance over the intercom system (for an update, to consult the codes of practice, for a blanket or for toilet paper), you find that the police cannot respond in a reasonable period of time, or at all.

That is just the beginning.

You may or may not be held for a lengthy period of time (up to 4 whole days), interviewed, be obliged to provide your finger prints, photograph and a DNA sample, and then be bailed to return to the Police station at a later date or charged to appear in Court.

Doesn’t an experience like that deserve compensation?

My interviewer was not convinced; how is receiving an award after making compensation claims against the police going to help, he asked?

Claiming More than Compensation

During the interview, I concentrated on the principle of compensating the victim, a deeply held principle that I believe strongly and which I have maintained throughout my legal career.

My interviewer was right to challenge and on reflection; I consider that the point of paying compensation goes deeper: not only vindicating and compensating victims but (hopefully) deterring similar incidents from happening in the first place, and putting the responsibility for compensation upon the police.

Indeed, primary motives of many of my clients are for the police to learn lessons, to implement better training, and to ensure that such an event does not happen again. Frequently they also tell me that they want an apology, and that if they had received a full and frank apology at the beginning, that they would have let matters lie.

For example, a client I represented several years ago, Audrey White, was assaulted by officers of Greater Manchester Police during an anti-war public demonstration. (You can read the case report here.)

During the course of her case, I established that junior officers had been given inaccurate advice at an earlier debrief as regards the nature and extent of Police powers with regard to removal of “disguises”.

The officers then acted upon that advice in forcibly removing a Gordon Brown face mask that Audrey was wearing for political and theatrical effect causing her injury and upset.

It wasn’t about the money for Mrs. White. She donated her compensation to charity. More importantly for her, as part of the settlement, she received an apology and an assurance that lessons would be learnt.

Compensation Claims Provide Accountability

And what of the just allocation of responsibility?

There is a police complaint system in place but as I have previously blogged here and here, it leaves much to be desired.

As a result, victims are often left with no alternative but to seek redress by pursuing a claim in the civil courts. One such victim was Mr X who I reported on here.

Mr X was assaulted by a Police officer and then prosecuted by the Police for having the temerity to lodge a complaint about the officer shopping on duty.

Despite being found guilty at trial at the Magistrates Court, he was acquitted on appeal when CCTV footage became available that exonerated him. His subsequent complaint to the police was summarily dismissed.

Upon instruction, I sued the police on his behalf and shortly before trial, the Force agreed financial compensation.

During the course of the civil court proceedings, I established that by reason of an entry in his pocket note book, the officer had lied in a subsequent entry in the same note book, in his witness statement and on oath at the Magistrates court.

Following the settlement Mr X submitted a fresh complaint and the officer was interviewed under caution. A police file has now been passed to the CPS to consider criminal charges.

Such accountability for this rogue police officer would not have been possible unless Mr X had brought his compensation claims against the police.

Purpose of Compensation Claims Against the Police

So, what is the point of compensation? Many of my clients tell me that no amount of compensation makes up for the ordeal that they have gone through. They would prefer for the incident to have never happened.

In cases like this we need to remember the benefits that arise not just from the settlement but also the process.

By pursuing compensation claims against the police, my clients get much more than money: they get heard.

For help with your own compensation claims against the police contact me via my firm’s website, using the form below, or on 0151 933 5525.

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‘Can We Trust the Police?’- ITV ‘Tonight’ Programme

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

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Recently I was interviewed for an ITV ‘Tonight’ programme about trust in the police.

The programme, which deals with police misconduct, will be broadcast on ITV at 7.30p.m. tonight, Thursday 13 February 2014.

As a solicitor who specialises in police misconduct claims the producers sought my input on a number of issues relating to the question of public confidence in the police. They also interviewed one of my clients who had suffered as a result of police misconduct.

The reporters commissioned a survey of 2,000 people. 1 in 5 of those surveyed felt that the police were not on their side. Almost 2 in 5 considered that corruption was a problem within the police.

Police Misconduct Compensation Claims

My clients Peter Garrigan and Karim Allison would agree with the people surveyed who were concerned about perceived police corruption.

Both of them had to fight all the way to civil jury trials to clear their names after they were prosecuted in criminal courts using false evidence submitted by the police.

In my experience, the police fabricate evidence. But they would have the public believe that the police misconduct cases I deal with are rare, and that things are improving. Indeed, David Crompton, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, sought to assure the public that his force was now a ‘very different place in 2012’ compared to the Hillsborough era.

And yet I am contacted on a regular basis by people like Peter Garrigan and Karim Allison. Ordinary men and women who have suffered as a result of police misconduct.

Despite promises that things have changed since:

  • Hillsborough;
  • Stephen Lawrence;
  • Jean Charles de Menezes;
  • Andrew Mitchell‘s ‘plebgate’ affair; and
  • countless other scandals,

I am not convinced by the police’s platitudes.

In the past I have supported calls for a Royal Commission (see here). I repeat that call again. It is time that the police account for their actions. It is the only way to restore public confidence.

If you have suffered as a result of police misconduct contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

Update

The programme can be seen via the ITV player for a short time by clicking here.

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How False Imprisonment Claims Can Be Made Against Private Security Companies.

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

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

I recently settled an assault and false imprisonment claim for my client, Mark Holt. (He has agreed to me giving his details.)

Mark, 53, is a prominent local businessman and peace campaigner who has never been in trouble with the police before.

You can read his case report here.

False Imprisonment at a Train Station

On Tuesday 10 January 2012, Mark Holt (pictured below) was returning home from a day out in Liverpool with his wife. He attempted to pass through the ticket barriers at Liverpool Central Train Station but was prevented from doing so by a ticket inspector, and was then assaulted by a private security guard.

The guard was employed by Carlisle Security, a sub-contractor of Merseyrail, the station operators.

Photo of Mark Holt, who made a false imprisonment claim against a private security company.
Mark Holt, who made a false imprisonment claim against a private security company.

Mark, who was not misbehaving, was put in a headlock and forced to the ground by the guard, smashing his right front tooth and cutting his lip. He also injured his neck, shoulders, and back in the assault. He suffered psychologically and needed medical treatment.

Another Carlisle Security guard came to assist in pinning Mark to the ground while British Transport Police Officers were called.

To (literally) add insult to injury, the first security guard gave a false statement to the police who attended saying that Mark:

  • had thrown a punch, which missed;
  • that he was abusive and disorderly; and
  • that the guard restrained him out of fear for his own safety.

The police accepted this (false) version of events and arrested Mark for a breach of section 4 of the Public Order Act.

Mark was kept overnight in a police cell before being released twelve hours later on police bail.

The police later dropped the case.

Claim for Assault and False Imprisonment Against a Private Security Company

Private security companies will understandably be liable if their employees assault or imprison members of the public unlawfully but what about when a third-party, in this case the Police, imprison the individual? Who, if anyone, is liable?

Upon arrival, the Police Officers were given a version of events by the security guard. Although never challenged, I expect that the officers would say that they quickly formed a reasonable suspicion that a Public Order offence had been committed by Mark, so they were justified in arresting and detaining him.

The 12 hour detention would also be justified by the Police. They would say that as Mark had had a drink it was reasonable for his rights to be delayed at the Police station while he was ‘bedded down’ for the night. The next morning, he was interviewed and then released on Police bail.

So, on the face of it, the Police had acted lawfully.

But could the security company be liable instead for Mark’s arrest and imprisonment by the Police? Could they be liable for the officers’ actions even though the Police themselves had acted lawfully?

According to Lord Bingham in the case of Davidson v North Wales Police (1994), if a person merely gives information upon which a Police Officer decides to make an arrest, that person would not be liable. If on the other hand, that person’s conduct amounted ‘to some direction, or procuring, or direct request, or direct encouragement, that they (the police) should ….arrest’ that individual would be liable to an action for false imprisonment.

Here, I was of the opinion that the security guard had procured the Police Officers to act as they did and therefore the security company would be liable for both assault and false imprisonment.

CCTV Footage Helps Prove the False Imprisonment Claim

I obtained CCTV footage which proved that the security guard had assaulted Mark. It also showed the police attending and Mark being handed over to them by Carlisle Security’s guards.

In the circumstances, I claimed damages for Mark against Carlisle Security Ltd.

After I submitted the claim, Carlisle Security’s Head of Legal also reviewed the CCTV footage and responded by explaining that the company provide ‘byelaw enforcement officers’ who have the power to arrest and detain or issue penalties to passengers breaking Merseyrail’s byelaws.

He felt that his company’s security guards were acting correctly as they were assisting Merseyrail staff in enforcing byelaws, as they felt that Mark was not in a fit condition to travel. So he denied liability for Carlisle Security.

Following review by the company’s insurers, this denial of liability was retracted and liability admitted.

However, the insurers refused to settle at a reasonable amount so I issued proceedings for Mark Holt’s claim for assault and false imprisonment and eventually settled it for four times more than their original offer. This meant that Mark received a five-figure sum plus legal costs.

Private security guards, or ‘byelaw enforcement officers’, may seem like a cost-effective way for public transport operators to enforce their laws.

But, without the proper training, and recognition that their guards are acting with police-like powers, private security companies are at risk of more false imprisonment claims.

If you have a false imprisonment claim and want compensation contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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Why must Court Proceedings be issued in a Compensation Claim Against the Police?

Actions against the police solicitor Iain Gould

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Sometimes I get frustrated when helping my clients bring a compensation claim against the police.

What appears to be a perfectly straightforward case against the police where compensation should be paid can often result in a hard-fought battle.

When this happens I have no alternative but to issue court proceedings and fight for my clients all the way to a Court hearing.

This is expensive, time-consuming, and stressful for all involved, including the police officers themselves who, like my clients, must endure cross-examination at Court.

I had to take another compensation claim against the police to trial last week because the Metropolitan Police refused to settle.

My client, Luke Appleyard, 21, a student at the University of London, will shortly receive £13,250 from the Metropolitan Police after being attacked by a police dog.

(You can read the full case report here.)

So, taking his compensation claim against the police all the way to a jury trial was worthwhile. But was it really necessary?

Compensation Claim Against the Police for Defenceless Student

Photo of my client Luke Appleyard, who I represented in his compensation claim against the police
Luke Appleyard

Shortly after midnight on Friday 9 October 2009, Luke (pictured and details used with permission), of Carshalton, Surrey, was walking with a friend through Carshalton Park.

The park was dark and quiet.

Suddenly, an Alsatian dog appeared running quickly towards them. Without warning, the dog jumped up and bit Luke on his right forearm, which he had instinctively raised to protect his face.

The dog hung on for what Luke estimates was three minutes before Metropolitan Police officers arrived and released it.

Luke’s arm (shown below after the wounds had been cleaned) was bleeding heavily but the police insisted on searching him before getting medical help.

Photo of Luke Appleyard's arm after he had been attacked by a police dog.
Luke Appleyard’s arm after the police dog attack.

He was later told that the dog had been set on him as a result of mistaken identity, and that the police were searching for two robbery suspects.

Mr. Appleyard was taken by ambulance to hospital where his bite wounds were treated. He has since been left with about 20 scars on his right arm which makes him uncomfortable wearing short sleeves in public.

Luke Appleyard had never been in trouble with the police before. After the unprovoked attack, he:

  • was injured;
  • was upset;
  • suffered nightmares;
  • developed a fear of large dogs; and
  • lost confidence in the police.

As he received no apology or offer of compensation from the police, he decided to take matters further.

He found my details online and asked me to represent him in his compensation claim against the police.

After discussing it with him, I decided to take his claim. I initially represented Luke as a legal aid lawyer but later, when funding was withdrawn, acted on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.

I submitted details of Luke’s claim but the Metropolitan Police denied liability, saying that the police dog handler acted within the police’s guidelines when deploying the dog, ‘Storm’.

They claimed that Luke was running away, that the officer shouted a warning before releasing Storm, and that the force used was reasonable and necessary.

As this was a very different version of events to the one Luke had told me, I had no alternative but to take Luke’s compensation claim against the police to a full jury trial.

Compensation Claim Against the Police Wins at Jury Trial

On Wednesday 11 December, at the conclusion of the three-day trial at the Central London Civil Justice Centre, the jury returned a verdict indicating that they did not believe the Metropolitan Police officers’ account.

They heard evidence that the police officer in control of Storm was 110 metres away from Luke and his friend when the dog was released. The police dog handler claimed that he:

  • was able to make a positive identification from this distance;
  • shouted an audible command to Luke to stop running; then
  • released Storm.

I had seen the police officer’s statement long before the trial and was sure that this was impossible.

Manchester United’s football pitch is 105 metres from goal to goal.

Photo of Manchester United's football pitch.
View of Manchester United’s football pitch.

The officer claimed that he could see further than that distance in the dark and positively identify Luke and his friend as the people they were searching for.

The jury disagreed with the police’s version of events. They were not satisfied that Luke and his friend were running, or that the decision to release Storm was necessary or reasonable.

Paying for a Compensation Claim Against the Police

Instead of apologising and offering fair compensation, the Metropolitan Police fought Luke’s genuine claim so that he had no alternative but to go to an expensive, and unnecessary, jury trial.

The legal costs on both sides in Luke’s case will be many times more than the compensation he is paid. Because he won, all costs will be paid by the Metropolitan Police, who in turn are funded by taxpayers.

At a time when the Metropolitan Police’s funding is being closely examined, I hope those responsible will think long and hard about their conduct.

If you want to make a compensation claim against the police contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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Image credit: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Paul: http://flickr.com/photos/vegaseddie/6160401568/

British Transport Police ordered to pay compensation after police fabricated evidence

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

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Yesterday, British Transport Police (‘BTP’) were ordered to pay £13,000 plus legal costs to my client Peter Garrigan after serving police fabricated evidence.

Peter, a 26-year-old Liverpool man, was awarded compensation after a unanimous jury verdict following a four-day trial at Liverpool County Court.

The jury found that:

  • PC Paul Quest of British Transport Police unlawfully assaulted Mr Garrigan;
  • the police unlawfully arrested him, issued him with a Fixed Penalty Notice for breach of s.5 of the Public Order Act and, most shockingly of all;
  • one or two serving officers of British Transport Police fabricated evidence against my client ‘in order to cause him to be punished for  something they knew he had not done or to escape punishment for their own misconduct’.

Compensation claim against the police after fabricated evidence

Peter (shown below and details used with permission) instructed me as I specialise in civil compensation claims against the police. You can read more about me and the work I do by clicking on the link.

Picture of Peter Garrigan, a man who won a claim against the police after they fabricated evidence against him.
Peter Garrigan, showing a black eye caused after a police assault.

I previously wrote about his case as it involved a jury trial, where unfortunately a jury failed to reach a verdict. After another jury heard the evidence, they all agreed that the allegations of police assault, misconduct and police fabricated evidence were proven.

Mr Garrigan bravely took on the police, endured three trials where his evidence was tested under cross-examination, and waited four years for justice. He had never been in trouble with the police before, or since. His impeccable character has been confirmed by this significant court judgment.

His case has parallels with the Andrew Mitchell ‘plebgate’ story, which I have written about here. Mr Mitchell is currently dealing with his own case where the police allegedly fabricated evidence.

This is yet another example of abuse by serving police officers that proves that the experience of Andrew Mitchell is not unique.

Both my client and I hope that the negative publicity and judicial criticism British Transport Police have received will make serving police officers think twice before fabricating evidence in future.

You can read a full case report by clicking on the link.

If you believe that the police fabricated evidence to prosecute you and want to claim compensation, contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website. Alternatively, read more by clicking the home page link.

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Do Merseyside Police use excessive force with their Tasers?

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

I was saddened to hear about another Taser (‘stun gun’) attack by the police over the weekend.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, James McCarthy, a 22-year-old from the West Derby suburb Liverpool, was allegedly Tasered four times by a Merseyside Police officer. He was rushed to hospital by ambulance and is now in a ‘stable’ condition.

You can read the preliminary reports on the incident here.

I asked in my blog last year if the police are using tasers correctly. The Taser is a powerful and potentially deadly weapon. Training ought to emphasize the risks to the individuals concerned, especially if multiple discharges are made.

Given the physical and emotional trauma of just one discharge, if the family’s claim that Mr. McCarthy was Tasered four times is proven to be correct, it is difficult to imagine how that was a necessary, reasonable and proportionate use of force. If the police officers involved are shown to have used excessive force, serious disciplinary action and a compensation claim against the police ought to follow.

As a solicitor who specialises in these cases, I routinely receive instructions from people who have been victims of police brutality. Often my clients tell me that they pursue compensation claims so that the officers involved are disciplined and then trained properly about the use of force.  This, rather than the money they receive, often helps them come to terms with the emotional trauma caused by such a serious assault, which can linger long after the physical symptoms have resolved. It is not uncommon for people to become withdrawn, depressed and anxious after a Taser attack. The effects of being assaulted by the police, who represent authority and ought to be trusted, cannot be dismissed lightly.

Merseyside Police have rightly referred Sunday’s incident to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Even if the IPCC find no evidence of wrongdoing, the fact that James McCarthy is still in hospital should serve to remind all police forces about the need for proper training, and for the officers issued with Tasers to think twice about their devastating effects before using them.

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