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/

Why the Metropolitan Police continue to bungle a mistaken police raid

Photo of Iain Gould, a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police
Iain Gould, Actions Against the Police Solicitor

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

I read this week about the Metropolitan Police’s attitude to wrongful forced entry (‘police raid’) cases.

An article on the Londonlovesbusiness website states that the Metropolitan (or ‘Met’ for short) Police are directly responsible for around 1,000 mistaken raids on innocent peoples’ homes every year.

Defending the Met, Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation Gill Barratt is quoted as saying,

‘Often decisions to enter a property are made in fast-moving situations where the officer has to balance the welfare of the occupant against damage caused. Whilst any damage is regrettable, the welfare of the occupant must always be paramount.’

As a case I am currently pursuing shows, occupant welfare appears to be less important to both the police officers conducting the raids, and those dealing with subsequent compensation claims.

cc licensed ( BY SA )  flickr photo shared by West Midlands Police

Bungled police raid in London

I am currently representing Mr. M, his wife and (at the time) 5 year-old daughter following a terrifying police raid at their home.

At 4.a.m in October 2011, Mr. M, a 29 year-old, 5’5” Asian male, was asleep in bed with his wife in their Hounslow, Middlesex flat. They were awoken by two loud bangs.  He and his wife got up and rushed out of their bedroom. As they did so, there was another loud crash and the front door splintered and flew open. The couple was confronted by several large men who were wearing helmets and pointing guns at them.

Both Mr. and Mrs. M didn’t understand what was happening and believed they were being robbed.

The armed men shouted a succession of contradictory commands. One told Mr. and Mrs. M to freeze. Another told them to put up their hands. Only then did Mr. M realise that the intruders were police officers.

Mr M saw his daughter standing at her bedroom door and he took a step forwards to console her. An officer told him to ‘freeze’ or he would be ‘struck down’.

Several officers manhandled and handcuffed Mr. M and escorted him outside into the cold in his underwear. The officers were abusive to him, swearing at him and pushing him around.

While being held outside he could hear his daughter screaming.

After 10-15 minutes, the handcuffs were removed and Mr. M was allowed to return inside his flat to be re-united with his wife and daughter.  The terrified family was then told by the Police that they had made a mistake in raiding the flat.

All three have been deeply traumatised by the police raid at their home.

Compensation claim for police raid at home

Mr. M instructed me as I specialise in compensation claims against the police.

As well as damages for the trauma he and his family have suffered, he wants answers.

I have established that the mistaken raid came about because the police were searching for a 17 year-old, “stocky” black man, about a suspected firearms offence.

They had an address recording the suspect at ‘Flat 1A…’.

Mr. M and his family live at Flat 1: there is no Flat 1A.

Knowing this, it defies logic to think that the police would raid Mr. M’s home in the first place, and then make matters worse by handcuffing and removing Mr. M, a man who bears no physical resemblance to the person they were searching for.

Despite the open-and-shut nature of this case, because of the Metropolitan Police’s conduct, I have had no alternative but to issue Court proceedings.

In response the Met Police have denied liability. The grounds in support of their denial were scant and so I have been obliged to raise formal questions to establish the full background. All this costs time and money which, if Mr. M is successful, will be paid by the taxpayer.

Occupant welfare paramount?

Gill Barratt claims that ‘the welfare of the occupant must always be paramount’.

If that is so, why didn’t the Met Police check the address before raiding Mr. M’s flat? Why was Mr. M (who looks nothing like the suspect) manhandled, handcuffed and removed from his home and family by armed officers? Why are the Met Police continuing to defend the family’s entirely proper claim for compensation?

As a result of the mistakes made in bungled police raids in and around London, the Met Police have paid out almost £1 million in compensation over the past three years, as well as the associated costs of repairing damage to property and dealing with litigation and compensation claims.

We should not forget that as well as the financial cost to the taxpayer there is also the considerable emotional cost and loss of trust experienced by the victims of the bungled raids, their families, friends and neighbours.

To continue to fight Mr. M’s claim only makes things worse for the Metropolitan Police. As Vice Chair, I can only hope that the authority of Ms. Barratt’s words will result in positive action for my client and future victims of police negligence.

If you have been a victim of a bungled police raid on your home, contact me, Iain Gould, using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website.

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