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.