Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor, represented Gary Wilson in his breach of the peace compensation claim.
Mr Wilson (details used with permission) was 24 on Saturday 16 June 2012 when he received a phone call from his brother.
Gary’s brother told him that their cousin was on the roof of a block of flats near his home in Elswick, Newcastle.
When he arrived at the scene he saw that the fire service and police were already there. The fire service had cordoned off the area, but Mr Wilson could see his cousin on the roof. He appeared to be intoxicated.
Gary stayed well behind the cordon but offered to help. A woman Police Sergeant came over and told him,
‘leave the area, you are in breach of the peace’.
Gary was surprised to hear this and refused. He was concerned for the wellbeing of his cousin, so replied by saying,
‘I’m not. I’m not doing anything wrong’.
She walked away, but returned shortly after to tell him,
‘if you don’t leave the area, you will be locked up’.
Gary stepped back further from the cordon and called his father to ask him to contact his aunt about her son. When he finished making the call the Police Sergeant came over again with a male colleague and arrested him.
Gary was handcuffed in the uncomfortable ‘rear stack’ position. The male police officer kicked Gary’s legs out from under him, causing him to fall heavily to the ground, cutting his left knee.
He was then dragged to his feet and put in a nearby police van.
While waiting in the van Gary heard his cousin come down from the roof. (He was also arrested.)
Arrest for Breach of the Peace
Mr Wilson was taken to Etal Lane Police Station where he was ‘booked in’ for breach of the peace.
He was taken to the cells and detained. A few hours later, Gary was told that he would be held until he could appear in court.
Because it was Saturday afternoon, the police kept him for almost 2 whole days. Gary was taken to Newcastle Magistrates Court on Monday morning.
At court, the prosecution provided no evidence, so the allegation of breach of the peace was withdrawn and Mr Wilson was released.
Gary found Donoghue Solicitors through an internet search. He instructed Kevin Donoghue to pursue a breach of the peace compensation claim on his behalf.
Solicitors Who Will Make a Breach of the Peace Compensation Claim
Kevin Donoghue is an experienced solicitor who specialises in compensation claims against the police.
He reviewed Mr Wilson’s breach of the peace compensation claim and considered that the police had wrongfully arrested his client.
This is because the grounds for arrest for a breach of the peace did not exist.
To justify arrest, the Police Sergeant who arrested Gary had to show that she had reasonable grounds for believing that a breach of the peace was taking place or was about to happen.
This meant that Gary was doing, or threatening to do, something which either actually harms a person or their property, or is likely to cause such harm.
(This is the definition of a breach of the peace applied to this case.)
On Gary’s version of events he was not doing anything wrong, so no grounds for arrest existed. This meant that he had a claim for false imprisonment and detention as well as a claim for police assault due to the handcuff injuries and ‘leg sweep’ which caused him to injure his left knee.
Continuing Detention for a Breach of the Peace
Once wrongful arrest is proven, it is for the Police to justify detention minute by minute.
In the case of a breach of the peace, the Police could only justify continuing his detention if they anticipated Gary would commit a further breach of the peace (on their version of events, which was not correct) shortly after releasing him.
(Mr Donoghue referred to the case of the Chief Constable of Cleveland Police v McGrogan  EWCA Civ 86 in his submission.)
As Gary’s cousin came down from the roof shortly after his arrest and was in police custody, any argument that the Police had that Gary may have breached the peace by potentially or actually causing harm to his cousin ended at that time.
So, Mr Wilson could have been released once his cousin had been taken into custody. If not then, the police could have released Gary shortly after his arrival at the police station. But they chose not to, instead keeping him for almost two days, only for the allegation of breach of the peace to be withdrawn at court.
No Win No Fee Breach of the Peace Compensation Claim
On Mr Wilson’s version of events, the police acted unlawfully and detained him for almost two days.
Kevin Donoghue took Gary as a ‘no win no fee police claims’ client. He submitted details of his breach of the peace compensation claim to Northumbria Police and claimed for:
• police assault; and
• aggravated and exemplary damages to punish the police for their arbitrary and unconstitutional behaviour.
The police offered to settle his breach of the peace compensation claim ‘off the record’ for £2,500. Kevin rejected the offer and demanded that the Police respond to his letter of claim.
They denied liability, saying that Gary had been encouraging his cousin to hurt himself, so justifying the arrest and detention.
Court Proceedings for a Breach of the Peace Compensation Claim
Kevin Donoghue issued full court proceedings because Northumbria Police refused to settle Gary Wilson’s breach of the peace compensation claim for a fair amount.
The Police filed a formal defence so Mr Donoghue applied to court for a full jury trial.
But after negotiations, the Police agreed to settle Gary’s breach of the peace compensation claim for £7,500, three times more than their first offer.
As well as receiving his compensation, Gary Wilson’s legal fees will be paid in full. He did not need to go to court to make his breach of the peace compensation claim. He is also happy that his family know that this episode was not his fault, and that justice has been done.
Media Coverage of This Breach of the Peace Compensation Claim
Gary Wilson’s story was reported in The Sunday Post. (You can read the story about his breach of the peace compensation claim by clicking on the link.)
In the report Northumbria Police admit that they kept Gary in custody for longer than necessary.
Other Breach of the Peace Claims
If you have time, please read the case report of Miss B., another client who Donoghue Solicitors successfully represented in a breach of the peace claim.
How to Start Your Own Breach of the Peace Compensation Claim
If you have a breach of the peace compensation claim contact Kevin Donoghue of Donoghue Solicitors on 08000 124 246 or complete the online form on this page. Donoghue Solicitors represent people throughout England and Wales in their civil compensation claims against the police.