How We Helped After a Wrongful Conditional Caution Arrest

‘I can’t thank Donoghue Solicitors enough! What an amazing firm. A special thanks particularly to Kemmi who dealt with my case.’

-Tyler Donovan


Client: Tyler Donovan from near Northampton

Claim: Civil action against the police for a wrongful conditional caution arrest and detention. Legal claims included:

  • False imprisonment
  • Assault/ battery
  • Breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights/ s.6 of the Human Rights Act
  • Breach of the Data Protection Act
  • Negligence

Claimants’ lawyer: Kemmi Alfa, Chartered Legal Executive at Donoghue Solicitors

Defendant: HM Courts and Tribunals Service

Result: £10,000 compensation plus legal costs.

Tyler Donovan kindly gave his permission to use his details in this case report. It is based on Mr Donovan’s version of events, some of which is disputed.

What Happened?

A 29th birthday is an unremarkable affair for most people. It’s not a milestone, like turning 18. It’s not a decade birthday. That’s next year. It’s dinner and drinks with friends and family. Cake and candles. Presents and cards. Nothing special.

Tyler Donovan isn’t like most people. He will never forget his 29th birthday.

He spent it in a police cell.

Tyler lives in a small market town near Northampton. In April 2017 he foolishly caused criminal damage to a wall in a taxi office. He knew it was wrong, and readily accepted the police-issued punishment of a conditional caution. The condition was that he must pay a £200 penalty to the Magistrates Court by 8 August. If he did not, he would be prosecuted. Tyler paid the money on 4 August. He was ashamed of his behaviour but, as far as Mr Donovan was concerned, the embarrassing episode was over once he paid up and the conditional caution was “spent”.

Stop and Search Arrest

On 8 September 2018 Mr Donovan and friends were driving through town on the eve of his 29th birthday. It was a Saturday lunchtime and they were planning a get-together that night. All his family and friends were coming to celebrate with Tyler. Police officers stopped the car and told the occupants that the police were conducting “routine” stop and searches. Tyler and his friends were suspicious about this. They were in a market town, not inner-city London after all. But they co-operated, thinking that they had nothing to worry about.

Tyler confirmed his details to the police. One of them quickly reported back that Mr Donovan was wanted for a failure to attend court. Tyler was shocked and confused. He had no reason to attend court.

The police told him the arrest warrant was in relation to a criminal damage charge. Tyler protested his innocence. Everything had been dealt with last year. He had proof that he had paid the £200 penalty.

The officers ignored him. They arrested and handcuffed Mr Donovan. Tyler asked his friend Craig to go to his house to get the receipt, proving that he had paid the penalty.

Police Detention

The police took Mr Donovan to Northampton Criminal Justice Custody Suite. They booked Tyler in and put him in a police cell. He was confused, upset, and worried about his girlfriend. (She is disabled and dependent on him.)

Craig got to the police station about two hours after Tyler’s arrest. He gave the police a copy of the conditional caution together with the penalty receipt. They now had written proof that Tyler was telling the truth and that the caution had been dealt with. Despite this, the police kept him overnight and did not let him out of the cell for exercise. On Sunday evening officers allowed Tyler to make a phone call. He spoke to his girlfriend,  and was relieved that she was coping without him and had cancelled the party.

The police detained Tyler for a second night, and took him to Northampton Magistrates Court on Monday morning. He met with a duty solicitor and, after an hour in a holding cell, appeared in court. The Magistrate told Tyler that there had been a mistake.

He left court at about 12pm, more than 48 hours after arrest.

Photo of Kemmi Alfa, a Chartered Legal Executive who helps with wrongful conditional caution claims. Kemmi Alfa helped her client recover compensation after a wrongful conditional caution arrest.

How Donoghue Solicitors Helped Tyler With His Conditional Caution Claim

Shortly after his release Tyler contacted Donoghue Solicitors on the recommendation of Carter Osborne solicitors, the firm that helped him in the Magistrates Court.

(We regularly receive referrals from criminal solicitors because we specialise in civil actions against the police, a niche area of law most law firms avoid.)

Tyler spoke to Kemmi Alfa, a Chartered Legal Executive at Donoghue Solicitors with years of experience in civil actions against the police. (Read about Kemmi here.) She discussed things with him and, on Tyler’s version of events, felt that he had a potential compensation claim. Mrs Alfa agreed to act on Mr Donovan’s behalf on a no win no fee basis.

With the paperwork dealt with, Kemmi got to work. She needed proof of what happened to back up Tyler’s case. Tyler gave her permission to review his criminal solicitor’s file. Kemmi examined the documents. She quickly wrote to the police to demand Mr Donovan’s custody record, relying on Code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Mrs Alfa also demanded that they preserve all evidence, to make sure nothing “went missing”, and to cover all the bases. This demand included photographs, CCTV footage, body worn camera video, and other evidence.

Letter of Claim to Northamptonshire Police

When everything came back Kemmi discussed the evidence with her client. She confirmed that his case was supported by the documents and sent a detailed letter of claim to the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police. In it, Kemmi outlined Tyler’s case, which included legal claims for:

  • False imprisonment
  • Assault/ battery
  • Breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights/ s.6 of the Human Rights Act
  • Breach of the Data Protection Act
  • Negligence

She demanded compensation for her client, which is how the law helps victims of wrongful conditional caution arrests get justice.

The police acknowledged the Letter of Claim and confirmed that they would investigate.

Police Response

What happened next came as no surprise to Kemmi, who deals with actions against the police every day at work.

The police wrote back denying liability.

They said that Northampton Magistrates Court had issued a warrant to arrest Mr Donovan for his failure to comply with the conditional caution. According to the Police National Computer, the arrest warrant was still live when the police stopped the car. The officers were simply executing the warrant by arresting and detaining Tyler until he could appear before the court. Not our fault, they said.

Compensation Claim Against HM Courts and Tribunal Service

Kemmi considered the denial of liability letter, which would be enough to put off less-experienced lawyers.  She found it helpful because the letter revealed new information which, if true, suggested that the Court Service was responsible instead. But the Chartered Legal Executive needed more information to consider the strength of Northamptonshire Police’s position. She demanded documentation such as police officer notebooks, CCTV footage, and other things to protect Tyler’s claim.

Mrs Alfa also used information from the police’s denial letter to write to Northampton Magistrates Court demanding compensation for her client’s wrongful conditional caution arrest and detention.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service, the responsible government agency, investigated Tyler’s claim. In response, the Court Service said that it “does not accept any legal liability”. But HMCTS admitted that

“court staff failed to alert the police that Tyler Donovan was no longer the subject of the warrant issued on 4 December 2017 and that this led to his arrest on 8 September 2018.”

The letter-writer continued,

“Please pass on my apologies to your client for the inconvenience and distress that this has caused.”

And he made an “ex gratia” goodwill offer of £7,911 to compensate Tyler on behalf of the Courts Service.

Negotiation and Settlement

Kemmi had seen letters like this before. On the one hand the defendant denies everything. On the other, they make an offer.

She discussed the settlement offer with Tyler. Kemmi welcomed it, but felt that the proposal was low and could be improved upon with hard-headed negotiations. She warned Tyler that there was a chance the offer could be withdrawn. It was a risk, but one Kemmi felt was worth taking.

Tyler agreed.

Kemmi wrote a detailed letter to the HMCTS representative explaining why their offer was rejected. She pointed out that the Court Service was responsible for everything that had happened to Mr Donovan. Mrs Alfa showed how the facts and law backed up her arguments and invited the Court Service to settle Tyler’s claim for £10,000 plus legal costs.

Result of Tyler’s Wrongful Conditional Caution Arrest Claim

HM Courts and Tribunal Service accepted Kemmi’s legal arguments and settlement proposal of £10,000 plus costs. This was significantly more than the original offer, and an excellent settlement in Kemmi’s opinion. Tyler was thrilled with the result. He did not have to go to court to prove his claim, and now had

  1. a clear explanation of what went wrong
  2. a written apology
  3. maximum compensation.

He wrote,

“After a lot of research and recommendations, I decided to contact this firm over the many others available and decided to go with their No win No fee option.

From the very first phonecall where I was offered some free advice, to the very last to settle my claim, Kemmi went above and beyond to make the whole process simple and stress free. I had regular contact keeping me up to date and was informed of every progress.
The length of time it took to settle my claim was significantly less than I had anticipated, and the payment I received was considerably more.

Donoghue solicitors are very good at what they do and were a pleasure to deal with.

I now feel I’ve been served justice with everything that happened.
Thank-you so very much again.’

Contact Kemmi Alfa, Chartered Legal Executive, for help with your civil action against the police on 08000 124 246 or fill out the short online form here.