Client: Lee Williams (details used with his kind permission)
Claim: Civil action against Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) for a bail conditions error which resulted in a compensation claim for:
- false imprisonment
- assault/ battery
- breach of s.6 Human Rights Act 1998
- breach of the Data Protection Act 2018
Result: £4,500 compensation paid plus legal costs.
On 1 January 2019 West Yorkshire Police arrested Mr Williams for a suspected criminal offence. He denied the charge. The Magistrates court released Lee on three bail conditions. These were:
- to stay at his mother’s home address
- not to contact three named witnesses
- not to go within a half mile radius of a witnesses’ home.
Lee’s mother moved house in April. On 23 April the court varied the bail conditions to show the new address.
Electronic Monitoring Visit
Two days later representatives from an electronic monitoring tag company came to the house.
They told Lee they had come to fit him with a monitoring tag to make sure he complied with an overnight curfew.
Lee told the men that they were mistaken. His bail conditions did not include a curfew or mention an electronic tag.
The tag company representatives showed Lee their copy of his bail conditions. The document included his name and current address, but:
- the name and address of a witness was different, and
- it said Lee was subject to an electronically monitored overnight curfew.
Lee was surprised and confused. He told the agents that there must be some mistake. Mr Williams showed the men his court-issued bail conditions from 23 April.
They made enquiries and accepted that there must have been an error. The agents apologised and left.
Arrest for Breaking Bail Conditions
Lee worried about the different bail conditions. If the police had them they could wrongfully arrest and detain him. He could even lose his right to bail and be remanded in custody.
Lee immediately told his criminal solicitor what happened. His lawyer sent an urgent letter to the court on 26 April. The court staff said they would deal with things the same day.
But that night two police officers arrested Lee near his home for breaking bail conditions. Lee explained the confusion but the police did not listen.
The officers handcuffed Mr Williams and took him to a police station. They held him in a cell overnight and took him to the Magistrates Court the next day. At 10a.m. Lee was told that there had been an error and that he was free to go. He was held for about 15 ½ hours.
How Donoghue Solicitors Helped With This Breach of Bail Conditions UK Claim
Mr Williams was angry and upset by what had happened. He had suffered because of the court’s error. He wanted to bring a civil action against the Magistrates Court.
Lee searched the internet for solicitors in the UK who could help. He contacted Donoghue Solicitors on 1 May 2019.
Mr Williams spoke to Kemmi Alfa. Mrs Alfa is a Chartered Legal Executive who specialises in these civil claims.
Kemmi took full details and discussed the case with Kevin Donoghue, solicitor and director of the firm. They agreed to act on a “no win no fee” basis. This meant that Lee did not have to fund his claim privately.
Civil Compensation Claim Against the Magistrates Court
The lawyers got to work. They:
- got the required documents from Lee’s criminal solicitors and the police
- worked with Lee taking a full statement, reviewing documents, and building his case
- sent a formal “Letter of Claim” to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. (HMCTS is the government agency responsible for the Magistrates courts.)
In the letter of claim, Kevin Donoghue set out full details of Lee’s case. He argued that HMCTS should compensate Lee for:
- false imprisonment (because he was unlawfully detained)
- breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to freedom and security)
- assault/ battery (handcuffing, touching, taking of DNA etc.)
- breach of the Data Protection Act 2018 (because the court was a data controller. Kevin alleged it failed in its duties to maintain accurate and relevant data and prevent its unlawful processing.)
- negligence (by court officers/ employees).
Mr Donoghue sought legal remedies for Lee. These included:
- an apology
- a statement read in open court.
He also demanded:
- relevant documentation
- a full response as set out in the Civil Procedure Rules Pre-Action Protocol.
What the Magistrates Court Got Wrong About the Bail Conditions
A representative from the Magistrates Court responded to the formal letter of claim. In it, she:
“recognise(d) that a number of errors were made”
“apologised for the inconvenience and distress this has caused”.
She also explained why the error occurred. Court staff:
- entered the bail conditions incorrectly
- gave the police incorrect bail conditions
- did not promptly act upon the letter from Lee’s criminal solicitors explaining the error.
HMCTS agreed to negotiate settlement of Lee’s claim. It offered £2000 compensation.
Kevin and Kemmi reviewed the offer and considered the law. They advised Lee to reject the government’s proposal and make a counter-offer. He agreed.
Kevin wrote to the court explaining in detail why the offer was too low, referring to previous case-law to support his arguments.
Following negotiations, Lee accepted £4,500 compensation on 2 October, a mere five months after contacting Donoghue Solicitors.
Lee was thrilled with the result. He knew that he had made the right decision in trusting Donoghue Solicitors with his claim against HMCTS. With our help Mr Williams got
- a full explanation of what went wrong and why
- a written apology
- valuable compensation, which was more than double the government’s offer, and payment of his legal fees.
He could now get on with his life, confident in the knowledge that justice had been done.
(This case report is based on Lee’s version of events, some of which is disputed. Please note that timescales vary in civil compensation claims.)