Why Northumbria Police Paid Compensation After Executing a Search Warrant

Overview:

Client: Mr. M from Newcastle

Claim: Civil action against the police for false imprisonment and assault.

Claimant’s lawyer: Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor

Defendant: Chief Constable of Northumbria Police

Result: Substantial compensation paid plus legal costs.

Client details anonymised at his request. This account is based on our client’s version of events, some of which is disputed.

What Happened?

This case report begins with Mr. M visiting his daughter at her flat.

When he got to the front door, it was already opened. He was met by a male police officer in uniform, who told him to come inside.

Mr. M was surprised to see three or four police officers with his daughter and her friend.

He sat down and asked what was happening. An officer told him that the police were doing a drug search. Mr. M was confused and asked if he was under arrest. When told that he was not, he got up to leave.

Then an officer shocked Mr. M by saying, “You’re under arrest for possession of Class B drugs with intent to supply.” The police handcuffed him to the front and made him sit on the sofa for about twenty minutes.

Mr. M asked if the police had found any drugs. The arresting officer told him that they had not. So Mr. M asked why he was being detained. He was rudely told to be quiet and sit still.

Mr. M was then taken upstairs by two male police officers, told to strip naked, and body cavity searched.

The officers did not find any drugs and told Mr. M to dress. They took his wallet and re-applied the handcuffs. Then the police put Mr. M and his daughter in a police van and drove them to the city centre police station.

The Desk Sergeant booked Mr. M in. The police “processed” him by taking his DNA, fingerprints, and a photograph. They took his wallet and  counted £325 out from it.

Northumbria Police held Mr. M for a total of five and a half hours, including a 30-minute interview. Then Mr. M was bailed and released. The police returned his wallet and Mr. M got a taxi home with his daughter.

‘Joke’ Leads to Actions Against the Police Compensation Claim

On arrival back at her flat Mr. M pulled out his wallet to pay for the taxi, only to find that it was empty.

He returned to the police station right away and told a civilian custody assistant what had happened. He demanded his money back.

A few minutes later a male police officer came out and threw a bundle of cash notes on the desk. The officer said that this was Mr. M’s money and asked whether he could take a joke. Mr. M replied that he did not find it funny.

Two weeks later Mr. M received a letter from Northumbria Police. It said that they were not going to take any further action after his arrest and charge following the raid at his daughter’s home.

Complaint Against Northumbria Police

Mr. M was angry at the police’s appalling conduct and resolved to take things further. He went to a local police station to file a formal complaint.

It is important to note that, despite all that had happened, at this point Mr. M was not considering a compensation claim. But the police’s actions changed his mind.

Run Around

When Mr. M got to his local police station he was told to wait.

Several hours later an inspector came out. The inspector told Mr. M that he would not record the complaint. Instead the inspector said that he would decide if Mr. M’s circumstances warranted a formal complaint. Mr. M was not satisfied with this. He was determined to pursue a formal complaint against Northumbria Police.

So, he went to the city centre police station where he had been taken after arrest. The police at this station fobbed him off. They told Mr. M that they would not record his complaint because the incident occurred outside their jurisdiction.

Frustrated and angry, Mr. M went back to his local police station the next day. He spoke to another inspector, who also refused to record the complaint. The inspector said it was because his colleagues acted legally in arresting Mr. M.

So, once again, Mr. M returned to the city centre police station, now with his daughter.

IPCC Involvement

The inspector they spoke to recorded his daughter’s complaint, but not Mr. M’s. Instead, he gave Mr. M contact details for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (“IPCC”, now the Independent Office for Police Conduct).

Mr. M wrote to the IPCC to start his complaint.

After the Commission got involved Mr. M’s complaint about Northumbria Police’s conduct was upheld. It was confirmed that:

  1. the search of his daughter’s flat under police warrant
  2. both Mr. M’s and his daughter’s arrest and detention

were unlawful.

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, a solicitor who helped his client sue Northumbria Police
Kevin Donoghue helped a client sue the Chief Constable of Northumbria Police.

How Donoghue Solicitors Helped

Mr. M contacted Kevin Donoghue, solicitor. Mr Donoghue specialises in actions against the police throughout England and Wales. He agreed to investigate the claim on a “no win no fee” basis.

Kevin

  • took full details of Mr. M’s potential civil claim from his client
  • obtained the custody record and complaint investigation report
  • submitted details of Mr M’s compensation claim to the police.

He also demanded essential documentation to investigate the claim and clarify prospects of success. But the police did not co-operate so Mr. Donoghue issued a pre-action disclosure application at court.

Northumbria Police denied liability for Mr. M’s claim. The force claimed that its officers had reasonable suspicion to search Mr. M, even though Mr. M’s complaint had been upheld.

Civil Proceedings Against the Police

The police’s denial of liability gave Kevin no alternative but to issue formal court proceedings on behalf of his client. Mr. M claimed compensation for his unlawful arrest & detention and the police assault.

In their defence the police re-stated their argument that they had acted lawfully.

The case proceeded towards trial.

Both parties exchanged things they intended to rely on and written witness evidence. The police disclosed CCTV footage and evidence from six police officers.

Mr. M and his daughter’s evidence was scant by comparison. But Mr. Donoghue took the view that the initial approach taken by the police was wrong. He was sure Mr. M was right to make a claim. So Kevin pursued the case to trial on a “no win no fee” basis.

Result

Northumbria Police stood by their denial of liability. But, on the eve of the trial, negotiations resulted in a breakthrough. Mr. M and Northumbria Police agreed terms.

The police paid full compensation and legal costs despite denying liability. The settlement meant that Mr. M got the justice he deserved.

Contact us for help with your civil action against the police here.