I used donoghue solicitors after a common assault and unlawful detentiin by the pollice. The case was 2 years old and yet they were still able to get the compensation I deserved. I felt they approached the issue from many angles in order to establish a list of mal practice procedures carried out by these public servants and left nothing to chance. Will definatley use again.
Client: Simon May from Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Claim: Civil Action Against the Police for:
- False Imprisonment
- Assault/ Battery
- Misfeasance in Public Office
Defendant: Chief Constable of Northumbria Police
Result: Maximum compensation paid plus legal costs.
Mr May has kindly allowed us to use his details. This account is based on his version of events, some of which is disputed.
Simon May had fallen on hard times. He was homeless despite having a job as an entertainer.
At about 8a.m. on 19 July 2016 Simon was asleep on a park bench. A Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) from Northumbria Police shook him awake.
The officer told Mr May that there was a Dispersal Order in effect in the area and that he could not sleep there.
- quickly sat up
- grabbed his belongings
- told the officer he would leave right away.
But the PCSO demanded Mr May’s personal details. He refused. He told the officer that he did not have to give her any information, and repeated that he would leave the park.
The officer was not satisfied. She radioed through to a police officer and told Simon he must wait. (Police Community Support Officers do not have the power of arrest. But they can detain people in certain circumstances.)
Simon (reasonably and correctly) felt that he had done nothing wrong. He refused to co-operate with what he felt was an unjustified demand. He also felt mistreated because he was homeless. They were at an impasse.
Mobile Phone Recording of Police Action
Mr May sensed that his day might be about to get worse. So, he got out his mobile phone and started video recording. He told the officer this was for his own safety.
He recorded the PCSO saying that Simon was not free to go because she required his details.
A police constable (PC) attended and the PCSO told her colleague what had happened. The PCSO said that she had received a phone call complaining about Simon’s presence in the park. The PC repeated the PCSO’s demand for details, saying:
“I need your details and if you don’t give me your details you will be arrested because it is actually an offence for you not to give the PCSO your details because we suspect you of being responsible for a recordable offence. So, you need to give your details now or you are going to be arrested, it’s up to you”.
The police officer, who did have the power to arrest, removed her handcuffs from her belt. Both officers then lunged at Simon. The constable got hold of his collar. The PCSO grabbed his right arm and knelt on Simon’s right thigh.
Simon was in pain and, fearing for his safety, supplied his details. The police checked his details on their system. The check came back clear, as Mr May expected.
Dispersal Order Notice Issued
The police then gave Simon a “Section 35 Dispersal Order Notice” “for being antisocial”. They told Mr May he could not return to the park and surrounding areas for 24 hours. Simon refused to sign the Notice because he felt it was wrongly issued.
In any event, the Dispersal Order Notice had no practical effect as Simon had told the PCSO he was going to leave anyway. He was going to work and told them where to clarify that it was outside the dispersal area.
Simon left the park about 15 minutes after the PCSO woke him.
Humiliating Police Conduct
But that was not the end of the story.
Later, the police went to Simon’s work and told his boss that Simon was sleeping on a park bench and was homeless. This shocked his employers. The police had humiliated and embarrassed Mr May. He felt unable to face his boss and left the job shortly afterwards.
Simon was angry and upset by what had happened. He was a vulnerable individual and felt victimised by the officers. He was also upset that police now had a record of the Dispersal Notice against his name.
It took Mr May more than two years to get to the point where he could do something about it.
Instructing Donoghue Solicitors to Sue Northumbria Police
Simon contacted Donoghue Solicitors in October 2018 after finding us on the internet. He spoke to Kemmi Alfa about bringing a claim because she specialises in civil actions against the police.
Kemmi reviewed Simon’s case with him. She wanted to find out if:
- the police were guilty of misconduct and, if so,
- whether Simon could bring a civil compensation claim.
Expert Analysis of Dispersal Order Notice Law
Mrs Alfa considered the law which applied in Simon’s case. She noted that there are two conditions officers must meet to use their dispersal powers under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act (2014):
(2) The first condition is that the constable has reasonable grounds to suspect that the behaviour of the person in the locality has contributed or is likely to contribute to—
(a)members of the public in the locality being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or
(b)the occurrence in the locality of crime or disorder.
(3)The second condition is that the constable considers that giving a direction to the person is necessary for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of the events mentioned in subsection (2)(a) or (b).
Simon told Kemmi that he was merely sleeping on a bench. In Kemmi’s opinion this “behaviour” did not meet the conditions in the Act or justify the police’s actions both in:
- demanding Simon’s details, which they were not entitled to do under this anti-social behaviour Act, and
- issuing the Dispersal Order Notice.
And, in Mrs Alfa’s opinion, the police officer’s actions were not based on a reasonable suspicion that Simon had committed an offence for which he could lawfully be detained/ imprisoned. (Read more about that here.) This meant that Mr May could argue that the police’s detention was unlawful false imprisonment.
So, Simon could also bring compensation claims for:
– assault/ battery. (Bruises to the right thigh caused by the PC kneeling on him.)
-arguably, misfeasance in public office. (For the officers’ abuse of power by threatening to handcuff Mr May and telling his employer about Simon’s circumstances.)
Mrs Alfa reviewed the case with Donoghue Solicitors’ director, Kevin Donoghue. Mr Donoghue agreed with her legal analysis. He agreed to take Simon’s claim on a conditional fee (no win no fee) agreement basis.
How Donoghue Solicitors Pursued Simon’s Legal Claim Against Northumbria Police
Simon’s legal team worked rapidly. They were mindful of time limits for bringing civil compensation claims.
They knew that they only had about six months to complete all pre-action procedures and, if required, issue court proceedings to protect Simon’s civil claim.
With Simon’s help, his lawyers sent a formal Letter of Claim in November 2018.
The Letter of Claim laid out the case and demanded:
- an admission of liability, or if not, a formal denial with reasons, and
- documents, including the Dispersal Order referred to by the PCSO.
This information would help Simon find out more about his prospects of success. The letter required a response within the time limits set under the Civil Procedure Rules Pre-Action Protocol for Personal Injury Claims. This mattered because of the fast- approaching limitation date.
Civil Court Proceedings
Northumbria Police did not respond within time. So, Donoghue Solicitors kept the pressure on. The lawyers issued a Pre-Action Disclosure Application at court to force a response.
This had the desired effect. The police produced documents and made an offer to settle.
Kevin and Kemmi considered the police’s evidence and the settlement proposal with their client. The offer was too low, and they recommended that Simon reject it. And the police still had not said if they accepted liability or sent all the required documents.
Time was running out, so the lawyers:
- issued “protective proceedings” at court to preserve his claim
- responded to the police’s offer by rejecting it
- made a counteroffer which the police rejected. The police merely reiterated their earlier offer.
How the Particulars of Claim Set Out Simon’s Case
The parties were unable to agree settlement terms. So, Simon and his lawyers prepared his case for trial. He approved the Particulars of Claim, which described the case in legal terms.
In that document Simon formally made allegations detailed in the Letter of Claim. He backed them up with a signed statement of truth, confirming that he believed the facts stated were true. Simon described how the police detained him from the moment the PCSO woke him until the officers told him to leave. This detention was unlawful false imprisonment because:
- the PSCO had no legal power to detain him, and
- neither officer could hold him for anti-social behaviour.
He also sought compensation for assault/ battery because:
- when the police officer removed her handcuffs Simon felt threatened that she would use them on him (an assault)
- both officers lunged at him (assault again)
- the PC took hold of his collar (battery)
- the PCSO grabbed Simon by the arm and knelt on his right thigh, causing pain, discomfort, and bruising (battery).
These were all “basic” damages claims. Simon also sought aggravated damages for the police’s arbitrary, high-handed, and oppressive actions. He argued that their actions were an affront to his dignity, and that he felt victimised, humiliated, and distressed. In particular, he:
- described the police’s approach to his employer as “spiteful”
- noted that the Chief Constable had not apologised for the misconduct of his officers.
Kevin served the signed Particulars of Claim on the police and demanded a formal response. The two Northumbria Police officers would have to account for their actions in court unless the force reconsidered its position.
How the Result Justified Simon’s Decision to Sue the Police
Despite Northumbria Police’s approach, Kevin and Kemmi were optimistic that Simon could get justice. They felt that he had a strong legal case and that the mobile phone recording Simon made would be useful evidence if his case went to trial. With his lawyer’s help, Simon made another offer to settle his claim.
The police accepted this second offer and ended the case. Mr May received full compensation plus legal costs. Simon knew that he had done the right thing by standing up for his rights against the police. The settlement proved it.