An error on the police national computer (pnc) resulted in a £5,000 compensation claim for an innocent man.
Call Kevin on 08000 124 246 (or complete the online form on this page) if you want to claim compensation after an arrest due to an error on the police national computer.
Error on the Police National Computer UK
Asim’s compensation claim came about because of an error on the police national computer. His first name, Asim, was confused on the pnc with another person (Azim) who had the same last name.
Aside from the similarity in their names, the two men had nothing in common:
- their dates of birth were different- our client Asim was born more than 3 ½ years after Azim; and
- he had a clean driving licence. Unfortunately for him, Azim did not: he had been convicted and disqualified from driving.
The police national computer error meant that Azim’s conviction and disqualification was wrongly recorded against our client’s name.
Police Check the Police National Computer
Bedfordshire Police stopped Asim on four separate occasions after running automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) checks on his car followed by a police national computer search.
They questioned Asim about the pnc record on numerous occasions:
1. in February 2011 at home. Asim called the DVLA after this visit and confirmed that he was entitled to drive. (Their computer system is separate to the police national computer in the UK.);
2. in March 2011, while driving between Luton and Dunstable. Asim was pulled over by a police car and detained for 1-1.5 hours while he again called the DVLA and got the operator to speak to the police officer and confirm there was an error;
3. in June 2011, when driving in Luton. This time he was pulled over and detained for 1 hour 20 minutes while the police officer made enquiries with the DVLA himself;
4. when Asim went to Luton Police Station 4-5 days after being pulled over in June;
5. on 16 August 2011 when driving in Luton, Asim was detained for nearly an hour while he explained the recent history and his information was checked.
In total, because of an error on the police national computer (pnc), Asim was detained by Bedfordshire Police on four occasions and made one visit to the police station.
Solicitor Who Deals with Police National Computer Claims
Asim contacted Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors, on 17 August after the last detention. He:
- was worried that he was going to be repeatedly detained;
- wanted help to correct the police national computer record; and
- wanted to find out if he was entitled to make a compensation claim.
Kevin Donoghue has over 15 years’ experience in dealing with actions against the police. He considered that:
1. the detentions were unlawful arrests (also called ‘false imprisonment’) as there was no reason for his client (Asim) to have his record marked with the convicted man’s (Azim) offence on the police national computer (PNC), and/ or;
2. Bedfordshire Police could be liable in law for circulating or failing to remove the incorrect information on the PNC.
Donoghue Solicitors agreed to act under a conditional fee agreement (CFA) on a “no win no fee” basis.
Police National Computer Compensation Claim
Mr. Donoghue moved quickly to start Asim’s compensation claim against Bedfordshire Police. He sent them a formal letter of claim only five days after being instructed to act.
In it, Kevin Donoghue alleged that:
- Bedfordshire Police were negligent;
- they had breached their duty to ensure the efficient and effective support for the administration of justice and/ or;
- the Force were in breach of their duties under the Data Protection Act.
After investigation, Bedfordshire Police instructed their agents to deny liability. They said that:
- the offender on record had the same address and date of birth as our client, Asim;
- Asim was not arrested or detained on any occasion; and
- the PNC information was not incorrect as the disqualified driver had given Asim’s details.
They asked that Asim attend the police station and provide his fingerprints to clear up the confusion.
Kevin responded by pointing out that the dates of birth for the two men were different and asked for evidence in support of the denial.
In the meantime, given the information provided in Bedfordshire Police’s denial of liability, Mr. Donoghue sent a letter of claim to the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) who ran the police national computer (PNC) at the time. (It is now run by the Home Office.)
He reasoned that the DVLA must have had the correct information recorded, as proven by the times Asim and the Bedfordshire Police patrol officers called them to check Asim’s details.
On that basis, if the DVLA gave the correct information to the NPIA, the error must have been made by that Agency when inputting the details into the police national computer.
Claim for Error on Police National Computer
In the letter of claim to the NPIA, the solicitor noted that it was responsible for delivering and maintaining the police national computer (PNC) in the UK. As a result, the NPIA was:
- negligent and/or;
- in breach of its duty to ensure the efficient and effective support for the administration of justice and/or;
- in breach of its duties under the Data Protection Act.
Strangely, both the Treasury Solicitor and the Metropolitan Police Service (“the Met”) responded to the claim.
The Treasury Solicitor (on behalf of the NPIA) denied liability. They said that:
- the police national computer (pnc) is updated with no involvement of the NPIA;
- NPIA is merely the system provider and makes the PNC available to its users, so it was not responsible for the content of the data held on the PNC within each force, and that;
- the Chief Constable of each force is the Data Controller under the Data Protection Act.
The Treasury Solicitor blamed the Metropolitan Police Service saying that the PNC record of “disqualified driver” against Asim’s personal details was entered by the Metropolitan Police Service. They suggested that Donoghue Solicitors contact the Metropolitan Police Service direct.
Shortly afterwards, the Met’s solicitor called Kevin Donoghue and said that they had also received the letter of claim addressed to the NPIA.
Explaining why two government bodies responded to the letter to the NPIA, the Met’s solicitor said that they may need to provide an indemnity to the NPIA to deal with the claim, or that the Met may have to deal with it alone.
Later the Metropolitan Police’s solicitor confirmed that they had reviewed liability and that, off-the-record, they would recommend making an offer of £3,000-£3,500 for the four times Asim had been stopped by the police.
Kevin Donoghue agreed to discuss this potential offer with his client.
Before he could do so, Asim called his solicitor saying he had been stopped again. The police said it was “random”. Asim disagreed.
This complicated matters as the original offer had to be re-considered.
Legal Argument in this PNC Claim
Meanwhile, Bedfordshire Police came back on the scene. They maintained their denial, saying that the record (on which their officers relied) was created by the Metropolitan Police Service.
They referred to the Court of Appeal ruling in Hough-v-CC of Staffordshire which confirmed that detention for one hour was considered reasonable for the police to make enquiries due to an entry on the PNC. They also said that, whilst the police had the power to arrest, they did not do so due to a thorough investigation each time.
The Hough case raised an interesting legal point: was Asim arrested while the police checked the PNC? If not, he had no compensation claim for false imprisonment.
Bedfordshire Police’s argument was that Asim was not actually imprisoned as he was neither arrested nor handcuffed. On each occasion he sat in the rear of the police vehicle and made no attempt to leave.
But, on Asim’s behalf, Kevin Donoghue argued that his client felt compelled to remain with the police even though he wasn’t under arrest. As such he was effectively imprisoned.
(The mid- 19th century case of Warner v Riddiford (1858) shows that detention short of actual arrest may constructively amount to a complete deprivation of liberty. For example, where the detainee is told or is led to believe that he or she is obliged to remain to assist the Police.)
Also, the Hough case meant that the police potentially had a good defence while investigating the PNC record for up to one hour. Asim accepted that only some of his detentions exceeded that time, so potentially reducing the value of his compensation claim against the police.
As these legal arguments show, compensation claims against the police are rarely straightforward and need an expert solicitor’s legal help if they are to succeed.
Settlement of This Police National Computer Arrest Claim
A month later the Met’s solicitors offered to settle Asim’s police national computer compensation claim for £3500 plus costs.
Asim’s barrister thought that the offer was very good and should be accepted, but Kevin Donoghue discussed it with his client, who agreed to authorise his solicitor to negotiate further.
Following negotiations, Kevin Donoghue persuaded the Metropolitan Police to increase their offer from £3,500 to £5,000 plus legal costs. He also ensured that the police national computer was updated to correct the error.
Asim was delighted with the outcome which gave him:
- proof that he was wrongly targeted as a result of an error on the police national computer;
- peace of mind that he would not be stopped by the police again; and
- valuable compensation.
If you would like to make a police national computer compensation claim contact Kevin Donoghue, a solicitor who specialises in compensation claims against the police, on 08000 124 246 or complete the online form on this page.