On 28 April 2012 Essex Police conducted an unlawful police raid on a flat in Rifle Hill, Braintree, Essex.
This case study explains what happens when the police get it wrong; both initially during the police raid, and afterwards when handling the fallout.
Unlawful Police Raid
RL is a car salesman who lives with his mother in an Essex flat. They are both hard-working people with no criminal connections.
On Saturday afternoon he was at home relaxing with his girlfriend when they heard noises in the hallway.
Suddenly the front door of the flat burst open. Without warning, police forced their way in using a battering ram.
Two officers jumped on RL, handcuffed and searched him, and marched him into the living room. His terrified girlfriend was also handcuffed and escorted there. The police ordered the couple to sit down while they brought in sniffer dogs and conducted a full search.
After 1 hour 20 minutes the officers were satisfied that there were no drugs or other criminal property and left.
Police Raid Publicity
Four days later, Braintree & Witham Times published details of the police raid (shown in the picture above). The front page headline read “30 police storm homes in Rifle Hill drugs blitz” next to a picture of police using a battering ram to force open RL’s front door. There was also a blurred image on the front page, showing a man being led away. A caption next to the image of the man being led away said “A suspected drug dealer is led away (left) following raids by police in Rifle Hill, Braintree.”
The full story, titled “Arrests after police bust suspected drug dens” was published in a prominent place in the newspaper at the top of page 3. (See below.) The article explained that the police arrested two men on suspicion of intent to supply drugs after four police drugs busts.
It said “Police also forced entry into a third flat in Rifle Hill, but no arrests were made at the property and no drugs were found.”
The third flat in the story was RL’s. It was shown in both photographs, with the front page one clearly showing the house number “38”. The photographs of RL’s flat were published even though the police knew that there were no drugs or criminal activity there after Saturday’s raid.
District commander Chief Inspector Nick Lee’s statement sought to justify the police raid at RL’s flat. He said, “Once we were on the scene, further information was brought to our attention about the possibility of drug use in one of the other properties and we acted spontaneously to investigate whether there were any drugs in that property.” The article also directed readers to an internet link with video footage of the police raid.
Mr. L was incensed at the images of the police raid on his home and the Chief Inspector’s statement that there was “the possibility of drug use” in his flat. He was rightly angry at the unwarranted police raid and worried for his job and relationships as his employers, friends, and family all knew where he lived.
RL complained to Essex Police and met with an Inspector. The officer quoted in the paper apologised for the “genuine mistake” in raiding RL’s home, but not for:
- the heavy-handed way the police conducted the raid;
- allowing the media to publicise the raid on RL’s flat even though the police knew he was innocent four days before the newspaper published the story; or
- the tone of his statement to the paper.
The Chief Inspector also failed to tell RL why he did not clarify his statement before publication, or offer to make a statement to the press afterwards to set the record straight.
Feeling deeply upset, ignored, dissatisfied at the police’s response, and worried about the damage done to his reputation, RL contacted Kevin Donoghue for advice.
Mr. Donoghue, a solicitor who specialises in actions against police forces throughout England and Wales, investigated RL’s claim and agreed to represent him under a “no win no fee” agreement.
Police Compensation Claim
Kevin Donoghue started his client’s actions against the police compensation claim for:
- trespass to property;
- breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) (which ensures a person’s right to respect for his private and family life);
- false imprisonment; and
- assault and battery.
He told the police that the publication of images showing RL’s home was extremely distressing, embarrassing, and highly defamatory. Mr. Donoghue also demanded that the police make a full apology in the Braintree and Witham Times.
After investigations and pressure from Donoghue Solicitors, Essex Police admitted that the search of RL’s flat was unlawful, that they had breached Article 8 of the ECHR, and that they falsely imprisoned and assaulted him. But they denied responsibility for the newspaper editor’s decision to publish the photographs. The police offered to publish an apology with agreed wording and offered £1,500 compensation.
Mr. Donoghue reviewed the offer with his client. In his opinion it was insufficient as the police refused to pay aggravated damages, which compensate the claimant for additional humiliation, suffering, and injuries to feelings; and did not compensate RL for the psychological upset caused by the traumatic police raid.
Kevin Donoghue rejected the offer. He demanded the police officers’ notebooks and other evidence to clarify their version of events and, because RL was still dealing with the psychological effects of the incident, arranged for a medical expert assessment.
The psychologist’s report confirmed that RL suffered an adjustment disorder and mild situational anxiety, particularly when meeting police officers. The doctor anticipated a recovery within two years of the unlawful police raid.
Police Raid Compensation Negotiations
Essex Police raised their offer to £2,250, saying that this amount was “the limit of our instructions”. Kevin advised RL to carefully consider it because, if he rejected the offer (which was made on a “Part 36” basis) and failed to beat it at trial, he would be responsible for the police’s legal costs from 21 days after it was made. This would have wiped out his compensation.
Despite this risk, Mr. Donoghue advised his client that the legal authorities were in his favour and that he was confident they would recover more in court. RL rejected the offer and Kevin explained in detail to Essex Police why it was insufficient. He invited them to reconsider, making a Part 36 offer of his own to seek agreement.
The police increased their offer yet again, this time to £3,500. It included £750 for aggravated damages which they now agreed to pay. This was another so-called “final offer” which “will not be increased.” They made the offer on a Part 36 basis again, so that RL was at risk if he rejected it.
Kevin reviewed this third offer with RL and advised him to keep going. Mr. Donoghue issued court proceedings to take the case to trial but kept the negotiation channels open. Following further discussions the parties agreed on £4,000 compensation plus legal costs, some £2,500 more than Essex Police’s first offer.
This was an excellent settlement and RL was very happy with the compensation he received. He did not have to go to court and, as well as the money, he received a full apology and acknowledgement of the upset and humiliation caused by Essex Police’s conduct both during and after their unlawful police raid.
If you have suffered due to an unlawful police raid and want to claim compensation, contact Donoghue Solicitors on 08000 124 246 or complete the online form on this page.
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