Fantastic job by Donoghue Solicitors. They are a very good company and they keep you in the loop and give you the guidance you need. My case was well handled and explained to me as well I felt like I was part of the legal team because of the constant updating regarding the case. Perfect!
Client: Suleiman Mirvais from London
Claim: Data Protection Breach Claim, False Imprisonment, Assault/ Battery, Breaches of the Human Rights Act, and Trespass Claim Against the Police
Claimant’s lawyer: Kevin Donoghue, solicitor
Defendant: Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (a.k.a. Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police)
Result: Substantial compensation paid plus legal costs.
Mr Mirvais has kindly allowed us to use his details. This account is based on his version of events, some of which is disputed.
Sulemain Mirvais, aged 20, lived with his parents, younger brother, and sister on the ground floor of a two-storey rental property in London.
At 6:10a.m. on a July morning in 2017 the family were asleep at home. Sulemain was on the couch in the living room.
They were awoken by a loud bang, followed by shouting, as police officers forced entry and stormed their home.
The family were separated.
A police officer handcuffed and searched Sulemain and ordered him to stay in the living room.
His mother, who does not speak English, was escorted back into her bedroom, where she was kept with Sulemain’s younger sister. (Her husband had already left for work.) Sulemain’s brother was kept in his bedroom.
The police told Sulemain that they “had a warrant to search the property”. He had no idea why.
The Metropolitan Police officers carried out a full search of the premises over the next half hour. They repeatedly asked Mr Mirvais if he had access to the first floor of the property. Each time he responded that the top-floor accommodation was separate premises. It was occupied by different tenants and had its own entrance at the side of the house.
After half an hour the police finished the search and released the family.
As the police left a female officer gave Sulemain a copy of the search warrant. It said that the warrant was issued by court order and authorised under s.24 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
Police Search Warrant Aftermath
The family was understandably shocked and distressed by what had happened. They had no idea why the police executed a search warrant on their home. Sulemain had been handcuffed for no reason. He wasn’t going anywhere and caused no trouble during the search.
Their upset was made worse when the family went through their home. It was a mess. The police
- – damaged the front door
- – pulled up carpets
- – ripped cupboard doors off their hinges
- – threw paperwork all over the place.
Because they rented their home Sulemain and his family worried about involving their landlord and risking their security deposit.
The worst thing was how the police treated the practising Muslim families’ prayer mats. Officers damaged and trampled on them, leaving footprints. This was an affront to their dignity and religious beliefs.
Traumatic Effects of the Police Search
Sulemain felt especially humiliated by the “horrific experience”. Even though he was not taken to a police station, he had been treated like a common criminal. His family’s privacy and sanctuary had been violated. He could not stop the police from inflicting harm and pain on them.
Mr Mirvais described what happened as a “disaster”. He feared a repeat and became uncomfortable talking to the police. The dawn raid left a lasting impression. It caused him physical pain from the handcuffing, sleepless nights, and diagnosed psychological effects.
Police Search Warrant Error
Sulemain might have felt powerless when the police invaded his home, but he wasn’t after they had gone.
He later learned that a tenant who occupied the premises above was arrested for drug possession.
Despite now knowing why the police raided the property, Sulemain still felt that the officers had abused their power in effecting the search warrant.
Mr Mirvais said:
“I do not believe anyone should experience what we did.”
- – to find out what went wrong
- – for the police to learn lessons
- – compensation for the suffering he had endured.
Search for Solicitors to Sue the Police
Sulemain searched the internet for legal advice to bring a civil action against the police and came across Donoghue Solicitors. He saw that we represent people throughout England and Wales and got in touch.
Kevin wrote to the Metropolitan Police with full details of his client’s claim. He also demanded that the police preserve records which might help prove Mr Mirvais’ claim. These included a copy of the search warrant application and the warrant itself, statements, the intelligence report, incident report books, search records, and body worn video footage.
Mr Donoghue explained in legal terms to the police that his client would claim compensation for:
- – false imprisonment,
- – assault/battery,
- – breaches of Articles 5 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights hence a breach of section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998,
- – breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 and
- – negligence.
As well as financial compensation, Kevin sought a formal apology from the police, and, if the matter settled before trial, a statement to be read in open court. (Claimants often seek other remedies as well as damages in civil actions against the police.)
The parties adopted the appropriate Civil Procedure Rules Pre-Action Protocol, which allowed the police time to investigate the claim and give their views on liability.
Mr Donoghue noted that the limitation period for Sulemain’s human rights claim was due to expire during the investigation period. So, he preserved his client’s claim by agreeing an extension with the police’s legal representatives while they continued their own investigations.
The Search Warrant Law Application Procedure Followed By the Metropolitan Police
Once the Metropolitan Police had finished their investigations, they denied liability and refused to compensate Sulemain. The police’s lawyers defended their officers on the basis that officers had followed the correct search warrant procedure under Code of Practice B of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and used police powers lawfully.
They sent documents in support which, they claimed, showed that
- – the police used due diligence and care in preparing the application
- – the police gave a formal statement and provided the Magistrates with the information needed to form a decision to issue the search warrant.
- – the search warrant was obtained from the Magistrates Court on the understanding that the police had grounds to suspect criminal activity at the property.
- – the Magistrates Court was informed that the warrant sought to enter, and search, premises was limited to the search for controlled substances and articles used to produce, supply and distribute them.
- – the police requested permission to search and seize property under the appropriate law (section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971).
- officers sought the court’s permission to enter and search what they believed was a single-family home (a four-bedroom house with a loft conversion).
- – the warrant to enter and search was executed within a month of issue.
The police’s lawyers sent signed statements from the officers involved. The Police Sergeant in charge claimed in her statement that she was aware that the property might have been split into two homes. She said that when they conducted the raid she split her team up to seek entry through both the front and side doors to deal with this possibility.
But, the lawyers argued, the Metropolitan Police only became certain that the searched home was two properties during the search, and that Land Registry records state it is one property.
They also said Sulemain’s detention was necessary to allow officers to conduct the search, and that he was only detained long enough to effect it.
Mr Donoghue reviewed everything with Sulemain.
Mr Mirvais was confused about the police’s denial of liability. It was obvious to him that there were two separate properties. They had rented the home through a registered estate agent and signed a formal tenancy agreement. And his family paid their own bills, including council tax, gas, and electricity.
But, as Mr Donoghue explained, the police’s defence still had merit.
The landlord appeared to have split the property into two rentals without informing the Land Registry. Online searches suggested that there was only one home. It was not obvious how the property had been converted because the other entrance was to the side of the building, not at the front.
Kevin warned Sulemain that the court may have sympathy with the police’s position. If a judge accepted that the police obtained and executed the search warrant lawfully, then they would successfully defend Mr Mirvais’ civil action.
At this point a less-experienced lawyer might have given up.
The police’s case was strong. They intended to defend Sulemain’s claim and refused to compensate him. The Metropolitan Police have virtually unlimited resources. They could afford to dig in for a long fight to protect their reputation.
But Kevin Donoghue has nearly 20 years’ experience in fighting actions against the police. He’s overcome worse odds before.
So Mr Donoghue calmly reviewed the documents the police sent with their denial. He noticed that the police had missed key items, including intelligence reports and body worn video footage.
Kevin demanded, and obtained, the further disclosure.
On reviewing the complete documents, Mr Donoghue noted that the police only had a search warrant for the property, not a warrant to search people at the property.
This meant that, even if the police searched the property lawfully, they acted unlawfully when they handcuffed, detained, and searched Mr Mirvais while effecting the search warrant.
Kevin discussed his findings with Sulemain.
He explained that, in his professional opinion, the police acted outside of their lawful powers. The officers’ failure to make sure the warrant included a power to search the person was a basic error. Surely the police would have anticipated that people would be at the property during a dawn raid? Isn’t that the point?
With Mr Mirvais agreement, Mr Donoghue began “without prejudice” discussions with the police’s lawyers to settle the claim.
They accepted Kevin’s point and made an offer to settle. The solicitor reviewed it with his client and rejected it. He made a counter-Part 36 offer (an offer on strict legal terms) to settle his client’s claim. The Metropolitan Police agreed.
Kevin’s settlement proposal meant that the Metropolitan Police paid double their initial offer in compensation together with full legal costs.
- – thrilled that his police warrant claim had settled and that he did not have to go to court
- – glad to find out what had happened and why the Metropolitan Police breached established search warrant law
- – satisfied that the police were held accountable and hoped that they would learn lessons from the incident.
His family were relieved too. They knew the police raid was nothing to do with them. Mr Mirvais’ compensation award helped prove it.