Client: “Deborah”, a criminal defence solicitor (name changed at her request)
Claim: Civil Action Against the Police for False Imprisonment, Police Assault/ Battery, Trespass. Deborah also sought removal of police biometric data (including photographs, DNA, and fingerprints) and deletion of relevant Police National Computer entries.
Claimant’s solicitor: Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors
Defendant: Chief Constable of West Mercia Police
Outcome: Removal of biometric data and Police National Computer records, financial compensation, legal costs.
Deborah was an experienced criminal defence solicitor and woman of good character. As well as representing people at court, in her work as a “duty solicitor” she assisted people at police stations in her local area.
She worked as an independent consultant for a law firm. After Deborah stopped working with the firm her former employer contacted the police. She said Deborah had withheld money paid to her by one of the firm’s clients and alleged theft.
5 months after the alleged theft police arrested Deborah at home. They searched the house and took her to a local police station, where she regularly represented people in her work as a solicitor. Deborah was processed (or “booked in”) at the station. She felt humiliated standing before the Custody Officer hearing the serious allegation of theft. They took photographs, a DNA sample, and fingerprints. Deborah’s details and the reason for arrest were recorded for the Police National Computer.
The police detained Deborah in a cell before interviewing her under caution about the theft allegation. Deborah denied it and was bailed on the condition that she have no contact with her former firm or anyone there. The police detained her for over 5 hours that day.
Nearly 4 months’ later police contacted Deborah to confirm that they would take “No Further Action”.
Deborah was upset about what had happened. As well as the stress of the arrest, search, interview, and investigation, she had worried about her spotless personal and professional reputation. If proven, dishonesty allegations such as theft can have life-changing consequences for solicitors, who can be “struck off” as a result. The circumstances of arrest, detention, and interview were humiliating. She was concerned that her biometric data had been taken and details of the matter were recorded on the Police National Computer. This might affect her future employment prospects given the serious nature of the allegations.
Determined to act, Deborah contacted Donoghue Solicitors for help.
What We Did
Solicitor Kevin Donoghue reviewed Deborah’s case and agreed to act on a “no win no fee” basis. He sent a Letter of Claim to the police arguing that the arrest and detention were unlawful and/or that the arrest was not necessary. Kevin said that Deborah was entitled to compensation for false imprisonment, assault/ battery, and trespass because of the alleged wrongful arrest. He also demanded that the police destroy her biometric data and delete the relevant records on the Police National Computer (“PNC”).
The police denied liability. The Force’s solicitor said that, in their opinion, the arrest was lawful and necessary to “allow for the prompt investigation of the offence”, and to enable the investigating officers to effect a search of Deborah’s home for evidence.
Mr Donoghue discussed matters with his client. She was disappointed in the police’s response but determined to proceed. In response to the police’s denial of liability, Kevin pointed out that the conditions for arrest in s. 24(5) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (as amended) were not met. These state reasons a police officer can arrest someone without a warrant as:
(a)to enable the name of the person in question to be ascertained (in the case where the constable does not know, and cannot readily ascertain, the person’s name, or has reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name given by the person as his name is his real name);
(b)correspondingly as regards the person’s address;
(c)to prevent the person in question—
(i)causing physical injury to himself or any other person;
(ii)suffering physical injury;
(iii)causing loss of or damage to property;
(iv)committing an offence against public decency (subject to subsection (6)); or
(v)causing an unlawful obstruction of the highway;
(d)to protect a child or other vulnerable person from the person in question;
(e)to allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question;
(f)to prevent any prosecution for the offence from being hindered by the disappearance of the person in question.
Kevin pointed out that:
- The arresting officer knew Deborah’s name and arrest (dealing with grounds(a) and (b))
- Grounds (c) and (d) did not apply in this situation
- There was no reason to believe ground (e) would apply either. The alleged offence happened 5 months’ earlier, so arrest was not necessary to effect a prompt
He also reminded the police that his client was of good character and a solicitor. She would have attended a pre-arranged voluntary interview if given the opportunity.
In summary, he felt that the police’s decision to arrest Deborah was flawed, giving rise to his client’s claim for damages.
Kevin made a “Part 36” offer to settle Deborah’s compensation claim and again demanded that his client’s biometric data and Police National Computer records were deleted.
Settling the Claim and Removing Police Biometric Data
Following Mr Donoghue’s representations, the police agreed to settle Deborah’s claim for the full amount claimed, and pay her legal costs.
The Force also confirmed that Deborah’s biometric data was destroyed, and relevant Police National Computer entries deleted.
And with that, Deborah received compensation for her actions against the police claim, cleared her name, and preserved her excellent personal and professional reputation.