Our solicitors specialising in actions against the police took over a seemingly hopeless case from another law firm and helped a pensioner recover £13,000 compensation plus legal costs.
This case study shows that, when it comes to actions against the police (and those acting with police-like powers) it pays to use an expert.
Background to Claim
“Bob” (name changed), a 73-year-old disabled man, ran an animal sanctuary. One day he went to his local supermarket in his van, which had large “animal sanctuary” lettering and pictures of animals on it. There were several dogs in the van, including a Jack Russell terrier.
He parked in the car park and opened the van’s sliding door. A group of children gathered around. One young boy looked inside and said that he recognised his own dog, “Jack”. Bob told him he was mistaken as the dog was from the sanctuary. He closed and locked the door and went into the supermarket.
While inside the store Bob noticed a man trying to break into his van. He rushed outside and confronted the man. The man said that Bob had his dog in the van. Bob asked the man why he thought this. He did not have a proper response. So Bob patiently explained that the man was mistaken, that the dogs were from the sanctuary, and that as the van doors were shut, the man had not seen any of the dogs anyway. He then went back inside to finish his shopping.
When Bob returned to the van he was stopped by a supermarket security guard. The guard told Bob that he had been accused of a crime, that the police had been called, and that he had to stay at the store until they arrived.
Bob, who knew he had done nothing wrong, asked what crime was alleged to have been committed. When the guard failed to answer Bob opened the door and began loading his shopping into the van. The guard slammed the van’s sliding door shut.
The shop security guard was joined by a colleague and, when Bob climbed up on to the driver’s side step to leave, they grabbed both of his arms from behind and pulled him backwards off the step.
By this time one or two more security guards had arrived. The guards man-handled Bob with force, pushing his arms behind his back, making a pre-existing shoulder injury worse. During the violent assault the guards also aggravated a meniscus tear in his right knee, and were verbally and physically abusive.
In front of a crowd of onlookers Bob was dragged into the store and taken to a room normally reserved for shoplifters. He was kept there until the police arrived.
Bob explained to the police that all the dogs in the van were his. The police officers checked with the boy, who told them that his dog was a male and had gone missing six months before. As the Jack Russell in Bob’s van was a female, it was clear that the boy was mistaken and they ordered Bob’s immediate release.
Bob, who is a man of good character, was held at the supermarket for about an hour. Upset at his treatment, he instructed a firm of solicitors to claim compensation.
What Bob’s Former Solicitors Did Wrong
Bob’s previous solicitors specialised in accident claims, not actions against the police. This meant that they lacked the necessary expertise to win these complex cases. Among other things, they
- wrote to the supermarket just claiming compensation for assault/ battery
- got an unfavourable medical report which should not have been relied upon to prove the claim
- forwarded the medical report to the insurers. Understandably, they refused to settle the claim.
Over a year after he instructed his previous solicitors, Bob’s claim was dead in the water. Frustrated, he searched the internet for solicitors who specialise in actions against the police and contacted Donoghue Solicitors for help.
Case Review by Actions Against the Police Specialist Solicitors
Our Solicitor Director, Kevin Donoghue, took full instructions from Bob and immediately saw why the claim was going nowhere:
- Because Bob’s previous solicitors were not specialists in actions against the police they failed to realise that, as well as his claim for assault/ battery, Bob also had a claim for false imprisonment against the supermarket security staff. This is because false imprisonment claims are not limited to the police. They can also be brought against those acting with police-like powers, such as shop security staff, nightclub “bouncers”, airport security officers, public transport staff, court security etc.
- Also, proving that they too did not understand the law in civil actions against the police, the insurers responded to the previous solicitor’s letter by admitting breach of statutory duty, even though a claim for statutory duty didn’t exist. At that time, Bob’s claim was for the tort of assault/ battery only, so the admission was worthless and Kevin knew it could be disregarded if Bob’s claim progressed.
- He listened as Bob explained the problems with his medical evidence. As a member of the Police Action Lawyers Group, the Law Society’s expert Personal Injury Panel, and a Senior Litigator with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, Kevin believed that
- the instructions the medical expert received were inadequate,
- the expert was not appropriately chosen or qualified to provide the required opinions, and
- that the report did not adequately address causation (whether the assault caused or contributed to Bob’s injuries and current symptoms) or Bob’s ongoing issues including psychological effects.
Kevin was confident the unfavourable report could be replaced with better evidence to prove Bob’s case.
- Bob was upset that he had been publicly humiliated by the supermarket security staff. Kevin understood that he wanted more than just financial compensation, something which had not been considered by his previous solicitors. (Read our page on remedies in claims against the police to find out more about the options in these claims.)
How Solicitors Specialising in Actions Against the Police Put Things Right
Mr Donoghue told the supermarket’s insurers that he now had conduct of Bob’s case and explained the basis of the allegation of false imprisonment. He pointed out that Bob’s arrest and detention were unlawful according to s.24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984) as the security guards (who must comply with that law) did not have a reasonable suspicion that Bob was committing an indictable offence (theft).
This meant that Bob was entitled to compensation for:
- false imprisonment for the entire hour of detention
- aggravated damages for his injured feelings
- full damages for his assault/ battery, psychological effects, other financial losses, and out-of-pocket expenses.
(Read our page on how to calculate police abuse compensation to find out more.)
Perhaps realising they were out of their depth, the insurers instructed solicitors who specialise in defending actions against the police. As Mr Donoghue anticipated, they said that the supermarket would not be bound by their insurer’s earlier admission of liability. The supermarket’s solicitors claimed that the arrest was lawful as
- the security guards had reasonable grounds to suspect that Bob had committed theft
- one of the guards spoke to the police before arresting Bob and was told to detain him until the police arrived
- the guards used reasonable force to arrest Bob and prevent his escape.
Kevin informed the shop’s solicitors that
- his client disagreed with their interpretation of events
- he would not be relying on the previously disclosed (unfavourable) medical report
- Donoghue Solicitors intended to proceed with Bob’s case despite the denial.
Mr Donoghue also demanded and obtained CCTV footage. In his opinion the CCTV footage supported Bob’s version of events. Kevin felt that a jury would agree that the footage showed the security staff using excessive force and that Bob was not resisting arrest or trying to escape. Despite Kevin’s arguments, the supermarket’s solicitors refused to admit liability.
Court Proceedings in Claim Against a Supermarket
Mr Donoghue had no alternative but to prepare the case for trial. He instructed three specialist medical experts to report on Bob’s injuries and the psychological effects of the incident. Correctly chosen and instructed, this time the experts’ reports were supportive. He sent these, together with full details of Bob’s other losses to the supermarket’s solicitors and invited them to settle Bob’s claim. They refused, so Kevin issued court proceedings.
After they received the formal court documents the supermarket’s solicitors responded by again denying liability in their Defence. The court ordered that Bob’s case progress on the “multi-track”, which is reserved for high-value and/or complex matters, and is appropriate for actions against the police (and those acting with police-like powers).
Kevin issued an application at court for a jury trial and dealt with essential court papers, hearings, costs budgets, directions etc. The parties anticipated a three-day trial with at least six witnesses, medical experts, and counsel.
The potential costs, and stakes, were high. Bob’s case was a world away from being the run-of-the-mill personal injury claim his previous solicitors thought it was.
Eventually, the supermarket saw sense, and made an offer to settle Bob’s claim of £8,000. Kevin advised his client to reject it and sent a clear, and very detailed, explanation with a counter-offer. He also demanded that they admit liability, which was important to his client.
The Defendant solicitors then admitted liability and came up to £11,000, which Kevin again advised his client to reject.
Following further negotiations Kevin settled Bob’s claim for £13,000 plus full legal costs. This was an excellent settlement which meant that Bob was proven right and properly compensated for his false imprisonment, assault and battery at the hands of the supermarket security guards. He was glad that, second time around, he used solicitors specialising in actions against the police.
For help with your compensation claim against the police (or those acting with police-like powers) contact award-winning Donoghue Solicitors on 08000 124 246 or use the online form on this page. Don’t delay, strict time limits apply.