Why Thames Valley Police Apologised and Paid Compensation

‘A great result’ – client

Overview:

Client: “Alan Jones” from Berkshire

Claim: Civil action against the police for false imprisonment and assault/ battery

Claimant’s lawyer: Kevin Donoghue, solicitor director at Donoghue Solicitors

Defendant: Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police

Result: Compensation, written apology, meeting with Head of Professional Standards of Thames Valley Police, destruction of personal data if required.

What Happened?

“Alan Jones” (client details anonymised at his request) is a high-achieving professional with no previous criminal convictions. He’s a Chartered Engineer and Licensed Accountant. He has been issued with official government security clearance for his work with the Ministry of Defence, Home Office, NHS etc.

In October 2016 Alan was out in Central London after work. He had a few drinks with colleagues and, at about 11.20pm, took a black cab taxi home.

He’d done this route before and warned the driver not to miss his turn off. If he did they would end up on the motorway, adding miles to the trip.

The taxi driver didn’t listen. This contributed to the metered fare of nearly £120, almost double the usual fare. Mr Jones offered the driver £60.

The cab driver refused, locked the taxi’s doors, and called the police. Alan was not happy but sat patiently while the police arrived.

Two police constable officers from Thames Valley Police showed up. (Thames Valley Police cover Berkshire. You can see their policing area here.) Both the driver and Alan explained the situation. The police suggested Alan should pay £80. Alan said he was willing to pay £60. He cooperated with the police as they dealt with the situation. He even gave them his photocard Driving Licence so they could record his details.

The officers contacted a sergeant to discuss their options. They then

  • arrested Mr Jones for “basically dishonesty”, as the arresting officer described it
  • handcuffed him
  • searched Mr Jones and emptied his pockets
  • put him in the back of a police car.

Alan assessed the situation. He was sure he had done nothing wrong. This was a civil dispute between him and the taxi driver after all. But Mr Jones worried that the police officers were going to take him in to custody and charge him with a serious criminal offence. A dishonesty offence on his record would harm his security clearance, future employment, and professional accreditations.

The difference between his offer to the taxi driver, and what the police suggested he pay, was only £20. It wasn’t worth it.

He reluctantly agreed to pay £80 for the cab fare. The police took the money from Alan’s wallet and gave it to the cab driver, along with Alan’s personal details. The driver did not give Alan a receipt and left.

The officers de-arrested him seven to eight minutes later. (Read the BBC’s explanation of what this means here.)

Alan asked for the taxi driver’s details so he could make a formal complaint to the taxi licensing authorities. The officers failed to give that information.

Thames Valley Police Complaint

Mr Jones was incensed at Thames Valley Police’s handling of the matter. He filed a police complaint the day after the incident. The police’s Professional Standards Department found that

  • the officer’s grounds for arrest were lawful
  • there was no misconduct
  • it advised mere “management action” for the officers involved.

(The investigation report raised a separate issue about the use of Body Worn Cameras. It noted that the arresting officer only switched on his Body Worn Camera when Alan agreed to pay £80. And the police constable failed to keep this footage, even though Mr Jones filed his police complaint almost immediately. This raises questions about the police’s control of their Body Worn Cameras, something which you can read more about here.)

Alan appealed the Professional Standards Department’s findings. The Head of Department dismissed his appeal.

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, a solicitor who sued Thames Valley Police
Solicitor Kevin Donoghue helped his client sue Thames Valley Police.

How Donoghue Solicitors Helped Sue Thames Valley Police

Alan was not happy with the police’s handling of his complaint. He spoke to his wife who works for a neighbouring police force. She told him that Donoghue Solicitors had a good reputation. (She’s right. We have an excellent record of success in civil actions against the police. Read some case reports here.)

Mr Jones discussed the incident with our solicitor director, Kevin Donoghue. Mr Donoghue immediately identified the key issue: the arresting officer did not have grounds to arrest and acted unlawfully.

Kevin agreed to take the case on a conditional fee (no win no fee) basis. He also took responsibility for Alan’s police complaint.

Mr Donoghue wrote to the police outlining Alan’s claim. He argued that the arresting officer could not have had the required

‘…reasonable suspicion that he (Alan) had committed any offence for which our client could lawfully be detained/ imprisoned.’

As a result, Mr Jones was entitled to compensation for false imprisonment.

And,

‘Any and all physical touching of our client at the time of arrest, including the use of handcuffs and searching our client, were unlawful and amount to assault/ battery.’

Mr Donoghue demanded compensation for this too, along with removal of Alan’s personal data, and a written apology.

Result

Thames Valley Police’s legal representatives accepted Kevin’s point. They

‘…determined that your client was arrested for the incorrectly identified offence of “Making off Without Payment’ (s.3 Theft Act 1978) and so we concede the arrest as unlawful on that basis.’

In later correspondence, the force noted that Alan was

‘Arrested for an offence for which he could not have committed, being that of Making off without payment, when he was locked in the black taxi…’

Thames Valley Police were keen to settle Mr Jones’ claim. Mr Donoghue reviewed matters with his client, focusing on his client’s priorities. Kevin worked with the police and settled Alan’s claim for:

  • £1410 compensation for the short period of false imprisonment and assault/ battery
  • a letter of apology
  • a meeting with the Head of Professional Standards, a Detective Chief Superintendent. Alan wanted to discuss officer training and supervision, the police complaints process, and make sure lessons were learned
  • removal of any of Alan’s personal data if appropriate
  • payment of Alan’s legal costs.

The arresting officer’s letter of apology read:

‘Dear Mr (redacted)

I would like to offer my apologies to you in my role as a serving officer of Thames Valley Police for your brief arrest and handcuffing during the early hours of 7 October 2016 when you declined to meet the fare requested of you by a London Taxi driver for a journey from Central London to your home address.

I acknowledge that I arrested you for the offence of “making off without payment” when the key element of that offence was not made out.

I can advise you that I have received management advice about this particular arrest from my superior officer.

Yours sincerely,

PC (redacted)’

Justice Delivered

“Justice” means different things to different people. Alan selflessly spent his own time pursuing a civil claim against the police for the wider good. He used his compensation to help others in need. Mr Jones donated £500 to the Brunswick Youth and Community Centre, a charity we support, and said he would “find some other good causes for the remainder”.

He also met with Thames Valley Police to help them improve their training and processes.

Kevin made sure Alan got what he wanted out of his actions against the police claim. For that, we can all be grateful.

(This case study is based on our client’s version of events, some of which is disputed.)

Contact Kevin Donoghue for help with your claim against the police by completing the short online form on this page.