Why West Yorkshire Police Paid Out After a Home Invasion

Overview:

Client: Wayne Wilson from Leeds, West Yorkshire

Claim: Civil action against the police for breach of Article 3 European Convention on Human Rights 1950 (applying ss.6,7, and 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998) and negligence

Claimant’s lawyer: Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director at Donoghue Solicitors

Defendant: Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police

Result: substantial compensation paid plus legal costs.

Wayne Wilson kindly gave us permission to use his details in this case report. It is based on his version of events, some of which is disputed.

What Happened?

Wayne Wilson was a 37-year-old family man at the time of the incident giving rise to his claim against the police. He lived with his partner, “Clare”, and her daughter, in a ground-floor flat near Leeds city centre.

In December 2014 Clare helped the police and Crown Prosecution Service. She was a witness in a criminal case against Mr S. Clare’s help resulted in Mr S’s conviction and imprisonment.

In January 2015 she got an anonymous letter on prison notepaper. It included direct threats of extreme violence. Clare was acutely distressed and immediately told West Yorkshire Police. They sent PC H round. He took a statement and the letter. Clare told the officer she was sure Mr S sent it. She had no other issues with anyone.

PC H sent the letter away for fingerprint testing to make sure. He also checked on Mr S’s whereabouts. The officer found out that Mr S was still at the prison from which the letter had been sent. He also learned that Mr S was due for release on 19 February.

West Yorkshire Police did not take any safeguarding measures despite knowing this information. They failed to arrest, charge, and put Mr S on remand in respect of the letter. They did nothing to prevent his forthcoming release or otherwise restrict his movements while on bail after release.

PC H was re-assigned to a response team role before the fingerprint results came back. He passed his outstanding task list, including Clare’s matter, to colleagues.

On 18 February 2015 a forensic report sent to the police confirmed Clare’s suspicions. It proved that Mr S’s fingerprints were on the letter. Unfortunately, West Yorkshire Police did nothing with this information.

Home Invasion

Mr S got out of prison on 19 February without restrictions.

That night, at about 12:30a.m. on 20 February, he and a friend, Mr M, went to Wayne and Clare’s home. Clare was asleep on the couch. Wayne was sleeping in the master bedroom. Clare’s daughter was in her bedroom.

The two men forced their way in through the front door. Wayne said he heard:

A loud bang noise followed by Clare screaming. It is a noise I will never forget. It sent shivers through my body.

Wayne feared for his family’s safety. He jumped out of bed and rushed to protect Clare, who was still screaming.

He found two men in the living room with Clare. Both wore black clothes and gloves. They had weapons: Mr S had a metal bar; Mr M had a bar and glass beer bottle.

Wayne noticed that the couple’s things had been damaged.

The men focused on Clare. Wayne knew he had to protect her and her daughter at all costs.

Mr S went for Clare, swinging the metal bar. At the same time Mr M attacked Wayne. Clare managed to grab her daughter and escape to the kitchen. She called 999 in a hysterical, terrified state, but managed to pass on the necessary details.

Violent Assault

Unlike Clare, Wayne did not escape his attacker.

Mr M threw the glass bottle at him. The bottle hit Wayne’s left foot and cut it open. It was extremely painful and made it hard to move. The two men traded blows. Wayne got many cuts and bruises to his hands and face in the assault. At one point his attacker said, “I’m going to kill you.”

Mr Wilson managed to get Mr M out of the flat and onto the grass in front. Then Wayne heard sirens. Relief washed over him.

The attackers left before the police arrived. Wayne ran back inside to comfort his partner and daughter. He tried to convince them that they were safe, but it was hard. Wayne was terrified too.

Clare knew who had attacked them: Mr S and his friend.

West Yorkshire Police Failings

By coincidence, PC H was one of the officers who answered the distress call. Clare told him the home invasion and violent assault happened, “because of that letter!”

A sergeant overheard this and asked what she meant. Clare explained. PC H said he had been “too busy” to deal with the positive fingerprint report.

Wayne was furious. If PC H had dealt with things this never would have happened. The couple had no confidence that West Yorkshire Police could protect them from Mr S after what happened. Clare had done everything she could to help the police in the past and this was the result. This incident left them distressed, angry, and shaken.

Wayne was too scared to go to hospital for medical treatment. A paramedic dressed his foot, face, and hand wounds. West Yorkshire Police left a patrol car outside their home to deter the attackers.

Reluctantly, Wayne and Clare gave statements to the police that night.

The door was repaired. Wayne and Clare had a burglar alarm fitted and the police visited regularly. But the couple were too scared to leave the flat.

The police arrested Mr S and Mr M a couple of days later.

Criminal Conviction

To their great credit, Wayne and Clare assisted with the prosecution. They received threats from Mr S’s family and went into a witness protection scheme as a result.

Wayne and Clare went to Crown Court on the day of the trial to give evidence. But they were not called as witnesses because Mr S and his accomplice pleaded guilty to

  • aggravated burglary with intent
  • perverting the course of justice
  • witness intimidation.

The Judge ordered long prison sentences for both men.

The couple suffered physical and emotional effects from the traumatic attack. Wayne described himself as “paranoid and fearful of another attack”. He was “always watching my back”. They both struggled and, sadly, their relationship broke down.

Complaint Against West Yorkshire Police

Clare filed a formal complaint against West Yorkshire Police. The force’s own Professional Standards Department investigated it. The investigator found no misconduct by PC H despite what had happened.

The complaint against the police was a dead end. The couple felt let down again. Wayne and Clare had no alternative but to seek legal help if they wanted justice and answers.

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, who helped his client sue West Yorkshire Police
Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, helped Wayne Wilson sue West Yorkshire Police.

Contact With Kevin Donoghue

Wayne searched the internet and found Donoghue Solicitors. He saw that we represent people throughout England and Wales in civil actions against the police. He spoke with Kevin Donoghue, our Solicitor Director. Mr Donoghue has nearly 20 years’ experience in civil actions against the police and considered Wayne’s case in view of the specialist law and procedure in these matters.

Human Rights Claim

Kevin felt that West Yorkshire Police’s failure to act was an arguable breach of Article 3 European Convention on Human Rights 1950. (This European law is given force in England and Wales by ss.6,7, and 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998. It protects our rights to freedom from inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.)

And yet, Kevin explained to Mr Wilson, human rights cases are notoriously difficult to win.

“The police often fight them,’ he said. “Damages can be low or even non-existent in successful cases. It is not unusual to get a declaration of a breach of Human Rights with no or minimal damages for your trouble.’

Negligence Claim Against West Yorkshire Police

Arguably, West Yorkshire Police’s failure was also negligent conduct. But Mr Donoghue said that, in his experience, negligence claims are even harder to win. He told Wayne:

‘The police enjoy a privilege denied to the rest of us. They can argue that they have “immunity from suit”. This enables officers to do their job of investigating and fighting crime. But police use it to protect themselves from civil claims.’

And there was another problem in Wayne’s case. Kevin explained:

‘Hill v West Yorkshire Police is the leading case in respect of immunity of suit. It involved the force my client wanted to sue. West Yorkshire Police won in that case and, I expected, the force would use this legal authority to fight Mr Wilson’s claim.’

Despite the police’s potential defence, Kevin was determined to press on. He said,

‘I felt that West Yorkshire Police’s organisational failures were so blatant, and resulted in such serious harm, that Wayne should seek compensation.’

Letter of Claim

Kevin agreed to take Mr Wilson’s case on a “no win no fee” basis. He wrote to West Yorkshire Police and

  • outlined Wayne’s claim in full
  • sought crucial evidence. This included police officers’ pocket notebooks, complaint investigation files, forensic reports, and other things
  • demanded compensation for his client’s physical and psychological injuries.

Court Proceedings

As expected, West Yorkshire Police denied liability.

This meant Wayne had to issue court proceedings if he wanted justice. Kevin explained that Wayne might have to give evidence against the police in court. And there were financial risks if he lost. But Mr Wilson wanted to go ahead. He gave permission for Kevin to file the papers at court.

Medical Evidence

The solicitor arranged an independent medical examination to find out if the police’s failures caused Wayne’s injuries.

A consultant psychiatrist confirmed that they did. In his expert opinion Wayne had suffered an Adjustment Disorder as a result of the assault. He diagnosed a “Prolonged Depressive Reaction” which, the doctor thought, would resolve over the course of two years.

Negotiations with the Police

Kevin sent Wayne’s medical report to West Yorkshire Police. He invited the force to make an offer to settle the claim. The police responded with a low offer despite their earlier denial of liability.

Kevin advised his client to reject the offer. Wayne agreed.

With Kevin’s guidance he made a counter-offer. Kevin made full legal arguments as to why West Yorkshire Police were responsible and said what he thought the claim was worth. The police rejected the financial proposal but increased their offer again.

Kevin advised his client to reject this second offer. He recommended that Wayne make a further, slightly lower offer.

West Yorkshire Police accepted it and settled the claim.

Result of Mr Wilson’s Civil Action Against West Yorkshire Police

  1. Wayne Wilson received substantial compensation for his civil action against the police.
  2. The police paid his legal costs.
  3. He did not have to attend court
  4. He got the justice he deserved.

Wayne was thrilled with the result, saying:

‘Great solicitors kept me updated I’m happy with the outcome I would recommend this company thanks’

Wayne Wilson

 

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