Donoghue Solicitors is a specialist law firm which helps people make compensation claims against the police.
Here we explain the remedies that you, as the Claimant, may be entitled to seek in your successful claim.
Legal Basis for Claims Against the Police
Before looking at remedies, it is important to understand how actions against the police come about.
These claims are based in the law of tort. This branch of law deals with civil wrongs.
In claims against the police, solicitors use tort law to seek remedies for various “heads of claim”. Depending on the circumstances heads include, but are not limited to:
- Wrongful/ unlawful arrest
- False imprisonment
- Assault & battery
- Malicious Prosecution
- Misfeasance in Public Office
Each of these heads of claim has its own particular rules to satisfy the court, on the balance of probabilities, that the Claimant’s claim is justified and that legal remedies should follow.
This is a detailed topic. For a full explanation of the law in civil actions against the police click on the link.
Available Remedies in Claims Against the Police
Tort law is used in police claims to put the innocent victim in the pre-loss position.
Unfortunately, no court can turn back time and undo the harm caused to a Claimant by the police’s misconduct. The best the law can do is help the Claimant get other remedies. The main remedies include:
- a finding of liability (blame)
- a declaration (especially in Human Rights Act claims but also in discrimination claims)
- damages (financial compensation)
- legal costs.
We will look at these in more detail below.
1. A finding of liability and 2. A Declaration
Claims against the police are complex from a legal perspective, as the law in civil actions against the police page shows.
They are also hard to win because they are almost universally contested. The police, as agents of the State, are well-funded and jealously guard their reputations on an institutional and personal level.
For these reasons Claimants should be ready for a long, hard fight when suing the police.
What is a Finding of Liability?
Despite the legal complexities and police’s approach to claims, in cases which go to trial courts can make positive findings of liability and/ or a declaration.
A finding of liability means that the court finds in favour of either the Claimant or Defendant in the matter presented to it.
In a successful claim against the police the Judge is said to “find for the Claimant”. This means that s/he holds the police responsible for the matter which led to the claim.
The court can then “enter judgment” the Claimant. The Claimant is then entitled to other legal remedies (usually damages, see below).
What is a Declaration?
If requested, in a written and/or oral judgment the court can also include a declaration to support the finding of liability.
Declarations are particularly useful in claims against the police where there is a valid Human Rights Act claim. For example, an alleged breach of:
- Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to liberty and security of the person) may support a claim for unlawful arrest and false imprisonment.
- Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to private and family life, home and correspondence) can help a claim for trespass.
In these cases, the Claimant can seek a declaration from the court to support a finding of liability and help value the police abuse compensation claim.
The Claimant would normally seek such a declaration in formal court papers, known as “Particulars of Claim”. For example, the Claimant might say in the Particulars:
“In respect of the breaches of Human Rights the Claimant seeks just satisfaction and a declaration that such were violated by the officers.”
For many Claimants, hearing a judge say that the police were responsible for misconduct and receiving a written judgment confirming liability can be hugely satisfying.
But the courts are under no obligation to make such findings or declarations, and often cases are settled out-of-court without them.
Fortunately, the system allows for other remedies, including the payment of damages and costs.
3. Damages and 4. Costs
The most common remedy in claims against the police is damages and costs. By agreeing financial compensation, the parties (and court, if the matter goes to trial) acknowledge the harm caused by the police’s actions, and seek to remedy that by making the police force involved pay money to the innocent Claimant.
Legal costs usually follow the payment of damages, so that most, but not all, costs can be recovered from the police by the successful Claimant.
There are various methods of funding claims against the police, including paying legal fees privately, legal aid, and conditional fee (“no win no fee”) agreements.
In certain matters Donoghue Solicitors take eligible no win no fee police claims under conditional fee agreements. Click on the link to read more about them or read our page how much does it cost to make a police compensation claim?
As well as the main remedies detailed above, other, and often preferable, remedies may be available via an out-of-court settlement including:
- an apology
- an agreement to make sure lessons are learned and/or training implemented
- deletion of records from national police systems
- amendment of local police databases to show that the arrest was subject to litigation
Read on for more about these other remedies, or contact us for help with your claim against the police.
5. An Apology
For many Claimants, an apology from the police would be the most effective remedy.
As this police raid compensation claim case study shows, feeling heard and understood, and having the police publicly apologise for their misconduct, made all the difference to one Claimant.
Even though it costs nothing to apologise, in our experience the police rarely offer apologies as this can mean admitting guilt, which they are reluctant to do for the reasons outlined above.
6. An agreement to make sure lessons are learned and/or training implemented
Many Claimants want to make sure that others do not suffer from the same police misconduct.
For this reason, they can be willing to help the police with training and seek written assurances that the police will take practical steps to change.
As with an apology, in practice this is rarely done and usually reserved for the most serious cases.
7. Deletion of Records from National Police Systems
Records taken when a Claimant is processed at a police station include DNA, fingerprints, custody photograph, personal details, and information about the arrest/ detention.
These records are added to the following computer systems:
- Police National Computer
- National Fingerprint Database
- National DNA Database
- local police databases.
How long the records are kept depends on the circumstances.
For example, records are kept indefinitely when someone is convicted of an offence or receives an out-of-court disposal such as a caution, warning, or reprimand.
This can be particularly troubling for people who have never been in trouble with the police.
For many Claimants, having their records deleted from national police systems is an effective remedy. Unfortunately, the process is time-consuming and, because it relies on the discretion of chief officers, not straightforward. For more details, see the National Police Chiefs’ Council website.
Despite the barriers, removing records from police computer systems can be made easier with a successful claim against the police and/ or police complaint. Click on the following link to read how one client of Donoghue Solicitors received £5,000 plus legal costs in his police national computer compensation claim.
8. Amendment of local police databases to show that an arrest was subject to litigation
Local police computer databases are separate from the national police computers. As a result, in some cases, instead of deleting records it can be appropriate to have a note added to show that the arrest/ detention was subject to successful litigation.
Again, this is something to discuss with your solicitor in the context of other remedies when considering suing the police.
Other remedies may exist depending on the Claimant’s circumstances and own feelings.
For example, some Claimants are keen for publicity to restore their reputation; others are not.
Every case is different, so speak to our specialists in claims against the police to find out which remedies work best for you.
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- understand the law and in your claim
- how to deal with the police and their procedures
- claim compensation and other remedies as appropriate.
Please note that strict time limits apply to actions against the police claims, so don’t delay!
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