How would you feel if you were arrested at gunpoint and jailed in a foreign country? Scared? Upset? Afraid for your safety?
What about if you found out that the police relied on an arrest warrant you knew had been dealt with years ago?
Add confused and angry to the list.
When an expired international arrest warrant was wrongly executed by Italian police, our client JM of St. Albans, Hertfordshire, suffered a terrifying ordeal and night in jail. Determined never to repeat the experience, he instructed Donoghue Solicitors. With our help, JM received compensation in his actions against the police warrant claim and is confident this won’t happen again. Read why here.
Background to this International Arrest Warrant Claim
For a while Mr. M lived in Malta. In 2000 Hertfordshire Police wanted to question him and issued an international arrest warrant through Interpol. The arrest warrant was effected and Mr. M was extradited back to Britain where he later stood trial in a criminal law matter. Due to circumstances beyond his control the legal process took seven long years. In 2007 he was acquitted at trial and freed.
That ought to have been an end to Mr. M’s ordeal. It wasn’t.
After an international arrest warrant has been processed, standard practice is for the issuing country’s authorities (e.g. the National Crime Agency in the UK) to cancel the warrant. They then tell Interpol. Interpol’s database, which is accessed by 190 countries’ police forces, should then be updated to show that the arrest warrant has expired, leaving the named person free to travel.
But in JM’s case this simple task was not done.
In 2008 he went to Amsterdam for a short break. While going through passport control his name was flagged as having an outstanding international arrest warrant. Despite Mr. M’s explanation that the warrant had been cancelled, armed police took him away for questioning. They checked his story with the UK authorities and, after a few hours, released him.
Italian Police Execute Arrest Warrant
Mr. M did not pursue a compensation claim after the Dutch episode. He thought things had been resolved.
But police arrested JM again in July 2014 while he was on holiday with his wife and six-year-old son in Treviso, Italy.
This incident was the stuff of nightmares.
At 3a.m. on their first night in the hotel, JM and his wife woke to loud banging and shouting at their door.
Mr. M opened the door to be confronted by armed Italian police, who aggressively restrained and handcuffed him while his terrified wife looked on. They shouted at him in Italian and, because he couldn’t understand the police, they got more agitated, angry, and physical.
JM and his wife feared for his life.
The police took Mr. M to a local station where he was able to find someone who spoke some English and ask why they arrested him.
When he discovered that the police took him at gunpoint due to the outstanding international arrest warrant he was both angry and upset. He explained that this was a mistake, but was kept overnight in a cold cell while they checked with their own National Crime Bureau in Rome.
Twelve hours later the police released Mr. M. His family’s holiday was ruined.
Police Complaint Failure
Mr. M realised that, even though he thought matters had been dealt with after the Holland arrest, his details were still showing up in international police records. He was determined to see the matter conclusively dealt with so complained to both Hertfordshire Police and Interpol.
Unsurprisingly, he was given the run-around and his complaint was dismissed. Hertfordshire Police blamed the local force in Italy for using out-of-date information. Interpol were similarly dismissive.
Feeling frustrated and worried for any future travel plans, JM contacted Kevin Donoghue, a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police, for help.
Arrest Warrant Compensation Claim
Donoghue Solicitors represented JM under a no win no fee agreement. Mr. Donoghue handled the case personally and intimated a compensation claim against Hertfordshire Police for:
- False imprisonment
- Personal Injury
- Loss of enjoyment of holiday.
Hertfordshire Police referred the matter to the National Crime Agency, who denied liability for JM’s claim, saying that they informed Interpol that the international arrest warrant had been cancelled on 3 October 2005. They claimed that they had done their duty, and that any error was the fault of Interpol or the local police in Italy.
Kevin Donoghue pressed them further and entered into “without prejudice” discussions. He negotiated a global settlement of £4,000 plus full legal costs and, most importantly for Mr. M, written confirmation on NCA headed paper of the steps taken to avoid a repeat of the terrifying Italian arrest. These included:
- Proof that there was no outstanding arrest warrant on the UK Police National Computer, Interpol, or UK border systems, so that JM was free to leave the country as he pleased.
- The NCA also confirmed that they sent a “global diffusion” to all Interpol National Crime Bureaus confirming the withdrawal of the 2000 international arrest warrant.
- Finally, they confirmed that the introduction of the updated Schengen Information System (“SIS II”) which covers most countries in Europe (details here) should reduce the risk of a repeat by using only live data, rather than local (and possibly out-of-date) records.
Mr. M is happy that he now has written confirmation of the steps taken to avoid this happening again. His wife and son are confident travelling with him, and he has received valuable compensation for his Italian ordeal.
As so often happens, solving this problem with a practical solution was as important as compensation. We are glad we could help.
If you have an international arrest warrant compensation claim call Kevin Donoghue on 08000 124 246, or complete the online form on this page.