On Tuesday 27 May a team representing Donoghue Solicitors won the Powerleague Liverpool World Cup 5-a-side football tournament.
As a keen footballer outside of work, I put together a crack team of fellow “athletes” to play in the competition.
Donoghue Solicitors World Cup Winning 5-a-side Team (left-right): Stefan Valentine, Tom Stafford, Daniel Fitzsimmons (captain), Jack Fitzsimmons, and Kevin Donoghue.
Donoghue Solicitors’ team competed against various other businesses from throughout Merseyside. The games were played at the Powerleague Liverpool (known locally as ‘The Pitz’) Centre in Walton throughout May. For those unfamiliar with the area, this is walking distance to both Anfield (the home of Liverpool FC) and Goodison Park (Everton’s ground). It is possible (but unlikely!) that scouts from both teams were watching!
Proceeds from our entry fees contributed to the Hillsborough Family Support Group. As a lifelong Liverpool FC fan the organisation is close to my heart and one I am always keen to support.
Poetry in Motion
Donoghue Solicitors played as Ireland (in “home” green shirts) and beat five other teams on our way to the final, conceding only two goals during the run. In the final we beat Knowsley Council’s Spain team 7-0.
Like at work, this was a real team effort. Everyone chipped in with at least one goal in the final.
And although we didn’t get to play as England, hopefully our win will inspire Steven Gerrard and the rest of the England team to victory in Brazil this summer!
The 5-a-side “World Cup” winners trophy proudly displayed at Donoghue Solicitors’ offices.
This follows successful trials of the equipment, which records what the officer sees and hears, in Devon & Cornwall and Bedfordshire.
If successful, the year-long trial will be extended further. It is anticipated that 10,000-20,000 Metropolitan Police officers could eventually use it.
Other forces are watching with interest and are expected to adopt body cameras if the test is successful.
Speaking to the BBC, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, praised the introduction of the cameras, stating that they would help both in the fight against crime and to ‘hold us to account’.
It is expected that the body cameras will only be used when the police respond to incidents and during stop & search operations, rather than during day-to-day interactions. The Commissioner says this is because leaving the cameras on all the time would be ‘too intrusive’. To deal with the risk that vital evidence may be missed, every body camera will have a 30 second ‘buffer’ built in (where they are constantly pre-recording) so that when an officer turns the camera on, footage for half a minute beforehand is also included.
The limited use of body cameras was supported in a radio interview by Rachel Tuffin, the Head of Research, Analysis and Information at the College of Policing, who said that there are issues about data storage. The Met also plan to keep the footage for only 31 days (unless requested to keep it in evidence).
To counter suspicions that officers would deliberately not turn their body cameras on, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner said that ‘if that happens we will challenge them about it… and take action appropriately’.
He anticipated that in ’90 odd percent of the time’ body cameras would be used by the police officers when responding to incidents.
But is this good enough?
Why Wearing a Body Camera Puts Police on ‘Best Behaviour’
A year-long study of body cameras worn by the police in Rialto, Southern California, found that complaints against police officers dropped by about 88% and crucially, the use of force fell by 60%.
Because in the words of Corporal Gary Cunningham, “it has changed my behaviour and makes me more aware that someone’s watching”.
Significantly, in the Rialto study the officers were told to systematically record every interaction they had with the public. They were not, as with the Metropolitan Police, given a judgement call to make about whether an interaction with someone was routine or something more serious. As a result, they were used to doing everything ‘by the book’, leading to the dramatic reductions in complaints and use of force.
Police Officer Wearing a Body Camera
Weak Arguments Against Body Camera Use
The Rialto study showed that filming every interaction worked. I disagree with Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe’s suggestion that the use of a body camera may be too intrusive given the obvious benefits in the fight against crime and dealing with police misconduct.
While I acknowledge that there may be privacy concerns, the Metropolitan Police have missed an opportunity by giving their officers the option of turning off body cameras during certain interactions with the public.
What happens when a seemingly innocent situation turns into something more? Without the requirement that body cameras must be used every time when dealing with the public, police officers may not turn on the equipment until it is too late, if at all, so crucial evidence of criminal wrongdoing could be missed. The 30-second ‘buffer’ will probably not be enough in many situations.
Also, if the cameras can be deliberately turned off when police officers abuse their powers, evidence of police misconduct will not be recorded. This would not be good for the Metropolitan Police, who may mistakenly defend a ‘rotten apple’ police officer in an expensive compensation claim.
And it is likely that if a member of the public complains about a police officer’s conduct and finds out that the body camera was not used, the lack of video evidence may be considered deliberate and sinister.
I also disagree with the suggestion by Rachel Tuffin that there are issues about data storage. I find this especially hard to believe. If the world’s video can be stored on youtube, why can’t the police access similar servers?
And, the Metropolitan Police’s plan to keep the footage for only 31 days (unless requested to keep it in evidence) is also questionable.
This time period is identical to that for police-held CCTV footage. Very often I am approached by people who have suffered as a result of police misconduct after 31 days have passed since the incident. They ask me to get the police’s CCTV footage to help claim compensation or make a police complaint. By the time they get in touch vital footage is often deleted.
I suggest that body camera footage be kept for 12 months. It would help clarify incidents, result in quicker resolutions, and save considerable costs dealing with complaints and police misconduct claims. As the footage is stored ‘in the cloud’ this should not cause a problem for the data server holders who can simply delete it after 12 months instead.
The Metropolitan Police are adamant that the body camera tests are intended to find out “how to do it, not whether to do it”. As a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police, I recommend that, for the sake of his own officers as well as the public, the Commissioner immediately change his policy to make sure that body cameras are used during every interaction with the public, and that the footage is kept for twelve months and not one.
Accepting a pre-medical offer could be a costly financial mistake. Daniel Fitzsimmons of Donoghue Solicitors explains why.
I recently represented a client from Birmingham who had been injured in a road traffic accident. After medical examination and negotiations with the other driver’s insurers, I settled her claim for more than three times the original offer. What makes this claim interesting is that it highlights the dangers of accepting a ‘pre-medical offer’.
Pre-Medical Offer Definition
What is a ‘pre-medical offer’ and why should you care?
Pre-medical offers are proposals to pay compensation before the injured person has been seen by a medical expert. They are made by insurance companies in personal injury accident claims.
The practice of making a pre-medical offer in personal injury claims is described in the Association of British Insurers’ (‘ABI’) voluntary Code of Conduct. (The ABI is the trade body of insurance companies in the UK. It represents 300 member companies who cover 90% of the insurance market.) Their Code of Practice when approaching accident victims direct (where pre-medical offers are often made) states:
Offers on low value injuries
Where the injury is low value, i.e. typically only a few days in duration, insurers may offer to settle a claim without medical evidence.
The purpose of a pre-medical offer is to encourage early settlement of the claim. The insurer gets the claim off their books for a set amount; the injured person gets compensation quickly without a medical examination.
Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?
As my client Mrs. B’s case shows, accepting a pre-medical offer could be a very expensive mistake.
Road Accident Compensation Claim
Mrs. B, a retired 68-year-old woman, was in her friend’s stationary car when another driver reversed into it. Although she was injured in the road accident, she got out of the car when she realised that the other driver was leaving. The responsible driver nearly ran Mrs. B over to make her escape. The police were called and details obtained.
Mrs. B received medical treatment for her injuries and contacted me a few days later to make an accident compensation claim.
I took full details and agreed to represent her on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.
After checking the information provided, including asking about her injuries as they were known at the time, I sent the claim to the responsible insurers and began preparing her case for court proceedings.
Just under two months after the accident I received a letter from the other driver’s insurers. They helpfully admitted liability, but also made a pre-medical offer to settle Mrs. B’s claim for £1,000 plus legal fees, based on the information I had provided some time earlier.
When I told Mrs. B about the pre-medical offer she said that she was still suffering as a result of the accident, so I recommended that we reject the offer and get an expert medical opinion. She agreed.
Following Mrs. B’s medical examination, the doctor noted that my client had many other health problems including cancer, osteoarthritis, and diabetes. He confirmed that she had suffered a cervical sprain to her neck, more commonly known as ‘whiplash’. In his expert opinion, the injuries she suffered in the road accident would take two years to recover.
As well as her personal injuries, I claimed compensation for extra care and help provided by family members, medication, travel to and from her doctors, and other things.
Q: How many Metropolitan Police officers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. They pay someone else to do it at £100 a time.
Sadly, this is not a joke.
According to this report in The Telegraph, the Metropolitan Police (‘the Met’) has agreed to pay Interserve PLC, a maintenance firm which describes itself as ‘one of the world’s foremost support services and construction companies’ up to £100 every time a lightbulb needs replacing ‘urgently’.
Lightbulbs cost anywhere from £1.98 upwards according to the B&Q website, although it is likely that a large company like Interserve gets them far cheaper.
Their contract with the Met has been in place since 1999. They recently extended the contract for the southern half of the Metropolitan Police’s estate for another 7 years. The total cost of the contract is £300 million. For that, the Police Force gets various services as shown on the Interserve website, including building facilities management.
Would you pay £100 to replace this?
Metropolitan Police austerity?
The entire cost of the contract is met by the taxpayer.
This comes at a time of ‘austerity’ when the coalition government has cut police funding. As a result, in London alone up to 65 police stations are to be closed, and there has been a reduction in the total number of police officers by 16,000, meaning that there are now fewer police than at any time since September 2002.
With this in mind, it is astounding to me that senior management at the Metropolitan Police approved a deal which pays a company £100 to change a lightbulb. Whose bright idea was that?
As the Solicitor Director of a law firm, one of my many responsibilities is keeping a close eye on finances. I have obligations to our ‘stakeholders’ (clients, staff, bank, suppliers, and regulator) to ensure that we remain solvent and well-managed. I can only imagine what would happen if, like the Metropolitan Police’s management, I agreed a 7 year contract to pay an outside company £100 each time we needed to change a lightbulb.
I suspect our many stakeholders would think I was joking. But for taxpayers and those who have lost their jobs in the Metropolitan Police during the austerity cuts, contracts like this are no laughing matter.
As a solicitor who deals with breach of the peace (UK) claims, I am worried by the police’s apparent lack of knowledge of the law.
Despite the law in UK breach of the peace cases being straightforward and well-established, it is often abused or misinterpreted by the arresting police officers.
This results in innocent people suffering unnecessarily.
So, I am using this blog post to help the police, and their trainers, understand the law.
Breach of the Peace UK Definition
The law in breach of the peace UK cases is well established, and should be known by all ‘bobbies on the beat’.
The leading authority is the Court of Appeal case of R v Howell (1982), which you can read by clicking on the link.
Howell shows the legal elements of this ‘common law’ offence.
Unlike ‘statutory offences’ which are passed in Parliament, breach of the peace law has developed over years of cases passing through the courts.
Howell brought the legal authorities together.
The definition of breach of the peace used in that UK case is that the behaviour of the person involved caused the police officer (or private citizen) to believe that:
a breach of the peace had or would occur; and that
it related to harm which was actually done or likely to be done to a person or, in his/ her presence, their property.
The R v Howell case also confirmed that the police (or a private citizen) have the power to arrest without a warrant where:
a breach of the peace was committed in the presence of the person making the arrest;
there was a threat of a breach of the peace being renewed; and
although no breach had been committed, the person making the arrest reasonably and honestly believed that such a breach would be committed in the immediate future.
So, provided the police follow the straightforward guidance in Howell, they ought to be able to justify arrests for breach of the peace.
But, as the examples below prove, when the arresting officers don’t follow the law about breach of the peace in the UK they leave themselves open to compensation claims for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, and assault, among other things.
(I am a practising solicitor in England & Wales so my breach of the peace cases and the laws I refer to relate to those geographical areas in the UK only.)
Miss B’s Breach of the Peace UK Claim
Miss B received substantial compensation and full legal costs after an unlawful arrest and detention for breach of the peace.
As well as basic damages, I claimed aggravated and exemplary damages to punish the police for their arbitrary and unconstitutional behaviour.
The police fought the claim so I had to issue court proceedings and prepare for trial.
But after discussions with their solicitors in which I pointed out the lack of legal authority for the arrest, I persuaded the police’s solicitors that the arresting officers had failed to apply the law and settled Miss B’s claim out of court.
Gary Wilson’s Compensation Claim for Breach of the Peace in the UK
I have just settled Mr Wilson’s claim. (He has agreed to me providing his full name and details.)
Mr Wilson was arrested for a breach of the peace by a Police Sergeant and held by the police for two days before being released without charge.
Gary was called by his brother to go to a nearby block of flats, where their cousin was sitting on the roof. When he arrived, the fire service had cordoned off the area with red and white tape. Mr Wilson stayed behind the tape and offered to help.
The police were also there. A Police Sergeant told Gary to leave, saying he was in breach of the peace. He refused, telling her that he was not in breach of the peace, and that he had not done anything wrong.
She walked away, and later returned, telling him again to leave or ‘be locked up’.
Gary stepped back further from the cordon to call his family to get help for his cousin.
The Police Sergeant and another officer then arrested him, forcing him to the ground with a ‘leg sweep’, before taking him into a police van.
While waiting, his cousin came down from the roof.
Rather than releasing Mr Wilson, the police officers took him to a local police station, where he was booked in for a breach of the peace.
And, rather than release him after being charged, he was kept over the weekend until he could be taken to the Magistrates Court. The prosecution offered no evidence and he was released without charge.
Mr Wilson contacted me following an internet search.
Like in Miss B’s case above, I applied the Howell definition of breach of the peace UK law and, on Gary’s version of events, considered that the grounds for arrest did not exist.
As a result, I submitted a claim for false arrest, police assault, and aggravated and exemplary damages.
The police made a low offer, which we rejected, then denied liability.
So, again acting as a ‘no win no fee’ police claims solicitor, I issued full court proceedings and prepared Gary for his day in Court.
After receiving a formal defence from the police, they entered into meaningful negotiations. Gary’s breach of the peace UK claim settled for three times the original offer, plus full legal costs.
Why I am Helping the Police Avoid Breach of the Peace UK Claims
This blog post has taken me some time to write.
I appreciate the irony in a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police giving the police information which they can use to learn from the errors of their colleagues. This may result in less breach of the peace claims being made in the UK.
If so, that is fine by me.
I would rather have no clients bringing breach of the peace claims than see innocent people locked up.
I urge the police to read this post carefully, learn the law they are supposed to uphold, and avoid their colleagues’ mistakes. If they don’t, they should know that I will continue to bring breach of the peace claims against them.
Please note that although every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the information in this blog should not be considered legal advice. Contact me direct for that by completing the form on the www.donoghue-solicitors.co.uk website or by calling 0151 933 1474.
Kevin Donoghue, Police Misconduct Claims Solicitor and Director of Donoghue Solicitors.
By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor
A report in the Sheffield Telegraph got me thinking about police misconduct in road traffic accidents involving the police.
It said that in the three years to March 2011, South Yorkshire Police cars were involved in more than 1,152 road traffic accidents. These road accidents injured 214 people, who received almost £750,000 compensation from the Force. South Yorkshire Police used 750 vehicles at that time, which also had to be repaired or replaced at public expense following road traffic accidents, making the true cost to the taxpayer far higher.
Remarkably, despite the high number of car crashes, only four police officers were disciplined for police misconduct for motoring offences in the accidents, with two more investigations under way.
So, according to South Yorkshire Police, only 0.3% of all the reported road traffic accidents involving their officers resulted in disciplinary action.
‘So what?’ you may ask.
The answer: the effect on public trust in dealing with police misconduct.
Police Misconduct in Complaints Proceedings
Last year I blogged about South Yorkshire Police and wondered at the time if their claims that they have changed since Hillsborough were true.
In that piece I reported on the lengths South Yorkshire Police allegedly went to to cover up wrongdoing in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster. According the Hillsborough Investigation Panel, the Force:
changed 164 junior police officers’ statements;
deliberately misinforming the media; and
fabricated a defence.
This was police misconduct on a massive, institutional scale.
In my blog post I explained that fabricating evidence is still an issue within the police and referred to one of my clients, Mr. D, who had been assaulted with CS gas by a Special Constable with another police force. The Special Constable gave a statement saying that my client head butted him to justify the use of this (potentially deadly) force.
The officer made his statement just half an hour after the alleged assault when events would have been fresh in his mind.
Mr. D was arrested on the basis of the Special Constable’s word alone, and was to be prosecuted for the serious crime of assaulting a police officer.
Thankfully, the Special Constable’s story unravelled when CCTV footage was found which showed that my client did not assault him. As a result, the prosecution against Mr. D did not go ahead and he instructed me to make a compensation claim against the police.
He made a formal complaint against the police which was conducted internally and supervised by a senior officer.
Rather than apologise and admit the police misconduct in providing a misleading statement, the Special Constable changed his story to say that the assault occurred off-camera.
This was also untrue but my client’s police complaint was still rejected.
So far as I am aware, no further action was taken against the Special Constable despite giving false statements which amounted to police misconduct. Instead, he was given ‘management advice’ about writing statements in future.
Innocent people are prosecuted because of false or misleading testimony from police officers who are held in a position of public trust. All too often the police’s version of events is accepted without question.
This can lead to serious miscarriages of justice where innocent people are wrongly convicted.
But if my clients are lucky enough to avoid criminal convictions and then make complaints against the police about police misconduct, the police complaints procedure kicks in.
In recent years the procedure has changed so that, in all but the most serious of cases, police complaints are dealt with internally.
This means that an investigation into police misconduct by a potentially rogue officer is supervised by a senior police officer within the same police force.
In theory the senior police officer is impartial but the person making the complaint cannot be sure. Even if the senior officer is independent, what assurance can he or she give that they are not biased towards their own colleague?
Also, the evidence of the officer under investigation is taken into account, even if, like in my client’s case above, it can be shown to be inaccurate.
All this means that, in my experience, police complaints are only upheld in the most clear cut cases of police misconduct.
Did a police misconduct investigation take place after this road accident?
Police Misconduct in Road Traffic Accidents
Where police misconduct is shown, disciplinary proceedings against the officer(s) involved can result in various penalties, ranging from training or ‘management advice’ to dismissal from the force.
In road traffic accidents, the procedure is similar, but it involves an even closer personal connection with the police officers involved.
Here the system means that the police do not need to pretend that the investigating senior officer is impartial.
As Police Federation chairman Neil Bowles explained to The Telegraph: “All police road traffic collisions are treated very seriously, let alone if some cause casualties, and all are investigated by a supervisory officer.’ (my emphasis)
So, when investigations into police misconduct in road accidents are conducted by close colleagues, and the bar is set so high for police complaints and disciplinary proceedings, is it any wonder that less than half a percent of all the road traffic accidents reported by South Yorkshire Police resulted in disciplinary action against the police officers involved?
David Crompton, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, insisted in this BBC interview that his Force ‘was a very different place in 2012’ from the Hillsborough-era.
Can we really believe him?
Does he think that the present system of investigating police misconduct in road traffic accidents maintains public confidence in the police?
Until a more transparent way of investigating police misconduct is introduced, I don’t.
after the police arrested her for alleged breaches of the peace relating to four of the arrests (she is not claiming for the other two). Details of these four arrests are provided below.
Breach of Peace Arrest
The right to make a compensation claim began in August 2010 when a neighbour called the police in the early hours of the morning complaining of an alleged disturbance at Miss B’s home. When they got to the house the police found no evidence of a disturbance.
Despite this, the police went into Miss B’s home (which she shares with her mother), arrested her, and took her to a local police station where she was charged with a breach of the peace.
Miss B was injured in the arrest by the police’s handcuffs. At the station the police took her fingerprints and DNA. She was humiliated by having her clothing removed and given a ‘safety gown’.
The police kept Miss B in a cell overnight. After 10 hours she was taken before the Magistrates to face a charge of breach of peace. She denied it and promised to fight the case.
Later, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charges.
The next time Miss B was arrested, in November 2010, her mother needed urgent medical attention at home. Miss B called an ambulance. The ambulance staff contacted the police.
Miss B, wary of how the police treated her in August, refused entry to the police but invited the ambulance staff in. The police ignored Miss B’s clear instruction not to go into her home, and again went inside and arrested her for a breach of peace.
This time she was arrested and detained for about 30 hours.
In mid-December 2010 Miss B was called upon by the police to investigate an alleged disturbance. Yet again she was arrested for a breach of peace. This time she was detained for 27 hours.
Two days later she was arrested and detained for another alleged breach of the peace. This time the police forced entry into her home by using a battering ram.
Miss B was taken to the same police station and Magistrates’ Court as before, but sensibly the proceedings were discontinued there and then.
Compensation Claim for Breach of Peace Arrest
Parry Welch Lacy, Miss B’s criminal solicitors who represented her professionally throughout, referred her to my firm, Donoghue Solicitors, after the last arrest.
(We often receive referrals from other solicitors because we specialise in compensation claims against the police and are experts in dealing with police compensation claims.)
I reviewed all of Miss B’s arrests with her. It was not difficult to conclude that she was eligible to claim unlawful arrest breach of peace compensation.
Each time she was arrested for an alleged breach of the peace her version of events was never accepted. The police simply came into her home, despite clearly being told not to, and arrested her.
Miss B is a ‘night owl’ who became known to the police. It seemed that, once the circumstances of her first arrest were made out, the police simply repeated the pattern.
The Law in this Breach of Peace Claim
Unfortunately for the police, the law was not on their side.
To justify the arrests for a breach of the peace the police had to satisfy the test described by Lord Justice Watkins in the 1982 case of R v Howell:
‘We are emboldened to say that there is a breach of the peace whenever harm is actually done or is likely to be done to a person or in his presence to his property or a person is in fear of being so harmed through an assault, an affray, a riot, unlawful assembly or other disturbance. It is for this breach of the peace when done in his presence or the reasonable apprehension of it taking place that a constable, or anyone else, may arrest an offender without warrant.’ (My emphasis)
There is no evidence that harm was being done, or likely to be done, on any of the occasions described above.
So the police did not satisfy this test each and every time they arrested Miss B for the alleged breach of the peace.
The case of Liversidge v Anderson (1942) made it clear that every arrest by the police is unlawful unless they can justify it. This puts the burden of proof on the arresting officer.
I took the view that because the police could not satisfy the Howell test Miss B had good claims for false imprisonment.
Once false imprisonment is established it follows that the police assault (using handcuffs and taking DNA), detention, trespass, and prosecutions were also not justified.
I also argued for aggravated and exemplary damages given the police’s conduct when time and again they ignored established law.
These damages are meant to compensate the victim of police misconduct for injury to feelings and to punish the police for their arbitrary, oppressive, or unconstitutional behaviour.
I argued that this pattern of arrests over the course of 7 months went beyond reasonable conduct.
(You can read more about the types of damages I claimed on Miss B’s behalf here.)
Reasons for Claiming Compensation for Breach of Peace
Miss B was reluctant to pursue a compensation claim against the police but the police’s conduct gave her no choice.
She instructed Donoghue Solicitors to:
claim compensation from the police, and
to try to stop the pattern of repeated arrests for breach of peace.
So far I have recovered over £14,000 compensation plus full legal costs for Miss B.
She did not have to appear in court to take her civil actions against the police and the police’s conduct seems to have improved after Donoghue Solicitors got involved.
The police officers in her area are no doubt aware that Miss B will fight any future arrest and detention, and that we will aggressively pursue a compensation claim against the police on her behalf.
Because of this, they will think twice before arresting her and hopefully they will have received more training on grounds for arrest, particularly for breach of the peace.
I know that she is happy with the outcome and considers that making a compensation claim against the police was worthwhile.
If you want to claim compensation for an unlawful arrest due to an alleged breach of peace, contact Donoghue Solicitors on 0151 933 1474 or fill out the online form on this page.
As a solicitor who specialises in helping people claim against the police, I spend a lot of my time dealing with the various police forces in England and Wales.
I am sorry to say that I could use some of my time more productively if those same forces and their solicitors behaved differently.
It is common practice for the police and their solicitors to:
delay progress on cases;
misplace, edit, or redact evidence which may help prove the claim against the police; and
fight losing cases or make ‘low-ball’ offers.
cause unnecessary hardship to innocent victims of police misconduct;
increase legal costs (which have to be paid by the taxpayer); and
only serve to damage the reputation of the police in the eyes of the judge and jury who eventually get to hear the claim against the police.
So, with these things in mind, here are three New Year’s resolutions for the police forces and their solicitors:
1.Think of the police force’s money as your own
I am constantly frustrated by how police forces and their solicitors behave as if money is no object.
In my experience, filing unnecessary applications at court and fighting claims to trial is their preferred approach.
Even in a straightforward claim against the police, the solicitors representing the police forces behave as if they have winnable cases when they know that experienced solicitors like me who deal with no win no fee police claims would not take poor cases.
For example, in the case of Mr. M (read the case report here), the Chief Constable and his solicitors fought this claim against the police until the eve of the trial even though a complaint against the police force had been upheld by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
By doing so, they wasted valuable funds which could have more properly been spent fighting crime.
2. Treat people making a claim against the police as you would want to be treated
I often come across cases of police misconduct which could have been avoided.
Some clients tell me that they are only making a claim against the police because they feel mistreated, and that they would not be suing the police if the police officers had been more civil with them.
Again, referring to Mr. M, he was (unlawfully) arrested and processed at a police station. The police took £325 from his wallet and returned the empty wallet to him when he was released.
He went to the station to demand his money. A police officer threw the money at him over the desk and asked ‘can’t you take a joke?’.
Mr. M was rightly outraged at the police officers’ conduct, complained, claimed against the police, and won compensation.
But the conduct of the officers involved was made worse by the actions of the police force and its solicitors. They denied liability throughout and refused to make any offers to settle his claim, adding to the stress he already felt about the police’s misconduct and having to claim against the police.
Although Mr. M did not have to suffer through a trial, the fact that the police force and its solicitors settled the claim the day before, when no new evidence had been produced, shows that they could have dealt with it earlier and saved him a lot of unnecessary stress.
I wonder how the police force’s solicitors would have felt if they, or one of their families, were treated like this?
3. Respect your opponent in the claim against the police
It is not easy to be a solicitor who specialises in helping people claim against the police. You can only become one after years of training, both at law school and ‘on the job’. It is hard work that has to be a passion. This type of work does not pay as well as others.
There are no ‘fat cats’ here.
Recent Government policy has made it harder for solicitors who help people claim against the police. (I blogged here about last year’s changes to the funding of personal injury claims, which often include police claims.)
So only specialist solicitors who see a good claim against the police at an early stage can continue to practice in this area of law.
Police forces and their solicitors know this but I still see examples of their poor conduct more worthy of a 17-year-old insurance clerk than an experienced solicitor.
For example, my clients H and A (read the case report here) were assaulted in their home as a result of a botched search warrant raid.
Not unsurprisingly, the police force’s solicitors denied liability, claiming that the officers acted lawfully.
They also claimed that neither client was injured (despite seeing photographs as proof) but made a ‘without prejudice’ offer to settle of £4,000 which was to be shared between H and A.
As an experienced solicitor who helps people claim against the police on a daily basis, I was confident that the offer was insulting to my clients and that they were telling the truth about their injuries.
I obtained medical evidence, issued proceedings, and eventually settled their claims for £18,000, four times more than the original offer to H, and five times more than the original offer to A.
The police also had to pay full legal costs, which were considerably higher as I had no choice but to issue proceedings due to their denial of liability and ridiculous low offer.
The police force involved and their solicitors clearly thought they could get away with this, and they may have succeeded if they were dealing with someone who does not deal with claims against the police every day. Respecting me, their opponent, would have saved the police a lot of money and time.
New Year’s Resolution for Police Force Solicitors
I urge any police forces and their solicitors who read my blog to make a New Year’s resolution to learn from these examples.
My clients are innocent victims of police misconduct. By the time they come to me for help with their claim against the police they have suffered enough.
Don’t make it worse for them by dragging cases out unnecessarily and making no offers, or insulting ones.
How you would feel if you were the person making the claim against the police?
Wouldn’t you like to restore some goodwill by treating them with respect?
If thinking about the innocent victim doesn’t get you to change, what about the wasted money that could be spent fighting crime?
Whatever the reason, make 2014 the year you change the way you deal with claims against the police.
Kevin Donoghue is the Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors, a specialist law firm dedicated to helping innocent people claim against the police.
At a packed Law Society Special General Meeting on Tuesday 17 December, the Law Society leadership lost a vote of no confidence.
For victims of wrongful arrest by the police (also known as ‘false imprisonment’), the vote might turn out to have important consequences.
Criminal solicitor, James Parry of Liverpool firm Parry Welch Lacey led the campaign. He is convinced that the Government’s proposed cuts to criminal legal aid would be devastating for criminal lawyers.
The Government’s plan to cut the legal aid budget would see criminal solicitors’ fees reduced by 17.5%. As many firms already run on shoe-string budgets, the reduction is likely to put a great number of experienced criminal solicitors out of business.
At the meeting in London Mr. Parry said that the Government’s proposals ‘threatened the very existence of the criminal justice system’ and called on the Law Society leadership to take a more aggressive approach in fighting the cuts.
But despite losing the vote of no confidence, the President and CEO of the Law Society have not resigned. Instead, the President, Nick Fluck, insists that they ‘will redouble our efforts, reaffirm our commitment to cuts and continue the fight’.
Wrongful Arrest Representation
So, why does this matter, and how might it affect future victims of wrongful arrest by the police?
Criminal lawyers like James Parry have many years’ experience in their fields. They know the criminal law, and police procedures, inside out. They routinely represent clients at police stations and in courts. They know the good, decent police officers, and those who will try to take advantage.
Importantly, they know when someone has been a victim of wrongful arrest and how to handle that situation in a police station or court. Then the innocent victim has the best chance of success in their compensation claim against the police.
These solicitors also have the right contacts, so they can put the wrongful arrest victim in touch with expert solicitors to represent them in this specialised area of law.
So what happens if solicitors like Mr. Parry and his fellow campaigners against the Law Society leadership are forced out of the profession by Government cuts? Will their replacements be up to the job?
I doubt it.
It does not take a massive leap of imagination to anticipate that without expert representation at the police station some police officers will take advantage.
As a result, wrongful arrest cases will increase, and more innocent people will suffer due to police misconduct.
Criminal Solicitors Role in Wrongful Arrest Cases
So this affects us all.
As the case report of my client Mr. D shows (click on this link to read it), even after his wrongful arrest the police made him wait for a (criminal) Duty Solicitor before releasing vital information which he could use to show that a police arrest warrant had been negligently obtained.
Mr. D waited 13 hours in police custody. How much more would it have been without expert advice from his criminal lawyer?
Similarly, Mr. D’s wrongful arrest claim succeeded because he instructed expert lawyers in my firm, Donoghue Solicitors, to pursue his police warrant claims.
As we are a specialist firm who deal with police misconduct cases we were able to fight and win his claim when others might not.
Access to Justice and Expertise Threatened
Having the necessary expertise is essential when representing people in criminal and civil cases.
By forcing the vote of no confidence this week, Mr. Parry and his colleagues have reminded the Law Society leadership of their duty to fight the Government on the cuts and so keep the profession intact.
By doing so, they have done us all, and especially future victims of wrongful arrest by the police, a great service.
If you are a victim of wrongful arrest by the police and want expert help with a compensation claim, contact Donoghue Solicitors on 08000 124 246 or see our website for more details.
Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors
By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director at Donoghue Solicitors
Today, 10th December, 2013, is the 65th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Declaration (read it here) sets out the basic human rights and freedoms to which everyone is entitled, no matter where they live. You may be familiar with the principles in the Declaration, such as Article 1, which states:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Read on to find out how the Declaration still protects us and helps innocent victims when suing the police after an unlawful police search warrant.
The Declaration of Human Rights and European Law
Article 12 of the Declaration says:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
To give a legal framework to the Declaration, the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) was drafted. It came into effect in 1953 and created the European Court of Human Rights.
All 47 member states, including the UK, are required to follow the ECHR.
The principles in Article 12 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights can be found in Article 8 of the ECHR:
Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The Human Rights Act and Compensation Claims
In the UK, the Human Rights Act (1998)(‘HRA’) was passed to:
‘give further effect to rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights’.
It applies to all public bodies (except Parliament in some roles), so includes all police forces.
Article 8 of the ECHR is repeated in Schedule 1 of the HRA.
Court Powers When Suing the Police
If the police breach a person’s rights under the ECHR and HRA, the Court can:
grant such relief or remedy, or make such order, within its powers as it considers just and appropriate.
This means that people suing the police can claim compensation, which is the usual remedy in cases where there has been a breach of Article 8 ECHR.
Suing the Police under the Human Rights Act
So, in principle, public bodies in the UK are supposed to respect the right to private and family life and a person’s home under Article 8 of the ECHR and HRA. But what happens when they don’t?
My clients, H and A, asked me to help them with suing the police following a botched police search warrant raid at their home.
H and A are father and son.
H is registered disabled with chronic back pain. His son, A, is a student.
They were the lawful owners of their home, 28 [Blank] Avenue. They were at home in their bedrooms asleep at around 8a.m. when they were woken by the sound of their front door being smashed open. They thought they were being burgled, and only found out minutes later that the police, who were dressed in plain clothes, were performing a raid.
A police officer dragged A out of his bed by his hair, scratched his face, and gave him a black eye. The policeman then pulled A’s pyjama bottoms down, humiliating him, hit him in the ribs, and pushed him by his face against the bedroom wall. A was then taken downstairs where he met his father.
Despite being disabled, H was also assaulted by the police. The policemen pushed him on to the newel posts at the top of the stairs. He then fell to the floor, hit his face, and was dragged downstairs.
Both men were ordered to sit on the couch and, for the first time, the terrified family were told that the people in their home were policemen executing a search warrant.
H and A repeatedly told the police that they must have made a mistake. Eventually, the police checked their warrant and realised that they had gone to the wrong house.
My clients were later advised that the address they meant to go to was 28 [Blank] Close, not [Blank] Avenue.
The police left 45 minutes later promising to send someone to fix the door.
Both H and A needed medical treatment. They also suffered psychological upset.
The European Court of Human Rights
Article 8 ECHR compensation claims
The men instructed me as I am a solicitor who specialises in suing the police. They wanted:
to claim compensation; and
to make the police think twice before repeating their actions at someone else’s house.
I claimed compensation for H and A relying on a breach of Article 8 of the ECHR, negligence, and trespass. It was obvious to me that, in addition to the negligent mistake and trespass of my clients’ home, there was also a Human Rights issue as the police failed to respect my client’s right to privacy, family life, and home.
The police disagreed, so I issued court proceedings. They later accepted trespass but denied everything else.
Amazingly, even though my clients had been assaulted by police officers, the police force said that there was no evidence of injury, and that the raid only lasted 20 minutes, not 45.
I obtained medical reports to prove the physical and psychological injuries and prepared the case for trial.
I kept the pressure on so that the police realised they must apologise and agree to settle my clients’ claims, or answer for their actions at court.
After negotiations, A received five times more compensation than the police originally offered; H received four times more.
Importantly, they received an apology from the police and both men were satisfied that, even though their Human Rights had been breached in the raid, suing the police gave them a worthwhile remedy and that lessons had been learned.
Effect of the Declaration of Human Rights
Suing the police can be stressful and difficult, but sometimes it is a necessary step.
By taking proceedings, my clients H and A received justice and also helped the police fulfil their obligations under Article 2 of the Declaration which states:
‘Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind…’
The Declaration of Human Rights is as relevant today as it was in the years immediately after World War II. Then, the international community was determined to avoid another devastating global conflict. Now, as H and A’s unfortunate experience shows, the abuse of power by agents of the State is something that must be kept in check.
The Declaration of Human Rights may be of pensionable age, but that’s no reason for it to be retired.
If you want help suing the police contact me, Kevin Donoghue, at Donoghue Solicitors, by completing the on-line form on our website or calling 0151 933 1474.