How Police Taser Use is Failing Us All

Is the current police taser policy working? A few recent reports about the police’s use of tasers in the UK suggest not.

Picture of police Taser claims solicitor, Kevin DonoghueBy Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor

In 2013, police tasers were deployed 10,380 times across England and Wales. The weapons, which discharge an electrical charge said to be 50,000 volts, cause temporary paralysis. As a result, a police taser can be an extremely effective tool to ensure compliance.

But because the weapon can cause serious injury, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (“ACPO”) own guidelines state that a police taser should only be used where:

  1. the police officers face violence; or
  2.  when they are in a situation where the threat of violence is so severe they need to use force to protect the public, themselves, and/ or the person they are dealing with.


Police Taser Use in the News


Despite that clear guidance from their own leaders, these recent reports suggest that the officers armed with police tasers are not sticking to their bosses’ rules:

  1. A BBC report states that in the South of England taser use has doubled, leading Amnesty International to express concern about whether they are being used in minor situations instead of the life-threatening or serious violence ones they were introduced to deal with.
  2. Staffordshire Police taser use is three times more than the neighbouring West Midlands Police. The force has the highest level of police taser use per person in the country, and is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (“IPCC”) about it.
  3. Lincolnshire Police are using police tasers more than twice as much as neighbouring forces such as Nottinghamshire.
  4. The IPCC questions the point blank use of police tasers.  It notes that the police are officially no longer trained to use the technique of ‘drive stun’, where the police taser is discharged while being held directly against the victim’s body rather than fired from a distance. Despite this, officers are shown that the technique exists and use the police tasers in this way in 16% of cases. The IPCC said that showing officers the option existed but being told not to use it was ‘counter intuitive’. The IPCC commissioner also said that using the taser in this way ‘is purely a means of pain compliance’ which often made the victims of the police taser assaults more resistant.


Police Taser Defence


With all this recent negative publicity (the oldest story in that group is from 8 April 2014) you might expect the police to go on a charm offensive. But instead of re-assuring the public that the ACPO guidelines are followed, that training will be reviewed, and that the controversial ‘drive stun’ technique will be discontinued, all these reports were defended by the police for various reasons:

  1. Chief Superintendent Paul Morrison head of operations command at Sussex and Surrey police, justified the rise in police taser use by saying it coincided with more officers getting the weapons, and when discussing a case involving the police taser assault on a 14-year-old girl, said “Taser was a low level of force, if you use restraints or baton strikes… they could have led to injuries.”
  2. The Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner said police tasers were often used as a deterrent.
  3. Lincolnshire Police Force’s assistant chief constable, Lee Freeman, said that Lincolnshire’s large rural area is a factor in their comparatively high police taser use; that more of their officers were trained in taser use; and, according to the BBC report, “he said tasers were usually used in circumstances when someone [is] threatening to use violent behaviour.” (my emphasis).
  4. ACPO said that the controversial ‘drive stun’ technique is still shown during training because it could be needed in an emergency. They also questioned the statistics, suggesting that ‘angled drive stun’ (which they said is a ‘viable tactic’) was confused with ‘drive stun’ (the pure ‘pain compliance’ method.)


Photo of a police Taser Weak Arguments to Justify Increasing Police Taser Use


My thoughts on these responses are:

  1. Ch Supt Paul Morrison’s argument that more tasers equals more use has merit, but to then suggest that police tasers are ‘low level’ weapons undermines his argument. If they are so innocent, why are police tasers being issued to so many officers? Why is Amnesty International involved? Why are the IPCC criticising the police for using them for “pain compliance”?
  1. Staffordshire Police’s point that the tasers are often used as a deterrent is also justified according to the IPCC statistics, but that doesn’t explain why they are using the weapons so much, especially when compared to near neighbours like West Midlands Police, who have a comparable blend of cities, towns, and rural areas to police.
  1. Lincolnshire police say that being a rural force means that they must use their tasers more. This is disingenuous. England and Wales has lots of rural areas where other forces are able to deal with dangerous situations without resorting to the use of police tasers. Derbyshire, for example, only used the weapons 83 times in all of 2013, less than a third of Lincolnshire Police’s total. What did Lincolnshire do before they got their hands on police tasers? Simply let criminals and others they wanted to apprehend get away?

No doubt like Ch Supt Morrison of Sussex and Surrey Police, they would say that if they had to use a truncheon or fist instead that could also cause injury. Perhaps, but often not to the extent of incapacitating someone, who may then fall to the ground and suffer serious secondary injuries, which can be worse than the initial taser shock.

 I am also troubled that, according to the Assistant Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police, police tasers are “usually” but not always used “in circumstances when someone [is] threatening to use violent behaviour”. The ACPO guidelines above say that the weapons should only be used when the officers or others face violence or the threat of violence. When and why did Lincolnshire Police disregard official ACPO policy? What other circumstances now justify using a police taser?

  1. ACPO’s response to the critical IPCC report on ‘drive stun’ is to defend the tactic, saying that it could be needed in an emergency, e.g when the initial firing missed its target. Are we expected to believe that happens in 1 in 6 incidents? Can’t the police shoot straight?

They also questioned the statistics, suggesting that ‘angled drive stun’ (a ‘viable tactic’) was confused with ‘drive stun’ (the pure pain compliance method). This, to me, seems to be little more than deflecting blame and trying to change the subject to one of how the report was prepared, rather than dealing with the issues raised.

As a solicitor who deals with civil actions against the police on a daily basis, I am not surprised that the police’s responses were defensive. Their mantra when dealing with compensation claims seems to be: deny, deflect, and disrupt. They appear to be taking the same approach with the media.

Police Taser Abuse Defended


Tasers can be deadly weapons and, as ACPO themselves state in their guidelines, should only be used as a last resort when faced with violence or a severe threat of violence. The alarming rise in police taser use, the continued use of the painful “drive stun” technique, and Assistant Chief Constable Lee Freeman’s comments suggests this is not happening.

Reading the reports above I am struck that the various police forces respond to challenges by defending their techniques, denying wrongdoing, and challenging the statistics.

This is a systemic issue. Instead of excuses, we need solutions.

It matters because police forces are meant to serve the public, not the state, and an escalation in the use of police tasers suggests that things may have moved too far in the direction of control and compliance.

If the police are to win back public confidence, they need to learn lessons from the seemingly out-of-control increase in police taser use and their bungled media response to it. They could start by properly training police officers using agreed ethical standards which apply to all forces, avoid blaming others, and stop trotting out excuses.


Kevin Donoghue is a solicitor who specialises in civil claims against the police. You can contact him via his firm’s website,, or on 0151 933 1474.


Image credit: Marcelo Freixo CC licensed


Police Assault? You Decide

Photo of Police Assault Clams Solicitor, Kevin Donoghue

Police Assault Clams Solicitor, Kevin Donoghue

By Kevin Donoghue, solicitor and specialist in actions against the police

I came across this facebook video of a man being arrested at Freshbrook shops in Swindon. It appears to show police assault a man during the course of an arrest. According to the comments beneath the video, the arrested man was “accused of something he didn’t even do and got let out 2 hours later”.

As a solicitor who specialises in civil actions against the police I often hear from people in similar situations who are keen to make a police complaint and a compensation claim against the police. But can they?

Police Assault Facebook Video

If you can, watch the facebook video linked above (it’s only 56 seconds long) then read the rest of this article.

If you can’t see the police assault video, I think this is what it shows (the audio is unclear at times, so this may not be completely accurate):

A male PC (“MPC1”) and a female officer (“WPC”) are shown holding the Arrested Man (“AM”) to the paved ground. MPC1 is kneeling over the arrested man’s torso. The WPC is holding his legs.  One handcuff is already applied to the AM’s right hand.

MPC1: (into his radio) Can I have someone to Freshbrooks shops please, (warrant?) of arrest, Chris Davidson

MPC1 holds the AM to the ground using his elbow into AM’s throat/ neck area.

AM: I can’t f**kin’ breathe

MPC1: Well stop fighting

MPC1 adjusts his position over the AM, apparently to apply the second handcuff.

AM: I’m quite happy to co-operate

MPC1: You were given the option

MPC1 pulls the arrested man up and applies the second handcuff.

(Unintelligible conversation between MPC and AM)

A female onlooker asks: What are they doing?

A male onlooker replies: Assault

MPC1 pushes the AM to the ground. He holds the AM’s handcuffed hands using his left hand and the right side of the AM’s face with his right hand.

AM: What the f**k?

MPC1: Did you spit at me?

AM: No I didn’t f**kin’ (unintelligible?)

MPC1 holds the AM by his hair/ left ear.

MPC1: Listen, you’ve already spat at my colleague once. Are you going to spit again?

Another male PC (“MPC2”) arrives and kneels opposite his colleague, MPC1.

AM: I did not.

MPC1: Yes or No.

Another male PC (“MPC3”) arrives and stands opposite the WPC next to MPC1

Unintelligble conversation between the officers, then MPC2 says to MPC3 “he’s already cuffed”.

MPC1: Right I have something to say. (You’re under?) arrest. I was going to explain myself.


Interpreting the Police Assault Video

Here’s how I see the video of this potential police assault claim:


  1. the video and audio is reasonably clear, and does not seem to have been manipulated or edited;
  2. significantly, AM states “I can’t f*ckin’ breathe” and “I’m quite happy to co-operate”;
  3. in response, MPC1 states “You were given the option” and applies the second handcuff. Objectively at this point AM is not resisting arrest;
  4. MPC1 forces AM’s head abruptly downwards, suggesting that AM has spat at him, which AM denies. The denial is plausible;
  5. a female onlooker asks “what are they doing?”;
  6. a male onlooker (possibly the one who is filming out of concern) says “assault”.


The Law

1.      False Imprisonment

In the video the arrested man was deprived of his liberty. If this was done without lawful cause, a claim for false imprisonment could be made.

As it would be hard for the police to deny that the officers were preventing the man from leaving, they must justify the arrest by showing that they had lawful authority to do so.

In my experience, the most common defence the police use is that they were carrying out a lawful arrest.

The legal basis for this is provided by sections 24 and 28 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (“PACE”).  In that, the following conditions for a lawful arrest are necessary:

  1. MPC1 honestly suspected that AM was involved in the commission of a criminal offence;
  2. MPC1 held that suspicion on reasonable grounds;
  3. MPC1’s reasons for effecting an arrest amount to a reasonable belief that the arrest was necessary, usually to allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question;
  4. MPC1 informed AM of the fact and grounds of arrest as soon as reasonably practicable; and
  5. MPC1’s exercise of his discretion to arrest was reasonable in public law terms because PACE gives a discretion, not a duty to arrest.

Without knowing more about what led to the arrest, it is impossible to say if these conditions were in place.

But it is interesting that, according to one person in the comments section of the footage, the arrested man was released only two hours later without charge. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he has a claim for false imprisonment or police assault, but it could be worth investigating, particularly as MPC1 appears to say ‘warrant’ of arrest when calling for backup.

(If MPC1 was acting under an unlawful police warrant then the grounds for arrest did not exist, and a false imprisonment and police assault claim could be made.)

2.      Police Assault

To avoid a claim for police assault and battery, the police must show that the arrest was:

  • reasonable;
  • necessary; and
  • in the purported exercise of the arresting officer’s lawful powers.

(From s.117 of PACE).

Without these three elements, any and all force will be unlawful from start to finish.

If the purported exercise of the power was unlawful, for example, where:

  • there were no reasonable grounds for suspicion in the case of the arrest; or
  • an unapproved method of restraint was employed;

then AM could make a police assault claim.

In that case, the arrested man would be entitled to compensation for the police assault when the officer:

  • restrained him and held him down;
  • pushed against his neck/ throat;
  • applied handcuffs; and
  • forced him to the ground using his hand against AM’s face etc.

If DNA and fingerprints were taken at the police station that would also be considered a police assault for which compensation could be paid.

If the application of force is in the furtherance of the exercise of lawful powers, then the issue will be whether the application of force itself was excessive.

What is excessive will depend upon the circumstances as apparent to the arresting officer MPC1, not observers like us. In my 15 years of dealing with police assault cases I have never come across a case where the officer says that he used excessive force, and would not expect to here.

Was this a Police Assault?

The facebook video appears to show a police assault for which the arrested man could make a compensation claim.

The force used appears to be unreasonable, unnecessary and disproportionate.

However, much will depend on the reason for the detention and use of force. Without knowing why AM was being arrested, and what happened immediately before the onlooker started filming, we can’t say if the arresting officer had lawful authority and used reasonable and necessary force. For example, if the arrested man:

  • had just acted dangerously; or
  • the officers had reasonable cause to believe that he had a weapon; or
  • was an imminent risk to them or others;

then the use of force could be justified.

Police Assault Compensation Claim

As this article shows, false imprisonment and police assault cases are never straightforward. I suggest that the arrested man get legal advice about making a police assault compensation claim from a specialist solicitor who deals with claims against the police.

Only after a qualified solicitor reviews all the evidence, statements, custody records, and other things, will he find out if he is entitled to make a police assault claim.


If you would like to make a police assault compensation claim contact Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor, on 0151 236 1336 or complete the online form on our website We deal with compensation claims against the police for people throughout England and Wales.

Donoghue Solicitors is an award-winning compensation claims law firm which specialises in claims against the police, personal injury accident claims, and professional negligence.
25 Hatton Garden
Liverpool, Merseyside
L3 2FE
Phone: 0151 236 1336

Why Electronic Tag Compensation Claims May Increase

Things are about to get more complicated for anyone wearing an electronic tag, and a lot more expensive for Capita PLC.

Picture of Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors, specialists in helping people claim against the police.

Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors

Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors, explains why.


New Electronic Tag Contract


This week the Guardian reported how Capita, the public services outsourcing company, has been awarded a six-year contract to fit and monitor the electronic tags worn by about 100,000 offenders a year.

Capita has replaced G4S and Serco, who both lost their lucrative government contracts after overcharging allegations led to them repaying nearly £180 million.

I have previously blogged about the consequences of electronic tag failures. Then, because of my experience of representing people who claimed compensation for false imprisonment after electronic tag errors, I urged the government to think long and hard before entering into any security related contracts with G4S and Serco.  Fortunately for the public, as part of the electronic tag renewal process, the two companies were barred from bidding.

But Capita, the company that won the contract said to be worth £400 million, does not inspire confidence either, having also failed to fulfil its obligations under existing government contracts.

Only three months ago the publicly listed company (‘PLC’) was bailed out by the taxpayer when it failed to clear a backlog of medical assessments for payments to tens of thousands of people with terminal illnesses or disabilities. Presumably Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary who awarded the electronic tag contract, was aware of this before awarding it to Capita.

Conflicts of Interest

By entering into the electronic tag contract, there are two sets of conflicts of interest in play:

  1. The conflict between the government and Capita; and
  2. The conflict between Capita, who hold the contract, and their suppliers.

1. Capita’s failure with the medical assessments contract highlights the fundamental flaw in the government’s decision to outsource the electronic tag contract: Capita, like G4S and Serco before it, is a PLC. As such, its duty is to make money for its shareholders, not to protect the public or those fitted with an electronic tag.

With its very recent history of failure, what makes Chris Grayling think that Capita will manage the electronic tag contract any better than its predecessors?

2. It seems to me that the way Capita have set up the contract is a recipe for disaster. In particular, I question the reasons for outsourcing fulfilment of the technical parts of the contract while retaining overall control.

No doubt with the interests of their shareholders in mind, Capita has partnered with three other companies to provide the electronic tag services:

  • Capita will manage the contract;
  • Steatite will provide the GPS tracking tags;
  • Airbus Defence and Space will do the satellite mapping; and
  • Telefonica will supply the network.

I expect that Capita’s explanation for partnering with these specialist companies is to save money and avoid investing in resources themselves by outsourcing the supply of technology and services.

But, as I pointed out in my earlier blog post about electronic tagging, equipment malfunctions by one company alone can give rise to unlawful arrest compensation claims against the electronic tag supplier (Serco in the case I described). The chances of errors giving rise to compensation claims with four companies involved are far higher.

Electronic Tag Claim Against G4S and the Court

As Mr. W’s case in the earlier blog post proved, paying thousands of pounds in compensation and legal costs is inevitable when the electronic tag equipment fails to do its job and a wrongful arrest is made.

But, and this is where things get worse for Capita, even if the electronic tag equipment works as it should, the company could still be liable for compensation claims for process failures. In a case I am presently pursuing for Mr. D, he will shortly receive compensation from both G4S and the Court Service for wrongful arrest and detention due to administrative failures.

Mr D was granted conditional bail at Leeds Crown Court on a curfew which allowed him to be away from his home only between 12pm-2pm every day. G4S installed the monitoring equipment at his home and fitted his electronic tag.

With such a short period of free time during the day, it was inevitable that there would be a problem at some point. That day came when Mr. D was given a hospital appointment which meant he would have to be out of the house outside of his normal hours. His criminal solicitors got a variation in the curfew from the Court. Mr. D notified G4S, went to the appointment the next day, and called the company when he returned home.

Three days later officers from South Yorkshire Police arrested Mr. D at home for breach of bail conditions for breaking his curfew. He was kept for over nine hours before being released once the Magistrates Court was satisfied that no breach of bail had occurred.

G4S accepts that it was responsible for the error due to a failure in its processes, and will pay compensation and legal costs for Mr. D’s wrongful arrest and detention.

(Mr. D’s case is interesting as it shows that the Court Service can also be liable for electronic tag claims. Despite explaining what happened to the police and Magistrates when he was first arrested, Mr. D was then arrested the next day, and again on the following day.

The Court Service will also pay compensation, as a staff member unilaterally changed Mr. D’s curfew hours, from 12pm-2pm to 1pm-3pm, causing the second and third arrests. This was not requested by Mr. D’s criminal solicitors, who merely sought to change the curfew for the day Mr. D had a medical appointment, and was not communicated to Mr. D or his lawyers. Negotiations are continuing and I will get Mr. D his compensation shortly.)

Electronic Tag Costs

Capita executives may be satisfied with their latest government contract, but as the experience of G4S and Serco shows, getting it wrong can be an expensive business.

People wearing electronic tags suffered wrongful arrests and justifiably made compensation claims against the two companies, who received bad publicity and had to pay out.

Capita will need to be confident that its own internal processes are watertight and that its outsourced companies and their equipment are working effectively. If not, more electronic tag wrongful arrest compensation claims will be made, and those Capita executives will only have themselves to blame.


To make an electronic tag unlawful arrest claim, call me on 0151 933 1474, or complete the online form on my firm’s website


Charity begins at home for Donoghue Solicitors

By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor

Picture of Daniel Fitzsimmons, Kevin Donoghue, and Hannah Bickley, of Donoghue Solicitors.

Daniel Fitzsimmons, Kevin Donoghue, and Hannah Bickley, of Donoghue Solicitors are all taking part in the 3 Peaks Challenge.

Over the weekend of the 5th and 6th July a team from Donoghue Solicitors are attempting the National 3 Peaks Challenge in aid of a local charity, Bootle-based Brunswick Youth and Community Centre. We hope to raise £3,000 so the Club can provide activities to local young people during the summer.

Please sponsor us!

What we’re doing

Photo of Snowdon, which Donoghue Solicitors 3 Peaks Challenge team will climb.


The 3 Peaks Challenge sees challengers attempt to climb the highest mountains of Scotland (Ben Nevis, 1,344m/4,409ft), England (Scarfell Pike, 978m/3,209ft) and Wales (Snowdon, 1,085m/3,560ft). The total distance walked is estimated at 44 km/27 miles, with a total ascent of 3,000m/9,800ft.

Photo of Ben Nevis. A team from Donoghue Solicitors will climb Ben Nevis for the 3 Peaks Challenge.

Ben Nevis


We’re aiming to complete the challenge in 24 hours, which will involve driving many miles in a cramped minibus, eating bad food in motorway service stations, and then doing hard hikes in whatever weather the English summer throws at us!

Photo of Scarfell Pike, which the team from Donoghue Solicitors will climb.

Scarfell Pike


Why we’re doing the 3 Peaks Challenge

We are raising money for a registered charity, The Brunswick Youth & Community Centre of Marsh Lane, Bootle, Liverpool (or “The Brunny” as most people in Bootle know it).

This is an organisation that we all fully support due to the fantastic work that it carries out for the community in Bootle and the surrounding areas in North Liverpool and Merseyside. The charity provide after-school clubs, a youth club and run various projects that engage with young people to steer them in the right direction in life.

Picture of Kevin Donoghue, Principal Solicitor at Donoghue Solicitors, and Keith Lloyd of local charity Brunswick Youth Club.

Kevin Donoghue of Donoghue Solicitors and Keith Lloyd of Brunswick Youth Club.

Many of the staff at Donoghue Solicitors have benefitted as youngsters from the great work that The Brunny performs. It is not funded by the local authority; it is a fully independent charity that relies upon the support and generosity of local businesses and people (Jamie ‘Carra’ Carragher of Liverpool FC and England, and Donoghue Solicitors to name but two).

The aim is to raise funds for The Brunny so that they can run a holiday club throughout the Summer school break. They aim to be open 4 days every week and, on one day each week, they hope to include an outdoor activity such as canoeing or mountain biking. Surprisingly, there is no other organisation like this open during the holidays offering such activities to young people in our area.

Charity Partnership

The Donoghue Solicitors 3 Peaks Challenge is the first in a number of initiatives the firm is taking to encourage healthy lifestyles for its employees.

We have partnered with the Brunny and Sefton Council’s ‘Active Travel Sefton’ project to increase our use of public transport, cycling, walking, and outdoor activities. As a result I expect that everyone here will benefit from better health and well-being.

The 3 Peaks Challenge is an ambitious start compared to leaving the car at home when commuting to work, but I’m sure that, if we can do it, walking or cycling to the office will be easy!

Active Sefton logo


What you can do to help

Please sponsor us at our Virgin Money Giving page:

We will be live-tweeting our progress over the weekend of Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th July at Please ‘follow’ us and show your support to the team (Kevin Donoghue, Daniel Fitzsimmons, Hannah Bickley, Jack Fitzsimmons, Carl Smith, and Jane Basnett).

We really appreciate your support and thank you on behalf of The Brunny and the local community for sponsoring us.


Image credits: Ben Nevis by Bruce Cowan, Scarfell Pike by Craig Rigby, Snowdon by Bert Kaufmann (all on flickr).




Donoghue Solicitors win the “World Cup”


Picture of Daniel Fitzsimmons, team captain of the Donoghue Solicitors 5-a-side football team, who won the "World Cup" recently.

By Daniel Fitzsimmons

We won!

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.


Picture of Donoghue Solicitors' "World Cup" winning 5-a-side football team.

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!

Picture of the 5-a-side "World Cup" winners' trophy at Donoghue Solicitors' offices.

The 5-a-side “World Cup” winners trophy proudly displayed at Donoghue Solicitors’ offices.



Why the Police Should Change Their Body Camera Policy

Picture of Kevin Donoghue, Police Misconduct Claims Solicitor

Kevin Donoghue, Police Misconduct Claims Solicitor

By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor
Yesterday the Metropolitan Police confirmed that they will trial the use of body camera technology with 500 front line officers based in 10 London boroughs, starting with Camden.

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.

Picture of a police officer wearing a body camera.

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.

If you want a solicitor who will help you to sue the police contact me, Kevin Donoghue, on 0151 933 1474 or via my firm’s website

Image credit: West Midlands Police on flickr.

Why taking a pre-medical offer could be an expensive mistake

Accepting a pre-medical offer could be a costly financial mistake. Daniel Fitzsimmons of Donoghue Solicitors explains why.

Photo of Daniel Fitzsimmons, Trainee Legal Executive at Donoghue Solicitors.

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?

It is.

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.

After negotiations, I settled Mrs. B’s passenger accident claims for £3,303, more than three times the pre-medical offer.

It took an extra four months to go through this process, but Mrs. B was very happy with the settlement and felt that the time was well spent.

If she had accepted the insurer’s pre-medical offer, she would have missed out on £2,303 compensation.

How to Beat a Pre-Medical Offer

Mrs. B’s case is not unique. I routinely come across similar cases where the insurers for the responsible person make a low pre-medical offer.

And these offers are not just in road accidents. Any personal injury claim can be dealt with this way, including accidents at work, or tripping/ slipping claims.

But is it right?

Again, referring to the ABI’s Code, it specifically says (emphasis added):

Offers and Settlements 

General Policy

All offers should be fair and reasonable and based on appropriate evidence.

This is impossible without medical evidence.

Where no medical evidence has been obtained, how would anyone, let alone an unqualified insurance company representative, know what a ‘fair and reasonable’ offer should be?

Also, Mrs. B’s case shows how the insurers can ignore their own Code of Conduct when it suits them.

In her case the responsible driver’s insurers ignored both the ‘general policy’, and the guidance on ‘offers on low value injuries’. They made a very low pre-medical offer which was not:

  • ‘fair and reasonable’;
  • ‘based on appropriate evidence’; or
  • for an injury of ‘only of a few days in duration’.

Unsurprisingly, insurers try to settle claims for less than they are worth. That’s their job, as they represent the interests of the responsible party and their shareholders.

Make no mistake: by making pre-medical offers they are looking after themselves, not the accident victim.

The only way to deal with a pre-medical offer and get the right amount of compensation for the injured person is to prove their personal injury claims to the standard required at court. This means:

  • obtaining medical evidence by a qualified doctor;
  • who is instructed by an independent firm of solicitors;
  • who represent the interests of the injured person, not the responsible party.

It may take longer, but as Mrs. B’s case shows, it’s worth it to avoid making a mistake that could cost thousands of pounds.


+Daniel Fitzsimmons is an accredited ‘Litigator’ practitioner member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact him for help with your accident claim on 0151 933 1474 or by completing the form on the Donoghue Solicitors website.


Metropolitan Police Joke Is On You

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, Director of Donoghue Solicitors in Liverpool.

Kevin Donoghue, Director of Donoghue Solicitors

By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor

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.


Photo of a broken lightbulb. The Metropolitan Police pay up to £100 a time to replace broken lightbulbs.

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.

Kevin Donoghue is the Solicitor Director at Donoghue Solicitors, a law firm which specialises in accident claims and actions against the police. Contact him for expert legal advice on 0151 933 1474 or via his firm’s website,

Photo by Kevin Galens.

Do the Police Know the Law in Breach of the Peace UK Cases?

Picture of Kevin Donoghue Solicitor who takes breach of the peace UK claims

Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director at Donoghue Solicitors

By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor

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:

  1. a breach of the peace had or would occur; and that
  2. 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.

You can read the full case report of her breach of the peace UK claim by clicking on the link.

Miss B is a ‘night owl’. After a neighbour called the police in the early hours of the morning complaining of a disturbance, they went into her home and arrested her for a breach of the peace.

She was taken to a local police station, booked in, given a ‘safety gown’, and kept for 10 hours before being taken to the Magistrates Court.

At court she denied a breach of the peace. Later, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case.

She was referred to Donoghue Solicitors by her criminal solicitors as we specialise in actions against the police.

Applying the law in Howell, it was obvious to me that Miss B was innocent of the criminal charge of breach of the peace. The elements of the offence, which I outline above, did not exist.

So, I agreed to represent Miss B in her claim against the police on a ‘no win no fee’ basis and submitted a claim for false imprisonment, trespass, and police assault.

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.

You can read his breach of the peace compensation claim case report by clicking on the link.

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 website or by calling 0151 933 1474.


How Police Misconduct Investigations Weaken Public Trust

Picture of Kevin Donoghue, Police Misconduct Claims Solicitor

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.

(You can read my blog post here.)

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.

Police Misconduct covered up

I often represent clients with similar stories in their claims against the police.

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.

Photo of a police car road accident which may have led to a police misconduct investigation.

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.


Kevin Donoghue is the Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors, a niche law firm representing clients in their civil actions against the police and personal injury accident claims. Contact him for help with your police misconduct claim on 0151 933 1474 or go to the website:


Image (cropped to fit): cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by infliv:[email protected]/3871157689/