Can the Gatwick Airport Drone Couple Claim Compensation?

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, who considers if the Gatwick Airport drone couple are entitled to compensation.

Solicitor Kevin Donoghue considers if the Gatwick Airport drone couple is entitled to compensation.

By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors

Between 19-21 December 2018 Gatwick Airport was shut down after a drone (or drones) was spotted near the runway. The shutdown caused travel disruption at the UK’s second busiest airport. It affected about 140,000 passengers with delays and cancellations to 1,000 flights.

On Friday 21 December 2018 Sussex Police arrested two people suspected of “the criminal use of drones”. The police arrested them on suspicion of disrupting civil aviation “to endanger or likely to endanger safety of operations or persons”. This is a serious charge which carries a prison sentence if convicted. The police searched the couple’s home and, somehow, the media obtained their details. Commentators such as Piers Morgan called the suspects “clowns”. (He later apologised). Newspapers published stories with inflammatory headlines, including this one:Mail on Sunday front page showing Gatwick Airport drone story.

Sussex Police released the suspects without charge 36 hours’ later. The couple, who I am not naming to minimise further distress, feel “completely violated” by the incident, and said:

We are deeply distressed, as are our family and friends, and we are currently receiving medical care. The way we were initially perceived is disgusting, although those that knew us didn’t doubt us for a second.

But Sussex Police defended their actions. Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley said he was “satisfied that the arrest was lawful”:

And he denied responsibility for the media reporting, saying:

“We would not have chosen in any event to provide that information to anyone… and one might say that’s probably hindered us in terms of how quickly we’ve been able to get to a resolution, in terms of them being released from custody.”

The situation remains unresolved and a £60,000 reward is unclaimed.

Three Potential Issues in the Gatwick Airport Drone Case

What about the couple who were wrongly accused of criminal wrongdoing at Gatwick Airport? Can they claim compensation? As a solicitor who specialises in civil actions against the police, I can offer some insight. But I stress that I base my comments on media reports. I have not spoken with the couple. As a starting point, we should consider the following:

  1. Were the arrests lawful?
  2. Can the police justify the detention period?
  3. Responsibility for arrest publicity.

1. Were the arrests lawful?

Sussex Police were under huge pressure to solve this crime quickly. The disruption and worldwide publicity were immense. It seems that they were desperate to report progress, issuing a report about the arrests on the Force website at 1.23 a.m. on Saturday 22 December.

But did public and political pressure justify arresting the two people involved?

In most civil compensation claims the claimant must prove their case against the defendant. But civil actions against the police are different. Once the claimant has proven that they were detained, the police must justify it. We do not know on what grounds DCS Tingley said he was “satisfied that the arrest was lawful”. But to prove a lawful arrest (without a warrant) the police must satisfy all of the following conditions in ss.24 & 28 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) (as amended), which are:

(i) the arresting officer honestly suspected the arrested person was involved in the commission of a criminal offence (“the subjective test”)

(ii) the arresting officer held that suspicion on reasonable grounds (“the objective test”)

(iii) the arresting officer’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 (“the necessity test”)

(iv) the officer informed the arrested person of the fact and grounds of arrest as soon as reasonably practicable (“the section 28 test”)

(v) the arresting officer’s exercise of his or her discretion to arrest was reasonable in public law terms because PACE confers a discretion, not a duty to arrest. (“the Wednesbury test”).

You can read more about false imprisonment here.

The PACE conditions raise questions which the arresting officer might have to answer to justify the arrests. I understand from a drone enthusiast that the police might have found the couple by searching social media. If so, did that information give the arresting officer enough to form a reasonable and honestly held suspicion that they were involved in the commission of a criminal offence? Even with that intelligence, and any other information, could the police have handled the interview and search process differently? As my client James Parry’s case proved, the police always have the option of inviting suspects to attend a voluntary interview instead of arresting them (condition iii).

Public and political pressure is not mentioned in the PACE rules on lawful arrest. The urge to solve a crime does not justify arrest in any circumstances.

2. Length of detention

Sussex Police arrested the suspects just after 10pm on Friday 21 December. The police held them for 36 hours over two nights until release at about 10am on Sunday 23 December.

Was this appropriate?

The police must justify continuing detention on a minute-by-minute basis. As Lord Donaldson explained in Mercer v Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary:

what may originally have been a lawful detention may become unlawful because of its duration or of a failure to comply with the complex provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

PACE sets detention periods, which are generally 24 hours, but up to 36 hours when authorised by a superintendent (or above). (Court warrants can authorise further extensions, up to 96 hours.) The superintendent or above must have reasonable grounds for believing that:

  1. detention of the person without charge is necessary to secure or preserve evidence by questioning; and
  2. the offence is an indictable offence; and
  3. the investigation is being conducted diligently and expeditiously.

Knowing this, and especially point 3, it is interesting to note what the male suspect’s employer said about an alibi. He explained:

“All it would have taken was for them to call me and contact me as his employer and I could have confirmed that all day Wednesday and half the day Thursday, he was part of a three-man team installing fascia, soffit and guttering at a client’s home in Groombridge, Kent.

“On Friday he spent most of the day running my daughter about because she damaged one of her toes and he was ferrying her to the doctor.”

[He] went on: “I discovered on Friday evening that he had been arrested. I got onto the police on Saturday evening, but I couldn’t get through to anybody.

“There was was just somebody who said I’ll take notes and pass that message on. But they never did get back to me, there was no return contact.”

Police took 67 statements. But did they prioritise effectively knowing that they had two people in detention? The male suspect’s boss called to confirm a solid alibi. Given the need to justify detention and high-profile nature of the matter, why was this call effectively ignored? Would a superintendent (or higher officer) have authorised continued detention knowing this?

Another issue is Sussex Police’s approach to detention. Chief Constable Giles York:

defended the decision to hold [the male suspect] for an extended period, despite his employer saying he was at work during the drone flights.

He added: “I’m really sorry for what [the male suspect] has experienced and the feeling of violation around it.

“[But] what might have been worse as an experience for him would have been to be released under investigation still.

“We were able to exhaust all our lines of inquiry on that first instance and were able to release him from police custody saying he was no longer a suspect.”

It’s not clear what the Chief Constable means here. One interpretation could be that the couple was detained for longer than necessary while the police exhausted their enquiries. If that’s the case, did the police consider releasing them on bail (s.30A of PACE) with conditions if necessary?:

(3B) Subject to subsection (3A), where a constable releases a person on bail under subsection (1) the constable may impose, as conditions of the bail, such requirements as appear to the constable to be necessary—

(a)to secure that the person surrenders to custody,

(b)to secure that the person does not commit an offence while on bail,

(c)to secure that the person does not interfere with witnesses or otherwise obstruct the course of justice, whether in relation to himself or any other person, or

(d)for the person’s own protection or, if the person is under the age of 18, for the person’s own welfare or in the person’s own interests.

Again, given the police’s obligation to justify detention, officers may need to explain why they did not release the couple earlier, with or without bail.

3. Publicity

As my client Nigel Lang explained, arrest publicity can have life-changing consequences. It erodes the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Did police leak details of the arrest? Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan seemed to think so:

As I mentioned earlier, the police were coming under intense scrutiny at the time. It is conceivable that an officer leaked the suspects’ details to show Sussex Police had the situation under control.

If so, they caused the couple a great deal of unnecessary pain and distress.


The two suspects describe the life-changing trauma of their arrest and detention in this video. They are now receiving medical treatment.

It remains to be seen if the couple takes legal action. Proving wrongful arrest is not easy. Ignore what uninformed people say on social media. A police officer can be completely mistaken (e.g. relying on a mistaken identification given by a witness) and the arrest can still be lawful.

And some have suggested that the couple will get “millions”, referring to Sir Cliff Richard’s case as an example. They’re wrong. As I explained here, his was an exceptional case.

Despite these warnings, as my client Paul Smith proved, successfully suing Sussex Police is possible. The couple might be able to bring compensation claims for

  • false imprisonment
  • misuse of private information
  • breach of the Human Rights Act 1998
  • Data Protection Act 2018
  • trespass
  • etc.

This may lead to compensation for

  • psychological effects
  • injury to feelings
  • lost earnings
  • other heads of claim.

As well as the financial aspect, there are also public confidence consequences for Sussex Police. They come out of this matter with very little credit. DCS Tingley confused the public and media on 23 December (the same day the couple were released) when he said that there was

‘always a possibility that there may not have been any genuine drone activity in the first place.’

(The following day the police called this “poor communications” and claimed there had been many drone sightings.)

DCS Tingley may have also contributed to the arrested couple’s trauma when he refused to apologise.

Lastly, the incident may encourage MPs to legislate. Parliament might

I wish the couple all the best as they start the New Year and come to terms with everything they’ve been through. They deserve it.

Kevin Donoghue is a solicitor who specialises in civil actions against the police.


What the Weapons Effect Tells Us About Police Taser Assaults

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, who discusses the weapons effect with respect to the police's use of Taser stun-guns.

Solicitor Kevin Donoghue discusses the weapons effect following a recent report on the police’s use of Taser stun-guns.

By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors

A recent report about police use of Tasers found that “officers are more likely to be assaulted when carrying electroshock weaponry, and more likely to apply force.” The report found that between June 2016 – June 2017 City of London police officers armed with Tasers were

  1. almost 50% more likely to use force in the line of duty
  2. twice as likely to be assaulted compared to unarmed police.
  3. unarmed officers accompanying Taser-wielding officers were 19% more likely to be assaulted.

The researchers at the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology chose City of London Police (COLP) as their study subject for a reason. As they explained,

The overwhelming majority of officers in the United Kingdom are not equipped with firearms, and COLP is the first force in England and Wales to test the extended deployment of personal-issued TASERs to frontline officers. By implication, it is the first to test the utility of the device under rigorous conditions. Specifically, we are interested in TASERs’ effects on the use of force in police–public interactions, assaults on police officers, and injuries sustained by suspects.

The report supports the well-established “weapons effect” phenomenon, which prior to this research referred only to guns. It is found where the presence of a weapon leads to more aggressive behaviour, particularly if already aroused.

The study has generated many headlines because it shows that “the weapons effect is ubiquitous and extends to less-than-lethal weapons” such as Tasers. Police Federation representatives are upset by this conclusion, because they relentlessly promote Tasers as a “low level of force”, and want all front-line officers to have them.

But should they? Consider the ongoing case of my client Paul (name changed).

Unprovoked Police Taser Attack

Paul Jones is a professional social worker in his late 20s. He is a black man who lives in London. He has never been in trouble with the police and has a clean record, as befits his position.

One night in earlier this year he was driving friends home in his Mercedes-Benz car. He was the “designated driver” and completely sober.

City of London Police pulled Paul’s car over, even though he knew he wasn’t speeding or driving erratically. An officer told Paul that he wanted him to take a breath test. Paul immediately agreed. He had nothing to hide. He got out of his car to assist the officer. The first test was inconclusive. So was the second. A second officer appeared and asked Paul if he was chewing. Paul said he was. He had gum in his mouth. This officer told Paul to take the gum out and addressed him in a demeaning way. He told Paul that he would have to wait 20 minutes before re-testing. Paul explained that the first officer didn’t tell him to take the gum out and, as Paul had never been breathalysed before, he didn’t know any different.

More officers arrived. Paul stayed calm and waited. He took the breath test for a third time: it was inconclusive again. The officers were frustrated and began shouting at Paul. By now four or five officers surrounded him. One was standing right behind him, out of Paul’s line-of-sight. This police officer Tasered Paul without warning, temporarily paralysing him. He shouted “Taser, taser, taser” only after electrocuting Paul, who had no idea the officer had pulled and aimed his weapon. Paul fell to the ground and banged his head on a marble ledge, knocking him out. His friends watched the fall and thought Paul had been killed. One of them confronted the officer with the Taser and asked, “are you going to Taser me?” “Yeah, I will,” said the police officer.

Paul was taken to hospital. The police attempted to get a blood sample after he had been assessed. Paul refused. He has a needle phobia and had earlier refused an IV drip. He offered another breath or urine sample instead. The police refused to accept this and charged Paul for failing to provide a (blood) sample. Paul fought the criminal case which could have devastating consequences professionally and personally. The Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case the day before trial. Paul is now claiming compensation for his physical and psychological injuries, lost earnings, and other things.

I have every confidence in my client’s case. Not only is he an excellent, credible witness, but so are his friends. And there is body worn camera and CCTV footage to support Paul’s version of events. The City of London Police acted disgracefully and needlessly injured an innocent man.

Impact of the Weapons Effect on Police Officers

The University of Cambridge researchers explained the weapons effect in their report from the suspect’s point-of-view, saying

the cue of a weapon “activates” those internal conditions that affect one’s decision-making processes, ultimately leading to assaults and attempted assaults on weapon-carrying officers and by implication to a rise in police use of force.

But the weapons effect does not discriminate between weapon-wielding police officers and their victims.

In Paul’s case, the weapons effect described by the researchers did not apply to him. He did not act in an aggressive manner because of the presence of the Taser. He didn’t know it was there and remained calm, even when confronted by aggressive and aroused officers. But there is no doubt that the presence of the Taser weapon led to the unnecessary use of force by the police officer. The officer ignored best-practice and training. He was too quick to resort to the most severe form of force available to him (Taser) rather than use de-escalation techniques. This fits in with the researchers first finding (Taser-equipped police are almost 50% more likely to use force in the line of duty).

The University of Cambridge report is helpful. It expands public knowledge and offers interesting recommendations, such as concealing Tasers to avoid the weapons effect. But considering the weapons effect solely from the point of view of the suspect, and not Taser-wielding police officers, paints an incomplete picture.

Kevin Donoghue is a solicitor who specialises in civil actions against the police.




Donoghue Solicitors Shortlisted for Modern Law Awards

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, the Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors.

Contact Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors, to start your compensation claim.

By Kevin Donoghue, solicitor

This morning I saw this tweet on my firm’s feed:

I am delighted to announce that the organisers got in touch! Donoghue Solicitors has been shortlisted for the 2019 Modern Law Awards in the Boutique Law Firm of the Year Award (1-10 employees) category. The Awards are now in their sixth year. They “celebrate and identify sparkling talent and success in entrepreneurship, market development, business management and best practice in the modern legal services arena.” The organisers tell me that

we were overwhelmed with nominations this year so it is great achievement to be shortlisted!

Modern Law Awards logo for Boutique Law Firm of the Year

Donoghue Solicitors has been shortlisted for the Modern Law Awards 2019- Boutique Law Firm of the Year Award (1-10 employees).

The criteria we had to meet were:

  • A firm who practices in a niche/specific area of law
  • A practice that has performed exceptionally in terms of establishing itself in its chosen market
  • Within the last year, has demonstrated extensive development and progress as a business, including, but not limited to; strategy, growth, financial performance, employee development, diversity and training
  • An innovative practice that can demonstrate its ability to creatively and effectively compete with multi-practice firms
  • A practice that exceeds the expectations of basic client care and professionalism

Modern Law Awards judges

Judges include high-profile members of the legal, business, and education community, including:

  • Simon Davis, Vice President of the Law Society
  • Professor Thom Brooks, Dean of Durham Law School
  • Dr Leslie Thomas, barrister and Joint Head of Garden Court Chambers
  • Nik Ellis, Managing Director of Laird Assessors
  • John Hyde, reporter at the Law Society Gazette.

What the Boutique Law Firm Nomination Means to Us

We are only eligible for the Boutique Law Firm of the Year Award because of the hard work and dedication of the team at Donoghue Solicitors. I am thrilled that this has been recognised. I will take everyone here to the black-tie event in Victoria Warehouse, Manchester on 31st January 2019. It will be rewarding for them to be recognised at such a high-profile event. We recently celebrated eight years in practice. This is a unique and timely opportunity to toast our continuing success.

A big “thank you” to the Modern Law Awards panel, our clients, staff, and families for helping us get this far.

Kevin Donoghue is the Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors, a boutique law firm specialising in civil actions against the police.

Will Home Office Plans Increase Tactical Contact Risks?

Photo of Daniel Fitzsimmons, who discusses the police's use of tactical contact on motorcyclists.

Daniel Fitzsimmons, FCILEx, discusses Home Office plans for police drivers and tactical contact.

By Daniel Fitzsimmons, Chartered Legal Executive

Recent footage of Metropolitan Police officers using “tactical contact” to apprehend alleged criminals has caught the attention of the public and politicians alike. Tactical contact is a form of “hard stop”, a technique where police drivers make contact with a suspect’s vehicle. Watch the video below to see it in action:

The Prime Minister announced her support for the police officers and praised the Met Police’s “robust response”.

No doubt Ken Marsh, the Police Federation chief, is encouraged by the government support. He said:

“There need to be protections around this afforded to our colleagues – both in law, from the force and with public, political and media opinion. They are doing nothing more than their jobs, trying to apprehend someone who, nine times out of 10, has committed a horrendous offence.

“They must be backed.”

Changes to Police Driving Laws

The Home Office is listening. It has proposed changes to the law giving police officers more legal protection if they are involved in motor-related incidents. Such incidents include, but are not limited to, those involving the moped-riders who are getting the public’s attention.

Presently, officers, like all other motorists, can be prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving if they fail to drive in a “competent and careful” manner. The new rules would apply a different legal standard to police drivers. Police would only have to show that they

  • drove in a “necessary and proportionate” manner in the circumstances
  • used appropriately authorised driving tactics
  • took into account “the standard of a careful and competent police driver of a similar level of training and skill.”

This planned rule change is problematic. As one of my client’s cases shows, the police are already given a great deal of leeway under the current law in motor-related incidents. Easing legal restrictions increases the potential risk to public safety.

Use of Tactical Contact by Police

My client “Mohammed” is a successful driving instructor who recently earned a degree in quantity surveying. He is also an enthusiastic motorcyclist. He owns a top-of-the-line BMW S1000RR motorbike. He rides wearing full and very distinctive leathers, which have a large shark logo on the back.

At about 10 pm one evening last year, Mohammed was stationary at red traffic lights. He was sitting on his bike chatting to a friend using his in-helmet Bluetooth. He had just left his girlfriend’s and stopped at a nearby petrol station. Mohammed was at the lights for a full minute when suddenly he was hit from behind. The impact, which he was not expecting, knocked Mohammed off his motorbike. Mohammed thought he was being robbed. He turned to find a man standing over him. Mohammed lashed out, hitting his assailant. Three more men appeared and overpowered the motorcyclist. The men pulled Mohammed’s hands behind his back with such force that he thought they had broken his right wrist. One of them handcuffed him, and only then did Mohammed realise that he was being arrested by police officers.

Mohammed saw that the officers had come from an unmarked police car. He learned that they had been involved in an incident earlier that night. The police arrested Mohammed because they thought he was part of a criminal gang on motorbikes who evaded them. Mohammed explained why they were wrong and that he had an easily-proved alibi. He asked them to check his telematics equipment. The device on his motorbike monitors speed, journey, miles covered etc.. Mohammed knew that it would show that his bike had been stationary earlier as he had been at his girlfriend’s. He asked the police to contact her to verify this. He also asked them to check the CCTV at the petrol station he had been to moments before, which showed he was not in the area they were searching.

The police refused to do any of this, but detained Mohammed for over half an hour. Mohammed’s wrist was still painful. He asked for medical help and the officers called for paramedics. Eventually, the police accepted that Mohammed was not a suspect and agreed to let him go. They issued him with a ticket for driving without due care and attention and left the scene before the paramedics arrived.

Mohammed went to hospital and got a temporary sling for his wrist. Later he got a hard-cast. Thankfully, his wrist was not broken but he used the hard cast for over a month, ruining his graduation day photographs.

Police Complaint

Mohammed was upset at the police’s heavy-handed, unprovoked, and unnecessary treatment. They had caused £2,000 worth of damage to his motorbike, injured his wrist, and kept him against his will. They issued him with a ticket for driving without due care and attention. So, the next day he went to his local police station to file a complaint about the police’s actions. He found out that the police officers had body-worn video cameras. He was relieved, thinking this would help prove the complaint. But, as my colleague Kevin Donoghue described here body-worn cameras only work when they are turned on. Three of the four officers at the scene wore the cameras. Conveniently, none of them turned on their body-worn cameras until after the arrest.

Frustrated, Mohammed contacted my firm because we specialise in civil actions against the police. I agreed to help with his police complaint and civil action against the police. But the internal investigator for Professional Standards had very little patience. He decided to adjudicate based solely on Mohammed’s brief description and statements from the four officers. Unsurprisingly, he found in the officers’ favour and recommended no action.

We appealed this decision, referring the matter the Independent Office of Police Conduct. The IOPC was not impressed and ordered a re-investigation. It told the police investigator to address the following matters:

· Consider whether the police officers should be charged with assault.
· Take more detailed accounts from all four officers. The IOPC noted that none of the officers mentioned the distinctive shark logo on the back of Mohammed’s leathers when describing the motorcyclists in the earlier incident.
· Get the officers’ body-worn camera footage of the earlier incident, in which the police claimed they were trying to apprehend law-breaking motorcyclists who got away.
· The three officers wearing body-worn cameras must explain why they did not start recording when the decision was made to detain Mohammed, ie.. before they assaulted and arrested him.
· Whether the police driver acted in accordance with the College of Policing authorised professional practice for police pursuits.
· Why they held Mohammed for a further 10 minutes after the arresting officer announced to his colleagues that there was no reason to detain, especially as, the IOPC noted, Mohammed appeared “calm and non-threatening”.

Criminal Prosecution Effects

Mohammed’s faith in the police and legal system has been shaken by this incident. He was arrested and injured through no fault of his own. The police damaged his motorbike. He had to go to the time and trouble of finding and working with solicitors to bring a claim. The police brushed aside his (initial) complaint, forcing him to spend more time on an appeal. On top of this, he has a criminal case for careless driving to defend. Unless something changes his case will go to trial. He will have to defend himself in court even though he is clearly innocent: after all, he was stationary at red traffic lights when the police hit him. He is stressed about the consequences of fighting at court to avoid points on his licence. Driving instructors pay enough for insurance already, and points carry a professional stigma.

Consequences of Proposed Changes in the Legal Standard

The police denied Mohammed’s complaint applying current misconduct rules and laws. The investigator felt that the officers’ actions were reasonable and justifiable. Mohammed’s determination to pursue a police complaint and civil action will ensure that this is not an end to the matter.

But the Home Office’s plans to relax the legal standard in motor-related incidents sends a worrying signal to the police. As Diane Abbot, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, posted on twitter:

Her fears are merited. Home Office proposals will create a two-tier legal system which may encourage police drivers to use tactical contact, hard stops, and other high-risk driving techniques more frequently, with potentially devastating consequences for victims.

Daniel Fitzsimmons is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives who specialises in civil actions against the police. Contact him here.

Why Our Cyber Essentials Accreditation Matters

 Photo of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, who explains Cyber Essentials accreditation.

Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor, explains why Donoghue Solicitors’ Cyber Essentials accreditation matters.

By Kevin Donoghue, solicitor director of Donoghue Solicitors

Q. What do

  • Cambridge University
  • the Scottish Football Association
  • Lloyds of London
  • the Co-operative Bank
  • Donoghue Solicitors

have in common?

A. They are all Cyber Essentials accredited.

We recently became part of this exclusive club. This is why.

What is the Cyber Essentials Scheme?

The UK government set up Cyber Essentials through the National Cyber Security Centre. (This is a division of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).)

Cyber Essentials is a “world-leading” cyber security assurance scheme. It aims to help organisations adopt good practice on information security and protect against cyber-attacks.

Why Did Donoghue Solicitors Get Cyber Essentials Accredited?

Getting a Cyber Essentials certificate was a natural progression for us. We take our clients data security seriously. As I explained here, this commitment includes how you use our website. You might have noticed that it is secure (https instead of basic http) and uses Extended Validation (EV). We use industry-leading 256-bit encryption keys and EV, so you can tell that we own the site. You can trust it by checking at the top of your internet browser for

? Donoghue Solicitors Ltd [GB] |

Other companies using the same system include

  • Santander
  • PayPal
  • Apple
  • John Lewis
  • Tesco.

Most law firms have not taken these steps to protect their websites’ users. Time and money are involved. But your confidence and online protection are worth it to us.

Cyber Essentials accreditation proves that our commitment to your online security extends to other areas. It shows that we have implemented technical controls to address essential cyber risks.

Photo of Donoghue Solicitors' Cyber Essentials accreditation badge.

Donoghue Solicitors’ Cyber Essential Accreditation.

What is the Certification Process?

Organisations must apply security and technical controls in five areas to get certified. These are:

  1. Boundary Firewalls and Internet Gateways
  2. Secure Configuration
  3. Access Control
  4. Malware Protection
  5. Patch Management.

To prove that we applied them, we

  • reviewed our entire IT system with a focus on cyber-based threats.
  • prepared policy documents and made sure they met the scheme requirements.
  • put the policies in action, adopting the latest technology where necessary.

Only then could we apply for certification. This involved completing a questionnaire and providing documents in support. An external certifying body appointed by the government vetted our submission. We passed the certification process at the first attempt.


I understand that we are now one of fewer than 2% of law firms nationwide with Cyber Essentials accreditation. This exhaustive process took time, money, and staff resources. I am proud of the work we did to earn accreditation. But the certificate is just the beginning. Cyber risks are changing. Attacks get more sophisticated every day. We will do everything we can to protect our clients’ data. You can have the highest level of confidence when sharing sensitive and personal information with us.

Contact Donoghue Solicitors for legal help using our online form or call 08000 124 246.



Why I Went into the Police Federation Lion’s Den

Photo of Kevin Donoghue Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors.

Kevin Donoghue, solicitor and specialist in civil actions against the police.

By Kevin Donoghue, solicitor

“You’re brave, coming into the lion’s den,” said the Police Federation representative. “I know,” I replied, “but it’s worth it.”

This was one of the conversations I had at the Police Federation Post Incident Procedure conference on 15-16 October. There I met police officers, representatives of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, medical experts, lawyers, and others.

I was never going to win a popularity award at the conference. Some of the delegates might consider me “the enemy” because I am a solicitor who represents victims of police misconduct in their civil actions against the police. I was not paid for being there. I travelled down to Leicestershire the night before to make sure I could attend. I missed a day’s work, coaching my under-9s football team, and time away from my young family. So why did I go?

Photo of Che Donald, Vice-Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, presenting at the Post-Incident Procedures conference in October 2018.

Che Donald, Vice-Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, presenting at the post-incident procedure conference in October 2018.

Police Federation Conference Panel

Che Donald, the outgoing Vice-Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), invited me to appear at the conference. He contacted me because Sgt Donald and I have sparred in the media over the police’s use of spit hoods. (He’s supportive of their use. I’m concerned by their unchecked roll-out, as you can tell from my earlier blog posts.)

This PFEW conference focused on post-incident procedures. These are the rules the police must follow after a death or serious injury. I joined a panel discussing police restraint procedures. Members included:

  • Dr Meng Aw-Yong, a Forensic Medical Examiner and President of the British Academy of Forensic Science
  • Catherine Hall, Operations Manager for the Independent Office for Police Misconduct
  • Colin Banham, a barrister who represents police officers in gross misconduct hearings

As you can tell, the panel leaned heavily in favour of the police. I was outnumbered. Despite this, I was treated respectfully and well during the hour-long discussion. It was unscripted, save for questions from the moderator, Phil Matthews.

Police Restraint Panel Discussion

The audience asked probing questions and brought out some useful points about restraint. These included:

  1. The potential benefits of a “fit bit” type device which was unveiled at the conference. The wearable device is designed to track a detainee’s vital signs and reduce the risk of death in custody. On first impressions, the benefits to detainees, police officers, the IOPC, and wider communities appear clear.
  2. A controversial suggestion that police officers use Tasers more readily on some people to prevent further harm. (For example, those suffering from a mental health crisis.) I disagreed with this idea. I am used to dealing with victims of Taser assaults who suffer serious physical and psychological injuries. Police often use Tasers with other forms of restraint, such as spit hoods. This makes matters worse. I commented that injuries could be avoided if the police used proper de-escalation techniques and involved medical professionals first. The Taser “stun-gun” is a potentially lethal weapon. Police should only use it as a last resort.
  3. An audience-members’ view that the police were treated as a “cash cow”. He questioned why the police get sued when others, such as the ambulance service, do not. I explained that his perception was incorrect. In practice, solicitors involved in these cases hold all appropriate organisations to account. No one is above the law, and laws are there to be followed.
  4. The issue of police training. The panel agreed that budget cuts could impact on the amount and quality of training. This could result in serious injuries and even deaths in custody. But more, and better, training is only one side of the equation. I stressed that, even with the best training in the world, it is down to the individual officer to apply that training properly.
  5. I asked the police officers present to remember that the detainee is a person first and a suspect second. With that mindset, they would be more likely to take appropriate action. This benefits the detainee and the police.
Photo of solicitor Kevin Donoghue (centre) who discusses restraint post-incident procedures at the PFEW seminar on 16 October 2018.

Kevin Donoghue (centre) discusses restraint post-incident procedures at the PFEW seminar on 16 October 2018.


All too often we exist in our own bubbles. The panel debate meant that the Police Federation audience heard all sides about current police restraint issues. My input helped the police understand the perspective of misconduct victims and their solicitors. And I got to hear their views, which will benefit me and my clients. I stand up for police misconduct victims in my role as a solicitor. I am glad I went to the conference to speak on their behalf.

Kevin Donoghue is the solicitor director of Donoghue Solicitors.


How Police Tasers Threaten Public Confidence

Picture of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, who discusses how police Tasers threaten public confidence.

Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, considers the impact of police Tasers on public confidence.

By Kevin Donoghue, solicitor

 Recent media reports about police Tasers highlight two issues faced by the public and police alike. The first is the use of force. The second issue is accountability. Both threaten:
1. public confidence in the police
2. the doctrine of “policing by consent”, described by the Home Office as “the power of the police coming from the common consent of the public, as opposed to the power of the state.” 

Issue 1: Taser Use of Force

The police say that Tasers are “a low level of force”, as Chief Superintendent Paul Morrison once claimed. But as I previously wrote, this minimises the effect of these weapons. Taser assault victims suffer both primary and secondary injuries when the weapons are used.  PoliceTasers work by shooting two 11.5mm metal barbs on coiled conductive wires. The barbs attach to the victim before the Taser sends a 50,000 volt electrical charge through them. This initial assault, which can be repeated, causes puncture and burn wounds, temporary paralysis, and short-term cognitive impairment akin to dementia.
It is common for victims to suffer secondary injuries following the initial assault. For example, Richard Hagan was Tasered by Merseyside Police. As expected, the stun gun temporarily paralysed him, causing him to fall flat on his face. Mr Hagan lost four front teeth and had to have a bridge and crown fitted. Last week a 17-year old boy suffered a heart attack after being Tasered by police in Coventry. The teenager needed CPR after the police assault and “remains in a serious but stable condition”. And in the most serious cases, police Tasers can kill, as the tragic case of footballer Dalian Atkinson and many others show.

Police Federation Taser Campaign

Despite these concerns some in the police want more Tasers in the hands of front-line officers. The police officer’s union, the Police Federation, has been campaigning for Tasers for years. In January 2015 Steve White, then chair of the Federation, said that ALL police officers should be armed with Tasers. The next month the Police Federation voted for Tasers for all uniformed officers “to provide protection from terrorists”. This was despite Chris Sims, chief of West Midlands police, saying that step was “not proportionate to the threat” and risked “undermining the British policing model”. This moderating view didn’t stop the Police Federation campaign though. In January 2017 it published the results of its own survey, stating that 82% of the 6,220 officers who responded supported issuing Tasers to “a wider group of front-line officers”.
As with the roll out of (sometimes deadly) spit hoods, the Police Federation appears to be getting its way, despite reasonable concerns and an apparent lack of interest from its members (only 5% of federated members responded to the Taser survey). In January 2018 Hampshire Police confirmed that it would double its number of Taser-trained staff to 620. This was quickly followed in February when Thames Valley Police announced plans to increase its total number of Taser-trained officers to 390, a 50% increase.
But it stands to reason that more police officers armed with Tasers = more Taser use. More use = more injuries, more deaths, more miscarriages of justice. This represents a serious threat to public confidence and support, at a time when officer numbers are declining due to budget cuts. The Police Federation might want to reconsider its approach.

Issue 2: Accountability for Officers Using Police Tasers

The police are bound by a written Code of Ethics. It addresses the use of force, such as when an officer uses a Taser, saying:
4. Use of force
I will only use force as part of my role and responsibilities, and only to the extent that it is necessary, proportionate and reasonable in all the circumstances.
Police officers can be disciplined, and even dismissed, if they fail to meet that standard. But how does it work in practice with Taser incidents? Consider the case of PC Claire Boddie. In January 2017 she Tasered Judah Adunbi. (Watch the footage here.) The case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS prosecuted the officer for assault, but in May 2018 she was found not guilty on the criminal standard (beyond reasonable doubt). The judge said that the prosecution had “failed to persuade” him that PC Claire Boddie “didn’t act in self-defence”. That ended the criminal proceedings. But PC Boddie was referred to a disciplinary panel on a charge of gross misconduct, which is “a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour which is so serious that dismissal would be justified.”
Mr Adunbi’s solicitor noted that his client was only “allowed limited involvement” in the misconduct proceedings. And, as I have written, police routinely ignore guidance on outcomes in police misconduct proceedings. On 5 September 2018 PC Boddie was cleared of gross misconduct in respect of the Taser incident. She continues to serve as a police officer. Mr Adunbi is now pursuing a civil action against the police.

Public Confidence 

Police Tasers raise many practical and ethical issues. Used properly, the stun-guns can be helpful crime-fighting tools. Get it wrong and people suffer serious injuries and even death. Improper use has serious implications for victims, the police, and the public.
For public confidence in Taser-wielding police to be maintained we need to know that the police will abide by their Code of Ethics, especially their obligations when using force, and follow the principle of policing by consent. This must be backed by a robust and transparent police misconduct disciplinary regime to hold the police to account. We deserve nothing less.
Kevin Donoghue is a solicitor and the Director of Donoghue Solicitors.

Why Did Sir Cliff Richard Get So Much Compensation?

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, who considers Sir Cliff Richard's compensation claim.

Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, considers why Sir Cliff Richard received so much compensation in his claim against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police.

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

On Wednesday 18 July, Mr Justice Mann, sitting in the High Court in London, awarded Sir Cliff Richard £210,000 compensation from the BBC in respect of his successful damages claim. (Official judgment here. )This is in addition to a previously agreed settlement of £400,000 with South Yorkshire Police, whom Sir Cliff also sued. There will be more compensation paid to once the full extent of “special damages”, or quantifiable losses, are known. South Yorkshire Police and the BBC will also pay legal costs, estimated in the millions. The BBC says it will appeal the decision.

Compensation awarded in this case is substantially more than the usual awards for civil actions against the police and breaches of the Human Rights Act. Why?

What Happened?

In July 2014 a BBC journalist learned that South Yorkshire Police was investigating Sir Cliff for alleged sexual offences involving a minor. The police obtained a warrant to search his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, which was broadcast live on BBC tv. (Sir Cliff was in Portugal at the time.)

The police investigated the allegations against the singer, who was 73 at the time of the raid and still working as an entertainer. Eventually, in June 2016, Sir Cliff was told that he would not face charges.

He sued both the BBC and South Yorkshire Police for breach of privacy and under the Data Protection Act 1998.

In May 2017 South Yorkshire Police settled Sir Cliff’s civil claim for £400,000 plus costs, apologised, and gave a statement in open court accepting liability.

The BBC fought the claim, resulting in a trial on both liability (responsibility) and quantum (amount of damages).

Liability Issues

Sir Cliff (the Claimant) claimed a breach of his fundamental right to privacy and breach of the Data Protection Act. The BBC (the Defendant) fought the claim arguing that it had fundamental rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Mr Justice Mann put aside the Data Protection Act breach saying it “adds nothing to the privacy claim”.

Instead he considered Sir Cliff’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which in English law is found in the Human Rights Act 1998. Article 8 states:

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 BBC argued that it had competing rights under Article 10 ECHR, which states:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers…

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Here the Judge’s job was to weigh the two competing rights. Finding for Sir Cliff Richard he said that the BBC:

“infringed these (Article 8) rights without a legal justification. It did so in a serious and also somewhat sensationalist way.”


Quantum, or the value of damages to be paid in the claim, is considered separately after liability has been established. The purpose of damages is to put the Claimant in the pre-incident position so far as possible. It is impossible for a Court to accurately value general damages and nothing can give a Claimant their lives back. An appropriate amount of financial compensation is ordered to be paid by the losing Defendant instead. The Court considered both “general damages” and “special damages”.

General Damages

Aspects of general damages vary depending on the circumstances. Sir Cliff Richard’s case included elements found in personal injury and defamation cases. Mr Justice Mann considered the following heads of claim:

(a) Damages can and should be awarded for distress, damage to health, invasion of Sir Cliff’s privacy (or depriving him of the right to control the use of his private information), and damage to his dignity, status and reputation…

(b) The general adverse effect on his lifestyle (which will be a function of the matters in (a)).

(c) The nature and content of the private information revealed. The more private and significant the information, the greater the effect on the subject will be (or will be likely to be). In this case it was extremely serious. It was not merely the fact that an allegation had been made. The fact that the police were investigating and even conducting a search gave significant emphasis to the underlying fact of that an allegation had been made.

(d) The scope of the publication. The wider the publication, the greater the likely invasion and the greater the effect on the individual.

(e) The presentation of the publication. Sensationalist treatment might have a greater effect, and amount to a more serious invasion, than a more measured publication.

Special Damages

Special damages are quantifiable losses. Each item must be proved by the Claimant.

Valuing Sir Cliff Richard’s Compensation Claim

Sir Cliff’s public profile meant that the raid on his home quickly became a massive story. Millions followed it in the news world-wide. He gave evidence in Court about its terrible personal toll. Mr Justice Mann noted that:

Sir Cliff felt trapped in his own home, and he felt despair and hopelessness leading, at times, to physical collapse. At first he did not see how he could face his friends and family, or even his future. He felt the whole world would be talking about whether he had committed the alleged offences or not. Sleeping was difficult; he resorted to sleeping pills.


The impression that he had was that his life’s work was being torn apart. The adverse publicity removed his status as a confident and respected artist and what he described as “a good ambassador for this country”. He felt and still feels tainted. His health suffered, and he contracted shingles, which he put down to stress. Although there was no medical evidence as to that causation I accept that throughout the entire period he was the subject of severe stress, and that that stress far exceeded the anxiety, and perhaps some level of stress, that he would inevitably have been under from the investigation by itself had the news of it not been publicised.

In addition to the physical toll, the Judge considered the damage to Sir Cliff’s reputation. After that he assessed General Damages at £190,000, noting that he had no direct comparison in existing case law. The Judge’s candid comment is worth noting: every case is different, and it is part of his job to make assessments like this.

Aggravated Damages

In some cases, the conduct of the Defendant is considered worthy of additional sanction, so that aggravated and, very exceptionally, exemplary damages can be awarded on top of the basic general damages award. Mr Justice Mann considered whether the BBC should pay an additional amount for injury to Sir Cliff’s feelings. In support of this claim, the Claimant alleged the BBC caused suffering due to:

  1. a flagrant disregard for his privacy and failure to give him adequate notice of the broadcast, so depriving him of the opportunity to seek an injunction to prevent the broadcast
  2. a failure to acknowledge wrongdoing or apologise
  3. the Corporation submitting the broadcast to the Royal Television Society awards in the category “Scoop of the Year”
  4. its conduct in litigation
  5. intrusive cross-examination.

The Judge considered each allegation in turn. He considered that the failure to give notice (in point 1) had merit but included that within the existing £190,000 award for general damages.

He dismissed the other points except point 3. The Judge said that the BBC caused additional distress in submitting the broadcast for the award, which it did not win. He awarded Sir Cliff an additional £20,000 by way of aggravated damages.

After this exercise the Judge considered if the overall amount for general and special damages was appropriate. He said:

That gives a total of general and aggravated damages of £210,000. I need to stand back and reflect on whether, overall, that is an appropriate figure to award. Having performed that exercise I am satisfied that it is. It is a large figure, but this was a very serious invasion of privacy rights, which had a very adverse effect on an individual with a high public profile and which was aggravated in the manner to which I have referred.

Special Damages

The Claimant’s quantifiable losses included professional fees due to his solicitors, PR firm, and others. He also claimed to suffer financially due to the loss of opportunity to publish a revised biography.

The Judge was not asked to rule on specific amounts. Instead, to help the parties reach agreement or guide future hearings, he considered whether “causation” was established by the Claimant in respect of the various things Sir Cliff claimed.

Asking the question, “did the breach cause the alleged loss?” he considered the heads of Sir Cliff’s special damages claim in turn, mostly approving them.

(NB It is likely that special damages were also included within the agreed compensation paid by South Yorkshire Police.)

Damages are not a windfall

As Sir Cliff Richard’s case shows, the compensation has been either agreed as fair between the parties, or court ordered after careful examination. In this respect Sir Cliff’s case is identical to every civil compensation award of damages. Money paid is not a “windfall”, “jackpot”, or other disparaging terms. As Mr Justice Mann said:

A claimant is entitled to proper compensatory damages and the figure I have specified is a proper figure for that purpose.

Why Celebrities are Different

Where Sir Cliff’s case differs is in the unusual size of the award for damage to his reputation. Most claimants suffer damage to their reputations in wrongly publicised matters involving the police but they don’t get awarded nearly as much compensation.

Consider my client RL’s story, which has many similarities to Sir Cliff’s case. RL was a working man with no criminal convictions. Essex police raided his flat in error looking for drugs. Both RL and his girlfriend were held in their home for over an hour while the police conducted a full search and established their innocence.

The media were tipped off about the raid, just like in Sir Cliff’s case. Local newspaper staff filmed and photographed the raid and later reported it. The paper described “Arrests after police bust for suspected drug dens”, identified the location in the front page headline “30 police storm homes in Rifle Hill drugs blitz”, and showed a blurred out photograph of a man being led away next to a caption reading “A suspected drug dealer is led away (left) following raids by police in Rifle Hill, Braintree.”

Although Mr L was not identified in publicity, his flat number was clearly visible in one image. The reader would be under the impression that my client was the man being led away.

To make matters worse, the police gave a statement which sought to justify the raid, saying that they went in to my client’s home because “information was brought to our attention about the possibility of drug use”.

Compensation for Damage to Reputation

While there are similarities to Sir Cliff’s case, RL’s case was never going to justify such an award. The damage to his reputation was not as significant as Sir Cliff’s. RL is not a world-famous celebrity. He was not personally identified in media coverage. The allegations were not as offensive to society. And yet the implication that my client was somehow involved in criminal activity still impugned his reputation. He suffered due to the police’s misconduct and was rightly compensated for it. His award was £4,000, which was an excellent settlement in the circumstances, and far more than the £1,500 Essex Police initially offered.

There can be no doubt that Sir Cliff’s high public profile played a part in the size of his award. The nature of the allegations, the “sensationalist” publicity, and his unusually high losses, were all factors. Celebrities may say they’re just like you and me, but in some ways that’s just not true.


Contact Donoghue Solicitors for help with your civil action against the police on 08000 124 246 or by completing the online form on this page.

Should a Criminal Conviction Prevent a Police Officer From Serving?

Photo of Daniel Fitzsimmons, Chartered Legal Executive, who discusses a criminal conviction for a serving police officer.

Daniel Fitzsimmons, Chartered Legal Executive considers the consequences of criminal convictions for serving police officers and the public.

By Daniel Fitzsimmons, Chartered Legal Executive at Donoghue Solicitors

I recently settled a claim against Avon & Somerset Police for Steven Smith. Mr Smith (details used with his kind permission) was assaulted by PC F, a police officer in Bristol. The police officer received a criminal conviction for “assault by beating”. Recently we found out that the officer was still serving. Should he be?

Why Did PC F Get a Criminal Conviction?

You can read the full case report about Steven’s case here.

Briefly, two female police officers, PC P and PC S, escorted Mr Smith out of a pub and ordered him to leave Bristol town centre. A third (male) officer, PC F, joined them outside. Steven refused to leave, and PC P told him he was under arrest. While PC P and PC S were attempting to handcuff Mr Smith, PC F grabbed Steven around the neck from behind using his right arm. A witness described it as a “choke hold where the person’s neck is within the V bend section of the arm”.

Choke holds restrict blood and/ or air flow to the brain. They can cause serious injury and even death. For this reason, they are banned by many police forces. PC F kept Steven Smith in a choke hold for about 15 seconds. During this time Steven momentarily lost consciousness and his legs buckled beneath him. The officers helped him to his feet and drove Mr Smith to a nearby police station to be processed.

At the station the female officers reported their concerns about PC F’s conduct to a custody sergeant. Following an investigation, PC F was prosecuted for the criminal offence of assault by beating.

Two courts found him guilty:

  1. Bath Magistrates’ Court convicted him for assaulting Steven Smith. The officer was fined £100, and ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge, and £220 costs.
  2. PC F appealed to Bristol Crown Court, where the Court upheld his criminal conviction. The Crown Court judge said that “the force for that 15 second period was disproportionate in all the circumstances and therefore unreasonable.”


My client (it turns out wrongly) thought that the criminal conviction meant that PC F would also be dismissed from the police.

His view was not unreasonable. After all, the police are meant to uphold the law, not break it. And, for a “bobby on the beat”, a conviction for assaulting a member of the public in the course of his employment has added significance. Police officers like PC F routinely use force to arrest people. The burden on them to make sure arrests are effected lawfully, safely, and using appropriate techniques, is high.

Failing to do so can render their conduct unlawful. As Mr Smith’s case shows, this can result in criminal convictions, costly criminal and civil penalties, and reputational damage for the officer and their Police Force. PC F now has a criminal record and was ordered to pay £340 by the Magistrates. His criminal misconduct cost the public too. The taxpayer-funded Avon & Somerset Police rightly paid £4,500 plus legal costs to Mr Smith by way of compensation because it was responsible for the unlawful acts of its officer.

And yet PC F still serves in Avon & Somerset Police.

Misconduct Proceedings

Mr Smith does not know if, or how, Avon & Somerset Police’s internal misconduct proceedings were concluded. (Steven was not a party to them, so was not told.) But PC F continues to serve in Avon & Somerset Police despite his criminal conviction.

My colleague Kevin Donoghue has previously written about how the police misconduct system works. You can read his analysis of the guidance and how it applied to one of his client’s cases here.

Police misconduct is

‘unacceptable or improper behaviour and for police officers will involve a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour set out in Schedule 2 to the Conduct Regulations.’

Gross misconduct, which can result in dismissal from the police, is

‘a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour which is so serious that dismissal would be justified.’

Interestingly, the primary purpose of police misconduct proceedings is not to punish police officers. Instead, they are meant to maintain public confidence. In R (Green) v Police Complaints Authority, Lord Carswell said:

‘Public confidence in the police is a factor of great importance in the maintenance of law and order in the manner which we regard as appropriate in our polity. If citizens feel that improper behaviour on the part of police officers is left unchecked and they are not held accountable for it in a suitable manner, that confidence will be eroded.’

In PC F’s case, it is likely that the panel tasked with considering his misconduct would have looked at the seriousness of the misconduct, the purpose of imposing sanctions, and then chosen an appropriate sanction, if any.

The panel would have looked at the officer’s responsibility for the misconduct, the harm caused, and the existence of aggravating or mitigating factors.

The criminal proceedings will have helped because two criminal courts found that PC F was responsible for assault by beating on a member of the public. He had no one to blame but himself.

A conviction for assault, which undermines public confidence in policing, would have suggested a more serious sanction, such as dismissal for gross misconduct. Relevant aggravating factors to support this include PC F abusing his powers, using gratuitous violence, and the vulnerability of his victim.

But it is likely that PC F presented arguments in mitigation. The police misconduct panel would probably have been asked to read the comments of the Crown Court judge, who described the assault as “a momentary and isolated mistake”. The judge felt that PC F “would still be an asset to the Avon and Somerset Constabulary” despite upholding the lower court’s criminal conviction for assault.

It appears the disciplinary panel was persuaded, as PC F is still serving in the police.

Impact on Public Confidence

After the incident Mr Smith worried that he would be subject to police retribution. Knowing that PC F is still serving in his town heightens that fear. Steven doesn’t want to come across his assailant again. For the wider public, it may come as a surprise to learn that the police misconduct system is focused on maintaining public confidence rather than punishment. This means that serving police officers can keep their jobs despite criminal convictions. Does that inspire confidence in you?


Contact Daniel Fitzsimmons for help with your civil action against the police on 08000 124 246 or by completing the online form on this page.


What Some Domestic Abuse Victims Have in Common

Solicitor Kevin Donoghue, discusses what some domestic abuse victims have in common.

Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors considers the exploitation of domestic abuse victims by sexual predators in the police.

By Kevin Donoghue, solicitor

Two recent reports show how some police officers take advantage of victims of domestic abuse. The stories share common themes and fit with my clients’ experiences. This suggests that the problem is widespread, but that it can be readily identified by motivated police officers and, hopefully, prevented.

Metropolitan Police Sergeant Dismissed for Gross Misconduct

On 11 June the Independent Office for Police Conduct confirmed that Police Sergeant Neil Nash, 38, was sacked from the Metropolitan Police Service. In 2015 Nash was the custody sergeant at Plumstead Police Station when a woman was arrested and cautioned for a domestic incident. He obtained her details and went to the woman’s home on numerous occasions. The woman was known to be vulnerable. Despite this the Police Sergeant kissed and attempted to touch her intimately.

The woman complained about PS Nash’s misconduct. On 7 June, the officer was found guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed. Jonathan Green, the Regional Director of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, said,

“Officers are trusted to uphold professional standards of behaviour especially when they come into contact with people who are at their most vulnerable.

“Instead of providing the service expected of a sergeant, PS Nash abused his position of trust, overstepped clear boundaries, and caused psychological harm to this woman.”

A Chief Inspector of Merseyside Police Faces Police Misconduct Panel

On 2 July 2018 Chief Inspector Aneurin Audas faced a misconduct panel to answer allegations that he had “unwanted and inappropriate” contact with a victim of a domestic incident while on duty for Merseyside Police.

The misconduct panel heard that, on 31 March 2011, the Chief Inspector attended a report of a domestic incident and “fondled a domestic violence victim before ‘snogging her’ and groping her breast”. It is also alleged that he returned to the victim’s home address the next day, “without a legitimate policing purpose”.

His conduct is alleged to be in breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour in respect of Discreditable Conduct. Sanctions for this can include dismissal for gross misconduct. The officer denies the allegations. The hearing continues.

Serious Corruption Involving Domestic Abuse Victims

Unscrupulous police officers can take advantage of vulnerable victims of “domestic incidents”. (These can include victims of domestic violence or domestic abuse).

But, as (former) PS Nash’s case shows, internal police Professional Standards Departments take a dim view of this kind of abuse of position for a sexual purpose. This is because it is a form of serious corruption, which is defined as:

“Any behaviour by a police officer or police staff member, whether on or off duty, that takes advantage of their position as a member of the police service to misuse their position, authority or powers in order to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with any member of the public. This includes: committing a sexual act, initiating sexual contact with, or responding to any perceived sexually motivated behaviour from another person; entering into any communication that could be perceived as sexually motivated or lewd; or for any other sexual purpose.”

A 2017 report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) confirmed that this kind of police misconduct is a nationwide problem. It affected all but one police force between March 2014-March 2016.

And the cases described above highlight another pattern which came out in that report: police officers abusing vulnerable victims of domestic abuse.

HMICFRS said that 40% of allegations involved vulnerable victims of crime, and that 39% of accusations of police abuse of position for sexual gain involved victims of domestic abuse.

This shocking statistic may be under-reported. As the 2017 report noted, between 1 December 2013 and 30 November 2014 only 33 officers had been dismissed after having a relationship with a vulnerable person.

This “apparent disconnect” between the number of alleged cases and disciplinary action suggests that some of these predators are still serving, giving them the opportunity to repeat their misconduct.

Common Theme in Domestic Violence Cases

I currently represent, and have previously represented, women across the country who have suffered similar experiences to the two described above. Their stories follow a familiar pattern:

  1. The (female) victim reports a domestic incident. This is usually an incident of domestic violence or a pattern of abuse. She is considered a vulnerable person because of her circumstances.
  2. A (male) police officer attends on his victim at home, strikes up a friendly relationship, and shares contact details.
  3. The officer makes repeated contact, by personal visit, text message, phone calls. These communications become more friendly/ flirty. Often the victim is flattered by the interest from a police officer, someone she holds in high esteem, is attentive, and makes her feel safe.
  4. The police officer makes a sexual advance. In many cases it is unwanted and immediately declined. But, if not immediately rebuffed, he pursues a sexual relationship.
  5. The victim recognises, either immediately or shortly afterwards, that the police officer’s conduct is inappropriate. She reports it and makes a police complaint.
  6. The victim assists the police’s Professional Standards Department with their enquiries by providing evidence, statements, and even evidence at a hearing. This adds to her feelings of stress, guilt, and shame. In some cases, the police abuse leads to long-term psychological damage. It cannot be rationalised or explained away by telling the victim she is not to blame, and that the male officer is the one who abused his position by targeting a vulnerable woman.

While individual circumstances vary, the common theme of a vulnerable victim being abused by a sexual predator is ever-present.


Two out of every five reported incidents of police abuse of position for a sexual purpose involve vulnerable victims of domestic incidents. There may be many more.

Sadly, this is an entirely preventable problem which affects countless victims and undermines public confidence in the police. But this type of serious corruption often follows predictable patterns. Fellow officers and internal police force investigators need to be aware of them to prevent misconduct by the abusers in uniform.

Contact Kevin Donoghue for help with your civil action against the police by calling 08000 124 246 or completing the online form on this page.