Three Ways Police Misconduct Victims are Denied Access to Justice

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, who explains how access to justice is denied to police misconduct victims.

Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor, explains how police misconduct victims are denied access to justice.

By Kevin Donoghue, solicitor

On Tuesday, Baron Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice, felt compelled to state the obvious when talking about Gina Miller, the lead claimant in the “Brexit” hearings before the High Court. (Ms Miller wants the Court to determine if Parliament should have a role in triggering Article 50 of the treaty on the European Union.) Referring to people who disagree with her access to justice in this case, the Lord Chief Justice said:

“Before we start, there is just one observation I would like to make. The court was informed that the principal claimant in this case has been, again, subject to various emails and other communications. We have in this country a civilised way of dealing with things, and it is simply wholly wrong for people to be abusive of those who seek to come to the Queen’s courts. If this conduct continues, those who do it must appreciate that the full vigour of the law will be used to ensure that access to Her Majesty’s courts are freely available to everyone.” (my emphasis)

(Read the original comments in the full day transcript for 17 October here.)

I couldn’t agree more. In my experience as a solicitor who represents people in legal actions against the police I find that they are often subject to abuse and can be denied access to justice too. But unlike Ms Miller, my clients suffer abuse from people in authority, including the police and government. This is how.

1.      Abuse by police

In one of my recent cases my client Paul Smith (details used with permission) was wrongfully arrested and physically assaulted by police officers. (Read his story here.) The arresting officer attempted to cover up his misconduct by falsely claiming that Paul was “hostile and aggressive”. The police officer also said that my client ignored warnings that he would be arrested for a Breach of the Peace and that he struggled when arrested, so the police had to use handcuffs, PAVA captor spray, and a spit hood.

Fortunately, two police officers at the scene recorded the incident using body worn cameras. The footage was reviewed by supervisors at the police station and immediately exposed the arresting officer’s lies. Despite the clear-cut nature of the police abuse and misconduct:

  1. the arresting officer maintained his false version of events, even after Mr Smith was released, providing a statement which directly contradicted both my client and the police’s own body worn camera footage
  2. both the arresting officer and his employers, Sussex Police, failed to apologise for what the arresting officer’s supervisor described as “extremely unprofessional” behaviour which “brings the police into disrepute”
  3. after internal misconduct proceedings, the arresting officer was let off with “management action” (the lowest possible sanction) instead of dismissal.

Sussex Police’s conduct at various levels left Mr Smith with no alternative but to seek access to justice through litigation. Paul knew that this could be a risky and stressful process which could result in facing his assailants at trial. The force’s legal team’s handling of the case heightened this anxiety. They delayed matters by providing piecemeal disclosure of evidence and made inadequate offers of settlement. Despite Paul accepting £25,000 compensation, almost five times the original offer, the police’s treatment of this innocent man left a lot to be desired.

2.      Victim shaming

Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Propoganda Minister in Nazi Germany, is believed to have said:

If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.

This remains true today, especially when discussing the non-existent “compensation culture”.

In recent years the government has repeatedly shamed innocent victims to discourage them from bringing cases to court by peddling the myth of a “compensation culture”. For example, in the foreword to Lord Young’s 2010 report, “Common Sense, Common Safety”, then Prime Minister David Cameron said:

A damaging compensation culture has arisen, as if people can absolve themselves from any personal responsibility for their own actions, with the spectre of lawyers only too willing to pounce with a claim for damages on the slightest pretext.

This view was directly contradicted in the report by its author Lord Young, a die-hard Tory. He found no evidence of a “compensation culture”, saying that:

The problem of the compensation culture prevalent in society today is, however, one of perception rather than reality. (read more here)

Buying in to the myth, the media picked up on the Prime Minister’s inflammatory comments in the foreword rather than Lord Young’s more measured and accurate words, which were buried on page 19.

The bogus “compensation culture” came up again when I was interviewed on BBC radio discussing Essex Police’s claims payout record. In this follow-up blog post I suggested that the focus should be on the police’s conduct rather than compensation awards.

Sensing an opportunity to avoid scrutiny and save money, the police repeat the party line and pursue victim shaming in the media. For example, in 2013 Norfolk’s Chief Constable Phil Gormley said in a BBC Radio Norfolk interview that it was “disappointing” that the Police Federation supported one of his officers for bringing a compensation claim against her employers after an accident at work. He went on to describe a “corrosive compensation culture” which “generates a something for nothing attitude”.

By making victims of police misconduct feel guilty about fighting for their constitutional rights they suffer again. They feel ashamed for claiming compensation, and when they do seek access to justice their claims are denied and/or delayed, adding to their pain.

This cynical approach seems to be working. Compensation claims, including those against the police, are falling. For example, Essex Police paid out less in compensation claims to the public in 2014 than in previous years. While cost savings are welcome, the wider issue for society is that victim shaming to discourage people from seeking access to justice means that police misconduct will go unchecked, leading to more instances of police abuse.

3.      Government Policy

Perhaps more than anyone, the government has ensured that access to Her Majesty’s courts is not, to quote the Lord Chief Justice, “freely available to everyone”.

Changes to court fees mean that the civil courts (including the civil litigation courts which hear actions against the police) are now subsidising the criminal courts to fill a funding gap. This means that it costs far more to issue court proceedings and take claims to trial. The dramatically increased court fees include “enhanced” fees where the costs are greater than the hearing involved. The overall impact is a “poll tax on wheels” denying access to justice to those least able to afford it, resulting in a Conservative-led select committee describing court fees as an unjustified tax which prevents people from obtaining justice.

Despite this clear warning, court fees remain prohibitively high for many genuine claimants. Again, as with the “compensation culture” myth, even when fellow Conservatives contradict them, the government carries on regardless.

The increase in court fees comes on the back of the damaging effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012). I explained here how this one law drastically changed the way civil compensation claims were brought before the courts, adding a layer of cost and risk which can put off legitimate claimants. One reason is that Qualified One Way Costs Shifting, which can give costs protection in personal injury claims, does not apply to all civil claims, and, in particular, actions against the police.

In March 2016 the Civil Justice Council, an Advisory Public Body responsible for overseeing and coordinating the modernisation of the civil justice system, recommended extending Qualified One Way Costs Shifting to all actions against the police (including those which do not directly involve personal injury such as malicious prosecution or discrimination claims). It said:

There are strong, if not compelling, arguments of principle – based on access to justice and on the asymmetry of the relationship between the parties – weighing in favour of extending the scope of QOCS protection (or something very similar) to claims against the police.

And

Principled arguments for not doing do not appear to have been made out.

Predictably, the government has failed to act, leaving many victims of police misconduct unwilling or unable to seek access to justice at court.

Access to Justice Denied

The Lord Chief Justice was right to challenge the people who abused Gina Miller, the claimant in the Brexit case, and attempted to prevent her seeking legal redress. I urge the police and government to recognise that his rebuke could equally apply to them.

 

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

3 Ways the Police Could Improve Their Body Worn Cameras Policy

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, who explains 3 ways the police can use body worn cameras to restore public confidence.

Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, explains 3 ways the police can use body worn cameras to restore public confidence.

By Kevin Donoghue, solicitor

A University of Cambridge study confirmed that, where police body worn cameras are used appropriately, the number of complaints against police officers by members of the public reduced by 93%.

Despite this remarkable statistic, current police policy towards body cameras means that, UK-wide, police complaints are unlikely to be reduced so drastically. Here I explain how police policy towards body worn cameras undermines public confidence and some possible solutions to improve it.

What the University of Cambridge Study Found

The year-long Cambridge study, which included almost 2,000 police officers across six forces in the UK and United States, found that complaints against the police went from 1,539 in the previous year to 113 in the year of the trial.

Discussing the matter on the Victoria Derbyshire show, Home Affairs Correspondent Danny Shaw explained the reduction in complaints by saying that “It looks as though the police are modifying their behaviour. They know they’re being recorded every single step of the way, so there is some kind of subconscious decision to act more professionally.”

He also pointed out that the cameras may also have a calming effect on the public. People know the cameras are switched on so anything they do or say could be used in evidence against them.

The lead researcher, Barak Ariel, said, “I cannot think of any (other) single intervention in the history of policing that dramatically changed the way that officers behave, the way that suspects behave, and the way they interact with each other.”

Chief Inspector Ian Williams of West Yorkshire Police, one of the forces included in the study, described the body worn cameras as “excellent” and said there were many benefits, including less time spent at court, avoiding the need to call vulnerable victims to give evidence at court, and the increased detection rate.

Body Worn Cameras Policy Failings

It appears all sides agree that body worn cameras are a good thing for both the police and public. They help promote transparency, trust, and public confidence, which are essential in a society where the police work under Robert Peel’s “9 Principles of Policing”, the second of which is:

To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

And in my role as a solicitor who specialises in civil actions against the police I find body worn camera evidence invaluable. (For example, when proving police lies in one client’s case to justify misconduct.)

But there’s a problem: police and government policy on body worn cameras is falling short in three key ways, all of which undermine public confidence:

Issue 1: The police control when cameras are operating and their technical capabilities

In the Cambridge University study, the cameras were turned on all the time officers were on shift, (typically between 8-12 hours) except during agreed circumstances, such as breaks, travelling between calls for service, and when dealing with certain incidents such as matters involving serious sexual assaults.

By contrast, current policy detailed in the 2014 College of Policing guidance on Body Worn Video, gives officers the power to turn the cameras on and off at will. As the study’s authors point out, “Leaving the decision to switch on the camera during an encounter and not before officers begin engaging with a citizen may backfire (Ariel et al., 2016a). It also defeats one of the major purposes of the camera: to record the interaction from the officer’s perspective, from beginning to end, therefore providing crucial evidence of the decision-making processes that have led him or her to exercise use of force.”

I previously wrote about my concerns with giving officers this power. In that blog post I noted how Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, defended the police’s approach. He claimed that leaving cameras on would be “too intrusive”.

I disagree. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe’s concerns about leaving the cameras running at all times (except in specific circumstances) have been proven unfounded by the Cambridge University study.  And allowing police officers to control when they activate body worn cameras gives the impression that the cameras will be used selectively and undermines public confidence.

Also, while some body worn cameras have a 30-second pre-record function, to capture footage from before the officer starts recording, government policy from the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology does not require this because “The National Policing Lead has decided that these features are not currently required.” (In 2014 the National Policing Lead for Body-Worn Video was Chief Constable Andy Marsh of Hampshire Constabulary.)

Pre-recording can be useful in showing police officer behaviour before an incident escalates. In my experience, things said and done in the minutes, not just seconds, before an arrest can be extremely valuable in proving liability in police misconduct cases.

It can’t be right that the police themselves set policy on important camera features such as this. The pre-record technology is widely available. All forces should use it and manufacturers should be pressed to produce equipment with at least 5 minutes of pre-recording built-in. Axon, a division of Taser, the manufacturers of “stun guns”, already sell a body camera with a 2 minute pre-record feature. Given reductions in the cost of memory a 5 minute pre-recording feature is not unrealistic.

Not using cameras at all appropriate times and with sufficient pre-recording features gives the impression that police forces have something to hide.

Issue 2: Police keep body camera footage for a very short period

In my earlier blog post I noted how Rachel Tuffin of the College of Policing said that there were issues with data storage. As a result, guidance from the College of Policing means that forces keep body worn camera footage for up to 31 days, the same length of time as police station CCTV video. The College of Policing suggests this is a maximum length of time following the case of Wood v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis (2009). Some forces may delete footage sooner.

On the whole, the public is unaware of the short window of time to request that this (potentially vital) evidence be preserved. As a result, complaints and claims against the police can be harder to investigate.

Despite the data protection issues, given the significant benefits, it’s time the police invest in technology to store footage for at least 12 months.

Issue 3: Police have power to edit footage

Another issue highlighted in the Victoria Derbyshire programme was that the police officers wearing the body worn cameras have the power to edit footage themselves. As my client’s case shows, some officers will not care what the footage shows, but others might. While any edit creates a new file, rather than deleting the original footage, it’s easy to imagine a situation where the original footage is mysteriously lost or erased, leaving only the edited (and favourable to the police) footage available.

To avoid suspicion, officers should not have the power to edit their own camera footage unsupervised.

Recommended Action

It appears that the University of Cambridge study was an unqualified success, both in terms of its application and results. If the police nationwide are truly committed to reducing complaints and restoring public confidence, I urge forces to implement these common-sense recommendations:

  1. Ensure body cameras have a 5 minute pre-record feature and that they are switched on at all times when officers are on shift, except in certain circumstances described above
  2. Extend the video retention period to at least 12 months
  3. Do not allow officers to edit their own body worn camera footage unsupervised.

Chief constables have all the proof they need, and, if they put their minds to it, the means to make things happen. Now it’s time to act.

Read more about civil actions against the police on my firm’s website.

How Can Police Justify the Use of a Spit Hood?

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police, discusses spit hood use.

Kevin Donoghue, a solicitor who specialises in actions against the police, discusses spit hood use.

By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor and Specialist in Civil Actions Against the Police

In an embarrassing climb-down reported in The Independent this week the Metropolitan Police (the “Met”) suspended plans to trial spit hood masks after pressure from human rights campaigners.

The news brought attention to the fact that spit hoods are presently used by forces throughout the country. Here I discuss the controversy by referring to one of my client’s cases to explain how the police use these masks.

Why the Metropolitan Police Suspended the Spit Hood Trial

The Met said it planned to use the controversial mesh masks, which it calls “spit guards”, to meet a “duty of care owed to officers” and protect them from spitting and biting. The proposals allowed for the use of spit hoods in 32 police station detention areas but not in public or on London’s streets. After announcing the plans on Tuesday morning (6 September) the force backtracked later that day saying “The Metropolitan Police Service has listened to concerns and will consult further before starting any pilot.”

It appears that the Met quickly changed its mind in the face of pressure from organisations such as Liberty, whose campaign group director Martha Spurrier, described spit hoods as “primitive, cruel and degrading” tools “that inspire fear and anguish” and “belong in horror stories”. Take a minute to watch this video and you’ll see what she means.

Widespread Spit Hood Use

The Metropolitan Police is Britain’s biggest force, employing more than 30,000 officers and nearly 50,000 people in total, so it is not surprising its plan to use spit hoods caught the public’s eye. What may be less well-known though, is that many other forces, including British Transport Police, West Mercia Police, and Sussex Police, already have spit hoods, which were used 513 times last year. And unlike the Metropolitan Police’s plan to limit spit hood use to police stations, because there is no national police policy on their use, other force officers are free to use them in public (as shown in the video at a train station above). The Police Federation, the police’s union, wants spit hoods to be used across all forces, but it’s up to the Chief Constables of each force to decide if they want their officers to be issued with them. Some of the larger forces, including West Midlands Police and Greater Manchester Police have yet to approve their use, perhaps because, as The Guardian says, some police chiefs have privately expressed concerns that they are reminiscent of hoods used at Guantánamo Bay.

The Chief Constables are right to be cautious. As well as the distressing “optics” of using spit hoods in public, there are very real concerns that their use could be a breach of a person’s human rights, particularly Article 3 of the Human Rights Act (1998) (“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”). Even if that argument is not accepted by the courts, victims of spit hood use suffer physical and mental injuries which could justify a police complaint or actions against the police compensation claim, draining valuable time and resources from already stretched police forces.
Tweet: How can #police justify the use of

Sussex Police Use of Spit Hoods

So how do the police justify the use of spit hoods? Consider Paul Smith’s experience.

I previously wrote about Mr Smith (details used with permission) in a blog about body worn cameras (read it here– I referred to him as Mr A as his case was ongoing). Paul was arrested by Sussex Police, one of the forces which uses spit hoods, for

  • breach of the peace,
  • obstructing the police in the execution of their duty, and
  • resisting arrest

because he objected to the way police treated him for a minor traffic infringement.

After parking illegally outside Argos Mr Smith became upset when a female police officer and her male special constable colleague refused to let him go without penalty and took their time issuing a ticket.

The officer interpreted his agitation as aggression and called in a “10/20”, an emergency request for assistance. Back-up quickly arrived.

One of the back-up officers, PC X, looked like a “doorman or enforcer of some kind” and was dressed in a short sleeve shirt and black leather gloves. He took the lead and deliberately tried to provoke my client into challenging him. The officer became increasingly confrontational and accused Paul of being aggressive, despite my client remaining passive. After the officer called Mr Smith “a dick” he arrested my client for a breach of the peace. The officers manhandled him to the ground and one of them sprayed P.A.V.A. captor incapacitant spray at Paul’s face. (P.A.V.A. captor spray, also known as “pepper spray”, is absorbed through the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth, and causes extreme pain similar to scalding heat as well as a reflexive narrowing of the airways.) Understandably, Paul tried to spit the spray out. The police put a spit hood over Mr Smith’s head, and handcuffed him to the rear.

With the spit hood in place Paul had difficulty breathing and clearing his airway. His pain and discomfort were greatly prolonged until the hood was removed at the police station.

PC X gave a written statement to justify his actions, claiming that Paul was aggressive and abusive. Unfortunately for him, two of the police’s own body worn cameras recorded the event. They exposed PC X’s false statement and I helped Paul win £25,000 compensation plus full legal costs for his actions against the police claim. Shamefully, PC X did not apologise, nor was he disciplined other than “management action”, a “slap on the wrist”.

Warning

There is no doubt that the Metropolitan Police has done the right thing by delaying its trial of spit hoods. Unfortunately, many other forces are already using them, with serious consequences for innocent victims of police misconduct, including this 11-year-old girl, who was hooded, handcuffed, and detained for more than 60 hours by Sussex Police (yes, them again). (In a worrying echo of Paul Smith’s case, Sussex Police also issued the officers in that case with mere “management advice”.)

I urge the Police Federation to think again before encouraging widespread adoption of these “barbaric” tools.

 

Kevin Donoghue is a solicitor who specialises in civil actions against the police. Contact him at www.donoghue-solicitors.co.uk/actions-against-the-police.

 

 

Why I’m Making a Parachute Jump to Help Heidi Roberts

Photo of Hannah Bickley of Donoghue Solicitors. She is making a sponsored parachute jump to help Heidi Roberts.

Hannah Bickley is making a sponsored parachute jump to help Heidi Roberts.

By Hannah Bickley, GCILEx

I’m scared of heights. Even standing on a ladder frightens me. So, why am I going to make a parachute jump out of a plane at 15,000 feet? Because Heidi Roberts needs help.

What Happened to Heidi Roberts?

Heidi is a family friend with breast and lung cancer. She’s only 36 but has already been through so much. After developing aggressive breast cancer in 2011 she had chemotherapy. Sadly, it failed and the cancer spread to her lungs. Heidi, who had to leave her job as an intensive care nurse, tried everything, including clinical trials. But after four years of treatment doctors told her there was nothing else they could do. She has recently been told that she has months to live.

Determined to beat this terrible disease, Heidi and her husband Paul researched alternative therapies. After countless hours they found Hallwang Private Oncology Clinic in Germany which offers PD-1 immunotherapy, a form of treatment with a good success rate. Unfortunately, this treatment is not available in the UK and has to be paid for privately.

Public Support

To get started the clinic needs an initial payment of £50,000. Heidi’s family and friends rallied round and began raising money to fund the treatment. They set up a gofundme page and organised sponsored head-shaves and other events. After only a few months they had raised about £12,000. I offered to help and somehow (I still don’t know how!) agreed to sign up for a sponsored parachute jump. Earlier this month I set up a justgiving page and invited sponsors to support me.

After I signed up for the parachute jump the media learned about Heidi’s plight. She appeared on ITV’s Granada Reports and donations flooded in from all over the world. Thanks to the public’s generosity this genuine, lovely woman, has raised the £50,000 needed for her initial treatment.

So, am I backing out? No way! On 25th September, I am going to Lancaster to make the parachute jump to help Heidi pay for travel, accommodation, and any future treatment. The £50,000 raised so far means she can start treatment in Germany but Heidi and her husband Paul still need to get there and have somewhere to stay.

Anyway, I have sponsors expecting me to go through with it, so couldn’t back out even if I wanted to. And compared to the bravery Heidi has shown, jumping out of a plane and falling to the ground at 120mph is nothing!

If you want to help me raise money for Heidi please sponsor me at: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/hannah-bickley. Thank you.

 

Update- I did it!

I’m proud to say that I successfully jumped from a plane on Sunday. Here’s the proof:

Photo of Hannah Bickley landing after her parachute jump.

Hannah Bickley coming in to land.

Photo of a relieved Hannah Bickley after her parachute jump.

A relieved Hannah Bickley after her parachute jump.

Photo of a certificate of achievement.

Certificate of Achievement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And thanks to many generous donations, some of which did not go on the justgiving website, I beat my goal of raising £400 for Heidi Roberts. Thank you to everyone who sponsored me and helped me make the parachute jump. It was an amazing experience for a very worthy cause.

 

 

 

Five Tips to Find the Best Solicitors to Sue the Police

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, who has five tips to help you find the best solicitors to sue the police.

Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, has five tips to help you find the best solicitors to sue the police.

By Kevin Donoghue, solicitor

It can be hard to find the best solicitors to sue the police for you. Let me help with unbiased insider advice only a lawyer who specialises in actions against the police can give.

Unbiased? Really?

As you can tell from our website, we want everyone who might bring an actions against the police claim to be as informed as possible. But we know that giving you this guidance isn’t everything. You still have to deal with a solicitor one-on-one, and after reading these five tips you might decide to use another firm of lawyers. If you do, that’s fine by me because finding the best fit for you and your claim is the most important thing, even if that’s with another solicitor.

Why People Sue the Police

Suing the police is a decision you don’t want to rush because there’s a lot at stake. Depending on the case you might be seeking

  • compensation,
  • an admission of liability,
  • removal of your DNA and personal data,
  • correction of Police National Computer records,
  • satisfaction if your police complaint was ignored, or
  • some other kind of justice.

(Read our page on remedies in claims against the police to find out more.)

This makes “actions against the police” claims (as they are known in legal circles) unique. For that reason, your solicitor should have special skills and qualities.

Five Questions to Find the Best Solicitors to Sue the Police

Kevin Donoghue's five tips to find the best solicitors in actions against the police claimsIn my opinion, there are five things worth thinking about to get the best solicitors to sue the police:

  1. What do you need?

I’ve put this first on purpose. It’s important to find the best solicitors to sue the police for you. Some questions you might want to ask yourself are:

    • How am I going to pay for a solicitor to represent me? Am I eligible for legal aid (sadly, most people aren’t)? If so, do I want to use a legal aid lawyer? If not, does the solicitor offer conditional fee “no win no fee” agreements, or accept clients on a “private client” or before-the-event insurance funded basis?
    • Is it important to me that I use a local solicitor because I need face-to-face meetings during office hours? Or doesn’t the solicitor’s location matter because I am more comfortable with letters, email, phone, occasional skype meetings etc., most of which can be dealt with at other times.
    • Should I use a firm which only represents claimants? Or do I mind a firm which also represents defendant insurers?
    • Would I prefer a “big firm” experience (where I may have numerous lawyers handling my claim under the guidance of a supervising solicitor), or a “small firm” one (where I am more likely to work with an individual solicitor)?
    • Anything else that matters to me.

Tweet This: To find the best solicitor to sue the #police start by asking yourself what you need, says Kevin Donoghue, #solicitor.

2. Are the solicitors you’re researching genuine experts in bringing compensation claims against the police?

Start narrowing your options when you know what you need from your solicitor. Check out the Law Society’s Find a Solicitor service for suggestions. It lists over 150,000 solicitors, and the information held there can help you with your initial search. (For an example, here’s my listing.) You could also ask family, friends, and other lawyers (if you know any), look at your potential solicitors’ websites, social media profiles, read case reports, etc. Find out as much as you can online about their skills before making contact.

This matters because some so-called “experts” in actions against the police are anything but. Funding changes to personal injury law which came into effect on 1 April 2013 have resulted in some lawyers, who previously only dealt with accident claims, branching out into police claims. While there is often an overlap between the two (because claims against the police often include personal injury assault claims), the law in civil actions against the police is extremely complex and different.

You’ll want someone who really knows their stuff or you might risk losing your claim. (Read what happened to a man who initially instructed a personal injury firm to handle his actions against the police claim here.)

  1. Do you think you can you work with the solicitor?

Taking action against the police is not easy. The police are very well funded (by the taxpayer!) and their experienced defence lawyers are determined to protect the reputation of their police force employers and the officers involved. The law and sympathy from the courts is often on the side of the police. Cases can take years and the financial stakes are high.

Bearing this in mind it is important to find a solicitor you can trust and work well with. Your solicitor will assemble a team of lawyers, experts, and other professionals dedicated to helping you win your claim. You will be expected to play your part with helpful co-operation and support.

Ask yourself if you think you will get on with the solicitor, potentially for years. Again, a personal recommendation will help, as will your online research. Read their online reviews, blog (if they have one), and social media posts. If the solicitor has done media work (tv/ radio) see if you can get hold of that. (Read this blog post for more on personality issues. They go both ways.)

  1. What’s their track record?

Even though cases rarely get to court, ideally, you will want a solicitor who has won at least one claim against the police at trial. This shows that they can spot a good case, and have the courage of their convictions to back it all the way. If they haven’t won any cases at trial, consider their overall experience and record of success.

Again, you could research any cases they report on their firm’s websites. I also suggest that you do a “Google” search to see if they come up in media reports, as some actions against the police solicitors’ websites are not kept up-to-date.

  1. Are they members of the Police Action Lawyers Group?

The Police Action Lawyers Group (“PALG”) was set up in 1991 and is a national organisation made up of solicitors, barristers, and other lawyers. This voluntary group shares information and best practices to help lawyers working in this niche area of law. Regular communication ensures that members have access to the latest legal decisions, influence government policy proposals, share knowledge with other organisations (such as Liberty and Justice) etc. This helps PALG members represent your interests as a claimant more effectively.

PALG membership is not essential but, in my opinion, it’s a useful indicator of your potential solicitor’s level of interest and involvement in compensation claims against the police.

(Note: Don’t use the PALG website for research on members. It links only to the government’s legal aid adviser page. PALG members also include lawyers who do not offer legal aid. Read why here.)

More Help to Sue the Police

Armed with these tips and the information on our site, you will be able to

Good luck!

 

Contact me for help with your actions against the police claim on 08000 124 246 or complete the online form on the Donoghue Solicitors website.

 

Will Police Take Complaints Seriously With Theresa May in No.10?

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, asks if police complaints will be taken seriously with Theresa May as Prime Minister.

Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, asks if police complaints will be taken seriously with Theresa May as Prime Minister.

By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor

Today, after an unprecedented few weeks in politics, Home Secretary Theresa May becomes Prime Minister. Her public criticism of the police, especially in a scathing speech to the Police Federation in 2014 in which she said some officers displayed “contempt for the public”, raised hopes that this would lead to a cultural change in policing. Sadly, it didn’t work, so now Mrs May’s Policing and Crime Bill is proceeding through Parliament to try to force change. In particular, our politicians will debate the police complaints system as follows:

Police complaints and inspection

Part 2 of the Bill would implement many of the proposals in the Government’s Improving Police Integrity consultation. It would reform the system of police complaints in the following ways:

  • A major role for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in the handling of police complaints
  • Changes to the handling of complaints aimed at making the system easier to follow and more transparent
  • Changes to the role and powers of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to reinforce its independence from police forces
  • The introduction of ‘super-complaints’ to allow certain advocacy groups and charities to raise concerns over troubling systemic issues in policing.

But will this legislation be enough to change the police’s attitude to complaints? Here’s my view.

One Client’s Experience of the Police Complaints Process

From The Sunday Post: A Northumbria Police spokesman said a full investigation had been carried out into claims of excessive force and unlawful arrest. That probe cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.

Gary Wilson, interviewed on BBC Radio 4: They basically said I was a liar, you know.

My client, Gary Wilson (details used with permission), was featured in a Radio 4 report “Police Complaints: A Fair Cop?” (listen to it by clicking on the link). In the interview he explained how Northumbria Police mistreated him.

Gary was trying to help the police coax his cousin off a roof when officers decided to arrest him for a bogus breach of the police. They assaulted, unlawfully arrested, and falsely imprisoned him for two days, before he was released at the Magistrates’ Court. He missed his son’s second birthday and was upset at his treatment, so made a formal complaint.

As usual for this kind of matter, the complaint was dealt with by Northumbria Police themselves (read our page on complaints against the police to find out why).

Unsurprisingly, Northumbria Police’s investigators sided with their own officers. Gary contacted me for advice because the police refused to apologise. I specialise in actions against the police and helped him win £7500 plus full legal costs. (Read how here.) Despite this settlement, he still feels aggrieved. As he pointed out in the interview, “I’m still waiting for that apology today.”

Fundamental Problems

It seems that, for the police, sorry is the hardest word. This is explained in the rest of the Radio 4 report which addresses many issues, including:

  • Just 1 in 10 of the 35,000 police complaints are upheld (on the latest figures when the report was filed)
  • Professor Steve Savage of Portsmouth University thinks that the police complaints system is different to consumer complaints handling because it is rooted in the police disciplinary process so “that there’s still an ethos that what the complaints investigation is about is determining blame” and “the concern is, is there evidence that this officer can be potentially responsible for misconduct?”. This different (and high) standard means that even legitimate complaints against the police are dismissed.
  • The Policing and Crime Bill proposes an overhaul of the police complaints system by putting investigations in the hands of Police and Crime Commissioners. One Commissioner said this will not work without giving them sufficient powers and resources to investigate, secure evidence, interview officers etc. (powers which the police’s Professional Standards Department (“PSD”) investigators presently have).
  • The Independent Police Complaints Commission (“IPCC”) uphold nearly half of all complaints when people challenge the PSD’s findings. These aren’t just to make complainants feel better. Dame Anne Owers, Chair of the IPCC explained that “we rarely uphold complaints just on technicalities”.
  • Dame Owers bemoaned the current system which requires the IPCC to refer complaints back to the same police force for re-assessment when it upholds an appeal. She said: “sometimes they get it wrong in the second place as well. And at the moment the system can produce a kind of roundabout where it’s just going backwards and forwards.”
  • She also complained that when the IPCC compels a police force to hold a misconduct hearing against one of their own officers, the force itself presents the case. The conflict of interest is obvious, and she says “That problem will only be resolved if we ourselves can present our own case.”
  • The police, represented in the Radio 4 report by Deputy Chief Constable Alan Goodwin (National Police Lead for complaints and misconduct), agreed that “in an ideal world” the police would not investigate complaints against their own staff.
  • But on other matters he was less forthcoming. For example, the DCC didn’t “want to get into a technical discussion about what an appeal actually constitutes”, when he could have simply referred the reporter to the Appeals section of Schedule 14 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011).
Photo of Theresa May, Prime Minister.

Theresa May, Prime Minister.

Police Culture

In February 2015 I wrote about the broken police complaints system in my blog post Five Ways to Cut Police Complaints. I was struck by the statistic that “you have a reasonable 1 in 2 chance of a successful appeal to the IPCC, but a pathetic 1 in 5 chance with a Chief Officer.” DCC Goodwin said in the Radio 4 report that this “can simply be a difference of opinion”. Maybe in some cases; but surely not all?

His comments in the radio programme fit with my earlier observation that senior police officers seem to focus on the cause of police complaints (the system) and not the symptom (poor policing standards and outdated attitudes). In effect, they try to deflect attention from their own failings, for example, blaming “an overly cautious approach to recording police complaints” and the non-existent “compensation culture”.

The police’s attitude to complaints is an ongoing cultural and systemic problem which successive governments have failed to manage, despite legislation. A year and a half after writing the “Five Ways” post I have seen no evidence of change. I hope to be proven wrong, but doubt the influence of the Policing and Crime Bill or the new Prime Minister will change police culture to improve the way they deal with complaints.

 

 

Read our page about making complaints against the police for more information, or contact us via the online form on this page.

 

Image credit: Home Office

Why Lawyers Object to the Investigatory Powers Bill

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, a solicitor, who discusses why lawyers object to the Investigatory Powers bill here.

Kevin Donoghue explains why lawyers object to the Investigatory Powers Bill.

By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor

Today in Parliament MPs are to debate the second reading of the Investigatory Powers Bill. I believe the Bill, as currently drafted, is not fit for purpose and joined with more than 200 other leading lawyers in writing a letter to The Guardian newspaper outlining my objections. This is why.

What is the Investigatory Powers Bill?

The Investigatory Powers Bill is described on the UK Parliament website as:

A Bill to make provision about the interception of communications, equipment interference and the acquisition and retention of communications data, bulk personal datasets and other information; to make provision about the treatment of material held as a result of such interception, equipment interference or acquisition or retention; to establish the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and other Judicial Commissioners and make provision about them and other oversight arrangements; to make further provision about investigatory powers and national security; to amend sections 3 and 5 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994; and for connected purposes.

The Conservative government introduced the Bill in the House of Commons on 1 March 2016. At this first reading stage there is no parliamentary debate about the substance of the Bill. That comes at the second reading stage, today.

After the debate the Speaker calls for objections. If there are none, the Bill proceeds through second reading without a vote. If Members disagree, a vote is taken.

If the Investigatory Powers Bill passes the second reading it progresses to the Committee stage, before proceeding to a third reading.

Why Legal Experts Object to the Investigatory Powers Bill

The Bill, as drafted, fails to meet international standards for surveillance powers.

This is because it:

  1. gives public authorities, such as the police and security agencies like GCHQ (the government’s monitoring agency), generalised (as opposed to targeted) access to the contents of electronic communications such as emails and digital records. Consequently, the Bill’s use of “bulk interception warrants” and “bulk equipment interference warrants” may be illegal.
  2. allows for “targeted interception warrants” to apply to groups of people, organisations, or premises instead of applying to specific individual targets.
  3. does not include a “reasonable suspicion” requirement. This means that surveillance could be used on people, organisations, or premises where no criminal involvement or threat to national security is present.

If the Bill is passed, the effect of these proposals is to allow the police and security agencies unfettered access to our most private communications, including emails, phone calls, medical records, bank statements, etc.

It may also lead to expensive and time-consuming legal challenges and further Parliamentary reform.

Global Perspective

Because our right to privacy in the UK is under threat the UN’s special rapporteur on privacy criticised the UK government in a report to the UN Human Rights Council. He said that the UK has a leading role on the world stage and ought to “desist from setting a bad example to other states by continuing to propose measures, especially bulk interception and bulk hacking” which run counter to recent European court judgments and “undermine the spirit of the very right to privacy”.

I couldn’t agree more. I urge Parliament to carefully consider the implications of this wrong-headed Bill. It must be fundamentally changed at this stage to ensure that any future Act at least meets international standards, and that the UK’s position as a leading democracy is not undermined.

 

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

 

 

 

Do Taser Assault Victims Suffer Miscarriages of Justice?

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor. Taser weapons have serious effects and their use may lead to miscarriages of justice.

Kevin Donoghue, solicitor, considers if Taser stun-guns result in miscarriages of justice in this blog post.

By Kevin Donoghue, solicitor

A recent study in America suggests that Taser “stun-guns” cause short-term dementia-like effects in victims.

This raises questions about their use and, in particular, whether miscarriages of justice occur when the police question suspects shortly after using the weapons.

Independent Taser Study

The study, reported by Drexel University, and funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, is reported to be the first time the Taser weapon has been tested in a clinical trial outside of those set up by Taser International, the company that develops, makes, and sells them.

142 young people were tested. They were separated into four groups:

  1. 37 people in the control group did nothing
  2. 32 hit a punching bag (to simulate the excited physical state they might feel during a police incident)
  3. 35 people received 5 second Taser shocks
  4. 38 hit the punching bag AND received the 5 second shocks.

One of the report’s authors, Robert J. Kane, PhD, said that the participants were subjected to a “battery of cognitive instruments” (tests) at various times:

  1. At the preliminary screening stage
  2. Right before treatment exposure (varied depending on group)
  3. Immediately after treatment
  4. One hour later
  5. One week later.

Their test scores were compared within their own groups, and across all four groups, to compare any changes in cognitive functioning.

The most significant result came on the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test (“HVLT”). This test assesses verbal learning and memory and can show anything from mild learning difficulties to dementia. The study participants were asked to learn, then recall, a series of 12 words over different times.

Before using the Taser, the average HVLT score for each group was 26, just above the national average. Afterwards, a quarter of both Taser groups (3 and 4) scored below 20, giving them the average cognitive functioning of 79-year-old adults. The decline in cognitive functioning was said to be “comparable to dementia”.

The Taser caused statistically significant reductions in verbal learning and memory for, on average, less than an hour. And Michael D. White, PhD, who co-authored the report, said that “our test administrators could clearly observe the difficulty many participants had with the HVLT after Taser exposure.”

As well as these scientifically provable changes, the researchers found that the use of a Taser also caused “significant negative change in several subjective state self-measures, including concentration difficulty, anxiety level and feeling overwhelmed”.

Dr. Kane said, “Being shocked had a traumatic effect on some participants. Some were emotionally debilitated by the experience.”

He also pointed out that the test subjects were not typical of Taser assault victims. They were young, healthy, used to taking tests, drug and alcohol-free. They were also in a controlled environment (a hospital) with medical staff on hand, and understood that they were taking part in a scientific study.

He said, “We would expect ‘typical’ suspects – who may be high, drunk or mentally ill and in crisis at the time of exposure – to experience even greater impairment to cognitive functioning as the result of Taser exposure.”

Consequences of Taser Use

The results of the study have significant implications for the public, police policy, and judicial procedures.

Tasers are used by law enforcement world-wide, including the UK. The Metropolitan Police use the X26 Taser and describe on the Force’s website how “When fired Taser delivers a sequence of very short high voltage pulses that result in the loss of voluntary muscle control causing the subject to fall to the ground or freeze. In the X26 the voltage peaks at 50,000 volts…”.

I previously wrote about the worrying increase in Taser use here: How Police Taser Use is Failing Us All. I was concerned when Chief Superintendent Paul Morrison, Head of Operations Command at Sussex and Surrey Police, discussed a case involving the use of a Taser on 14-year-old girl and described the Taser as “a low level of force” which was preferable to a baton.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Tasers are potentially deadly weapons and should only be used as a last resort. They have serious physical, emotional, and (we now know) mental effects.

Miscarriage of Justice

In addition, the Drexel University report opens up another potentially life-changing risk: miscarriages of justice.

The police must read the following caution before questioning someone about a crime:

“You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

That’s 37 words, more than three times the number in the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test which the Taser study used to test cognitive impairment. If fit, healthy, sober, above-average adults had dementia-like effects trying to learn and recall 12 words after being Tased, what chance would they have with 37? More importantly, how would the “typical” suspects mentioned by Dr. Kane cope?

Having a caution read to you is not the same as understanding it.

The Taser victim may:

  • not understand the caution or be able to think it through;
  • waive their rights to speak to a solicitor or have one present in an interview;
  • be more open to persuasive interview techniques; and
  • give inaccurate information.

Ultimately, the evidence gained might wrongly prove their guilt at court, resulting in a wrongful conviction and miscarriage of justice.

Custody Record Comments

After using a Taser, the police do not have to wait a minimum period of time before questioning someone. Provided an officer has read the caution to a Taser victim suspect, the police can start the interview immediately.

Because the majority of Taser victims in the study recovered from the cognitive effects within an hour, the report’s authors suggest delaying the interview to avoid potential miscarriages of justice. “What would it cost police to wait 60 minutes after a Taser deployment before engaging suspects in custodial interrogations?” they say.

That alone might be good enough in the USA. In the UK we have other issues.

This is because, in my experience as a solicitor who specialises in civil actions against the police, it is unlikely that a Taser victim would be interviewed within an hour. After being Tased, arrested, cautioned, taken to a police station, booked in, processed, and seen by a medic, more than an hour would normally have passed. The majority of people would have shaken off the dementia-like effects.

But the Custody Record is often filled out within that time, as it is started when the suspect is presented before the Custody Officer at the police station. It is a very powerful tool in the prosecution’s hands as it is a contemporaneous record which can be relied upon at court.

And it is more than just a record of detention. There are two sections where the suspect’s comments are recorded:

  1. The first section, “Arrest”, records “Comments made when facts of arrest explained”. These comments, made by the suspect immediately after the caution, are noted by the arresting officer (usually in the pocket notebook) and read to the Custody Officer with the suspect present.
  2. The second relevant section of the Custody Record (“Detention”) notes “Comments made when reasons (for detention) explained”. Anything said by the suspect before the Custody Officer is recorded.

Crucially, in both sections where the suspect’s comments are recorded they must be counter-signed and verified to be true by the suspect themselves. This makes it very difficult for the suspect and his or her legal team to them challenge later.

Knowing, as we now do, that a quarter of Taser victims suffer dementia-like effects, why should:

  • these comments, usually made within the crucial first hour, become written evidence in the Custody Record?
  • the comments be verified to be true by the suspect when they may not know what they said or what they are signing?
  • these early comments gain further legitimacy by being referred to in later (formal) recorded interviews?
  • interviewing officers be allowed to refer to them to put pressure on Tased suspects?
  • prosecutors be allowed to refer to them at Court?

Flawed System

Allowing the police to use post-caution and detention comments from Taser assault victims may lead to miscarriages of justice, which are bad for everyone, not just the wrongfully convicted victim who is denied their liberty. Confidence in the legal system and the Rule of Law is diminished, the financial costs to the State and society are significant, and there is the risk that the person who committed the crime will re-offend, causing further unnecessary harm.

Politicians, the police, and public now know enough about the serious physical, emotional, and mental effects of Tasers. Miscarriages of justice are likely to occur if the present system remains. It’s time for a change.

 

Kevin Donoghue is the Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors, a firm which specialises in civil actions against the police and people who have suffered due to the unlawful use of Taser weapons.

 

 

Why are Solicitors Against Raising the Small Claims Limit?

Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor Director of Donoghue Solicitors explains why solicitors are opposed to an increase in the small claims limit.

I recently wrote to my local MP, Peter Dowd, and Louise Ellman, MP (the MP for Liverpool Riverside, where Donoghue Solicitors is based) to ask them to consider the Government’s proposed reforms of the accident claims process, and in particular, raising the small claims limit.

Photo of Kevin Donoghue, solicitor. Raising the small claims limit could have devastating effects in Kevin Donoghue's opinion.

Kevin Donoghue of Donoghue Solicitors considers the implications of the proposed raise of the small claims limit.

As an Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (‘APIL’) Senior Litigator, who runs an APIL corporate accredited practice, I represent many innocent accident claims victims. I am deeply concerned by the potential impact of the changes.

The government proposals will:

  • Raise the small claims limit from £1,000 to £5,000
  • Change the law by preventing people from claiming compensation for soft tissues injuries (such as “whiplash”) in road traffic accidents.

What is the Small Claims Limit in England and Wales?

The small claims limit is a money value placed on contested civil claims when proceedings are issued at County Court. With accident claims in England and Wales, if the personal injury element is worth less than the current small claims limit of £1,000 the case will usually be assigned to the small claims track. (There are exceptions, e.g., for complex cases, and sometimes claims worth more than £1,000 will get allocated to the small claims track.).

When a case is allocated to the small claims track it means that the Court considers the matter to be of low value and/or straightforward. Either way, in the Court’s opinion, solicitors are not required unless the parties want to pay privately. Consequently very limited costs or expenses are payable. As a result, most people bringing small claims represent themselves as Litigants in Person.

I disagree that personal injury accident claims are suitable for the small claims track. They are complex matters that require expert legal help to identify the issues, prepare evidence, and recover appropriate compensation to put the Claimant in the pre-accident position. Already Litigants in Person are at a huge disadvantage in small claims because Defendants in accident claims are usually insured. Insurers routinely fight small claims using expert solicitors and barristers. As a result, the scales of justice weigh heavily in their favour. More innocent accident victims will lose out if the Government raises the small claims limit.

If implemented these proposals are likely to have devastating consequences for innocent accident claims victims, people involved in the legal profession, and the UK economy. Only insurers and their shareholders will benefit.

It is for these reasons that I have urged both MPs to act. My letters stress the economic impact because, unfortunately, some politicians still believe the insurer-peddled myth of a “compensation culture” and may be reluctant to intervene. (I have written about this bogus idea in the past. Even Conservatives like former Minister Lord Young dismissed it.)

For now though, I’m not interested in a PR battle over mere words. These proposed changes to the small claims limit are so significant for concrete reasons that I hope our politicians stand up and fight. We are all relying on them.

Small Claims Limit Letter

My letter to Louise Ellman MP is reproduced below:

Louise Ellman MP

House of Commons

London

SW1A 0AA

29 January 2016

Dear Mrs Ellman,

Economic Cost of Changes to Personal Injury Compensation Claims

I am writing to you as a solicitor who specialises in compensation claims, a small-business owner, and employer, to urge you to make representations to the Justice Secretary.

I believe that the Government ‘s plan to increase the small claims court limit to £5,000 for people injured through no fault of their own – and to abolish recompense altogether for almost all those who have suffered soft tissue injuries in road accidents, is wrong.

I am sure you have read and heard the insurance lobby and government talk about the (non-existent) “compensation culture” and “fat cat lawyers”. I am not going to waste your time refuting that unsubstantiated nonsense. Instead, I invite you to consider the impact of these proposals from an economic perspective both nationally and locally.

£1Billion+ Cost to HM Treasury

It is estimated by the Access to Justice Action Group (www.accesstojusticeactiongroup.co.uk) that

the Treasury is likely to lose in excess of £1billion from lower recovery of welfare benefits paid to the DWP from successful claims, and loss of VAT, Income Tax and Corporation Tax from the demise of law firms, their suppliers and contractors, as thousands of lawyers and their hard working staff lose their employment and end up on state benefits.

Liverpool will be disproportionately impacted by these proposals. The city is a legal powerhouse with firms of all sizes employing people involved in compensation claims work. Liverpool’s law firms contribute to the local and national economy through taxation, jobs, and spending. It has a thriving support sector of IT, telecommunications, marketing professionals etc. Law firms like mine occupy prime real estate in the city, which encourages development and generates business rates for Liverpool City Council.

The compensation claims legal sector is already struggling. Many firms have gone “to the wall” since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) (“LASPO”) came into force in 2013. The impact of that, and the current proposals, continues to take its toll on firms of all sizes. Last week the AA pulled out of the personal injury claims business. One of the country’s biggest law firms, Slater and Gordon, recently announced redundancies. Closer to home, Water Street-based PCJ Solicitors, which posted a turnover of £5.5million in its 2014 accounts, entered administration on 19 November 2015. The firm will leave unsecured creditors hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

The Government’s proposals will accelerate the sector’s collapse and threaten the continued existence of many more law firms and support businesses.

The proposals will also affect the budget of the already-stretched court service. Court fee increases have risen dramatically over recent years, particularly in civil litigation, which including personal injury compensation claims. Claimants are often unwilling or unable to pay the fees, leaving their solicitors to cover the costs while litigation progresses. If solicitors are no longer involved to fund court fees the Government will be forced to take money from elsewhere, and/ or close courts leading to more redundancies.

Wider Economic Impact

Whilst a limited increase in the small claims threshold is appropriate (inflation would suggest the correct higher figure would be £2,000), the current proposals will result in injustice to ordinary honest people whilst creating excessive profits for insurance companies; and even more so, if the injured are banned altogether from receiving anything at all for their suffering and losses.

It is estimated that 85% of injured people will be denied legal representation. They will be left alone to face an unfair battle against powerful insurance companies. Most will not even bother; or will be exploited by claims management companies.  Others will accept woefully inadequate offers to avoid the stress of the Small Claims Court.

My own firm is typical in that we help people locally and throughout England and Wales. Compensation recovered by innocent victims directly impacts on the local and national economy through spending on essential items (like medical care and aids) and discretionary spending (e.g. buying a newer car after a road traffic accident). Failing to recover any compensation, or under-settling, will have serious ripple effects in the wider economy.

Insurers’ Profits Soar Amid Broken Promises

The Government say its proposals will reduce “fraud”. However, the evidence does not support this argument; and the Government has already introduced a long series of measures to deal with this anyway.

Savings can only come from denying people the compensation to which they are rightfully entitled. The Government’s proposals will codify this.

The insurers claim savings would be passed on to policy holders. However, they’ve said this many times before (for example, during the discussions about LASPO) – and each time failed to meet their promise. The Government have made clear they will not “police” this, either. Despite the insurers’ promises car insurance premiums have increased 9.2% in the 12 months to the end of September 2015, taking the average cost of a comprehensive policy to £569.

The insurance industry’s own Association of British Insurers (ABI) figures show that their costs of recompensing those hurt by their policy holders have fallen 29% since 2010. The amount paid out annually by motor insurers fell from £8.3 billion to £5.89 billion last year – a decrease of £2.41 billion. Yet savings from this multi-billion pound windfall have not been passed on.

In fact, this huge sum has gone to inflate the insurance industry’s profits instead. For example, Direct Line and Admiral have between them paid out £1.65 billion in dividends in the last three years – equivalent to £221 for each of their policy holders.

Innocent accident victims, the city of Liverpool, and the wider UK economy, should not be made to pay for the Government’s wrong-headed plan.

I would welcome the opportunity of discussing these issues with you.

Yours sincerely

Kevin Donoghue

Solicitor Director

 

 

 

Merry Christmas from Donoghue Solicitors!

Merry Christmas from Donoghue Solicitors!

Merry Christmas from Donoghue Solicitors!

Merry Christmas!

Best wishes to all of our clients, friends, and families. Thank you for your support this year!

We’ve had a fantastic year. Three highlights are:

  1. In May we won Liverpool Law Society’s Niche Law Firm Award, a hugely proud moment for me personally and everyone involved in the firm.
  2. In November we moved to bigger and better offices in Liverpool city centre, giving us room to grow and help even more people get the compensation they deserve.
  3. In December our client James Parry, a solicitor in Liverpool, received justice after a two-day trial at Liverpool County Court where a Judge found that he had been wrongfully arrested by Merseyside Police. As with many of our clients, his case was about more than compensation. Winning also meant clearing his name. Mr Parry was just one of the many people we helped this year. You can read what some of our clients think about us here.

We hope you have a relaxing and stress-free holiday and that 2016 is a great year for you all.

Like the County Courts, we will be closed over the Christmas period, from 1 p.m. on Thursday, 24th December 2015 until 9 a.m. on Friday, 4th January 2016.

If you need urgent help, please contact me via email – [email protected]

This year, instead of greeting cards, we made a donation to Brunswick Youth and Community Centre (a registered charity based in Bootle, Liverpool, which we support). You can read more about how we give back to our community here.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Kevin Donoghue and everyone at Donoghue Solicitors