Police Assault? You Decide

Photo of Police Assault Clams Solicitor, Kevin Donoghue

Police Assault Clams Solicitor, Kevin Donoghue

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

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

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

Police Assault Facebook Video

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

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

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

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

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

AM: I can’t f**kin’ breathe

MPC1: Well stop fighting

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

AM: I’m quite happy to co-operate

MPC1: You were given the option

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

(Unintelligible conversation between MPC and AM)

A female onlooker asks: What are they doing?

A male onlooker replies: Assault

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

AM: What the f**k?

MPC1: Did you spit at me?

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

MPC1 holds the AM by his hair/ left ear.

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

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

AM: I did not.

MPC1: Yes or No.

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

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

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


Interpreting the Police Assault Video

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


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


The Law

1.      False Imprisonment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.      Police Assault

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

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

(From s.117 of PACE).

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

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

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

then AM could make a police assault claim.

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

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

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

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

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

Was this a Police Assault?

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

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

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

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

then the use of force could be justified.

Police Assault Compensation Claim

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

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


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

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