By Kevin Donoghue, Police Claims Solicitor and Director of Donoghue Solicitors
Can you believe it’s nearly the end of 2014?
As a police claims solicitor, this year I used the firm’s blog to highlight issues I came across in daily law practice.
As my blog posts show, there are lots of areas of concern. My Christmas wish is for 2015 to see things improve. Here’s why, and how this can happen.
Police Claims Solicitor Blog Posts
In January I suggested the police and their solicitors make three New Year’s resolutions:
- Think of the police force’s money as your own
- Treat people as you would want to be treated
- Respect your opponent.
Unfortunately, this message was not heard. During the course of the year I repeatedly dealt with negative police tactics. They abused the court system to try to avoid responsibility for police misconduct.
When I defeated the police’s solicitors at court my clients benefitted as their claims could progress. But frustratingly the police solicitors’ actions caused delay, which helps no one, and the courts ordered the police forces involved to pay wasted legal costs. (In reality, you and me as taxpayers picked up these unnecessary extra bills.)
As I said nearly a year ago, this is plain wrong. The police’s solicitors should not misuse the legal process, and taxpayers should not have to foot the bill.
But seven months later I was compelled to remind the police’s own solicitors how ethics rules work. I urged them to remember their legal and moral obligations for the proper administration of justice. In 2015 I hope they will.
Breach of the Peace Solicitor Help
Turning to the “bobby on the beat” I asked if the police know the law in breach of the peace cases.
This piece came about because I received many requests for help from people who had been wrongfully arrested for “a breach of the peace”. I explained the law in clear, simple language that a police officer on the beat could understand. I hoped that the police’s highly-qualified and expensive solicitors would read it too, to avoid wasting time and money fighting claims. Still the calls to represent people who had been unlawfully arrested for breach of the peace kept coming.
Police Misconduct Cases
I also sought a change in the police’s body camera policy as I disagreed with the proposal that the police’s cameras did not have to be filming at all times when they were on duty. The guidance that police officers could selectively use body cameras seems wrong to me. The police could abuse it to avoid filming incidents where they misbehave.
As I pointed out, it’s not just innocent people involved in episodes of police misconduct who benefit from the proper use of body cameras. The police get valuable protection from complaints and claims too. And it’s good for society. The widespread civil unrest caused by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, USA, could be avoided here with body camera evidence removing doubt.
Fortunately, as many people have smartphones with video cameras, bystanders filming police misconduct became more common in 2014. In July I reviewed a police assault shown on Facebook and suggested that the injured man seek legal advice. I hope he has.
Taser assaults were in the news this year, which is not surprising when you consider that the police used Tasers more than 10,000 times in 2013 alone.
I reviewed the evidence and wrote about why the police’s policy with these potentially deadly weapons is wrong. I urged the police to agree ethical standards across all forces. Unsurprisingly, we’re still waiting.
Police Claims Funding Threat
As a police claims solicitor I worry that recent changes in legal funding could potentially have far-reaching consequences for our civil liberties. In November I asked the government to extend “qualified one way costs shifting” to cover all actions against the police, including those where the victim did not get injured. I’m hopeful that they will do this in the New Year, but as always with the current government when it comes to citizens’ rights, I won’t hold my breath.
On many occasions I asked for something that we have the right to expect: for the government, police, and their legal representatives to act responsibly and ethically.
If I have one Christmas wish this year it’s that they think about this seriously. These people are public servants, after all. There’s a clue in their name about whose interests they are meant to serve.
In 2013 there were 129,584 full-time equivalent police officers in England and Wales according to the most recent government statistics. I fight against police misconduct daily but know that they’re not all bad. The majority are doing a good job in difficult circumstances. I am sure we all appreciate the hard-working and decent police officers who have carried out great work throughout the year.
On a more personal note I take this opportunity to thank all of our clients, contacts, staff, family, and friends for your support this year.
Thanks to you we’ve had a busy, but fulfilling, year at Donoghue Solicitors.
We’ve won lots of claims for our clients, recovering hundreds of thousands of pounds of well-deserved compensation for people who have suffered through no fault of their own.
And along the way we’ve raised money for charity and helped in our local community.
Donoghue Solicitors would not exist without you, and I am deeply grateful to all who make this a successful firm. Helping people who have suffered through no fault of their own is my passion. I am fortunate to do that every day.
From everyone here at Donoghue Solicitors, I wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy 2015.
P.S. If, like me, you have young children, you might enjoy this interactive Santa tracker from google. It’s fun, free, and will give the kids something to do while you’re wrapping the presents!
If you want help from a police claims solicitor, contact Kevin Donoghue on 0151 933 1474 or fill out the simple form on the website.