Photo of Kevin Donoghue, a solicitor who helps people sue for breach of the peace arrest.
Kevin Donoghue, a solicitor who helps people sue for breach of the peace arrest.

By Kevin Donoghue, Solicitor.

Yesterday the BBC reported that Dean Farley, 28, accidentally ran into Prime Minister David Cameron while jogging in Leeds.

Tom Heyden of the BBC later interviewed me about the story as I specialise in civil actions against the police, including helping people to sue after unlawful arrests for breach of the peace.

Mr. Cameron’s security team:

  • arrested Dean “to prevent a further breach of the peace”;
  • detained him for an hour; then
  • “de-arrested” him after satisfying themselves that Dean was innocent.

Mr. Farley explained how the police manhandled, handcuffed, and held him in a police van while they checked his story. He said that he was jogging to the gym for a workout with a personal trainer.

As well as suffering physical injuries, Dean explained that he was “quite shook up” by the “harrowing” incident.

As Mr. Farley was held and detained  by the police he might consider asking a solicitor for help to sue for breach of the peace arrest.

But can he?

There are three things to consider:

  1. Was the arresting officer right to charge Dean with a breach of the peace?
  2. Was the arrest and detention lawful?
  3. Can the police justify Dean’s detention for an hour?

The Law in Cases Where People Sue for Breach of the Peace Arrest

The police charged Dean with a breach of the peace. Was that the right offence?

I have previously blogged about if the police know the law in breach of the peace cases as I worry that, all too often, they get it wrong.

To rely on a charge of breach of the peace, the arresting officer must have had:

  • reasonable grounds to believe that Dean had done (or threatened to do) an act which;
  • either actually harms a person or his/ her property; or
  • is likely to cause such harm.

The BBC report says that Dean Farley did not make contact with David Cameron. Even so, in that moment, it is understandable that an officer would think that there was a threat of harm to the Prime Minister or one of his protection team.

So the charge of breach of the peace appears correct.

False Imprisonment

To claim for false imprisonment, Dean Farley would need to show that the police detained him without lawful authority.

The legal definition, from Clerk and Lindsell on Torts, describes detention as:

“Complete deprivation of liberty for any time, however short, without lawful cause”.

Dean says the police arrested and detained him for an hour.

The burden of proof then shifts to the police.

To prevent Mr. Farley being able to sue for breach of the peace arrest the police must show that they had lawful grounds for the arrest.

Grounds for Arrest

Sections 24 and 28 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984) (amended by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005)) describe the following conditions for a lawful arrest:

  1. the arresting officer honestly suspected the arrested person was involved in the commission of a criminal offence;
  2. the arresting officer held that suspicion on reasonable grounds;
  3. the arresting officers’ reasons for effecting an arrest amount to a reasonable belief that the arrest was necessary, usually to allow the prompt & effective investigation of the offence or of the conduct of the person in question;
  4. the officer informed the arrested person of the fact & grounds of arrest as soon as reasonably practicable; and
  5. 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.

Applying these tests to Dean Farley’s case, the arresting officer would say that he had an honest suspicion that Dean had harmed, or threatened to harm, David Cameron or a member of his protection team, so committing a breach of the peace.

Watching the video footage Dean’s conduct could certainly be viewed as potentially threatening, although we now know that he had no such intent to harm. So objectively, we can agree that the officer’s suspicion was reasonable.

The arresting officer would also say that he had to arrest Dean to investigate the alleged offence.

Again, viewing the footage, it seems reasonable to take the police’s side.

The arresting officer promptly told Dean that he had been arrested “to prevent a further breach of the peace” so the fourth condition was satisfied.

Finally, there does not seem to be a public law reason to challenge the arrest.

Justified Detention for Breach of the Peace

It appears that the initial arrest was lawful so, on that basis, Dean cannot sue for breach of the peace arrest.

But  the police have to defend the continuing detention on a “minute by minute” basis. As the then Master of the Rolls, Lord Donaldson, said in the judgment of Mercer v Chief Constable of Lancashire (1991):

“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.”

So Dean could still sue for a breach of the peace arrest if he can show that the police held him longer than necessary.

He told the BBC that the police kept him for an hour while they checked his story. Mr. Farley was then released without charge.

It is unlikely that a court would criticise the police for holding Dean for this time. It seems reasonable to conduct the enquiries he described such as checking his story with his boss, the gym etc. given the high-profile nature of the incident.

There may be other evidence which comes to light later, but on the information from the BBC report and video alone, it seems that Dean’s arrest and detention for breach of the peace were justified.

Unlike some of my other clients, I would not advise him to sue for breach of the peace arrest.

 

If you want help to sue for breach of the peace arrest contact me on 0151 933 1474 or complete the online form on my firm’s website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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