I represent “Jean” and “Paul” (names changed), a mother and her 24-year-old son, in a civil action against the police.
So far, their case has been hard-fought. For lawyers involved in actions against the police, this will come as no surprise. Most cases are challenged.
But for the public, it might be interesting to know how some police forces and their lawyers conduct themselves, and to consider if this is an unnecessarily arrogant and costly approach.
Unlawful Police Raid
My clients are innocent victims of police misconduct who have never been in trouble with the police before. What happened to them could happen to any of us.
My clients live in a modest flat. At about 7:30pm one evening, Jean and Paul (who was 22 at the time) were at home when they heard a bang on the front door.
Jean answered the door thinking it was a delivery. She was shocked to find a team of police officers wearing protective gear. They stormed in and immediately separated the terrified residents.
Officers kept Jean in the living room and took Paul into a bedroom. They searched Paul fully. This included a humiliating, invasive, and degrading cavity search. The police also thoroughly searched the home. They found nothing.
The police detained Jean and Paul for 20 mins before leaving without offering an explanation or apology.
Justice Sought From the Police
Jean and Paul were left confused, terrified, and upset. They:
- had no idea why their home was raided
- worried that this could happen again
- lost faith in the police.
They were also acutely embarrassed by the raid. Jean and Paul live quiet lives. The police raid happened in full view of their neighbours and friends.
The mother and son also suffered personal injuries in the police raid. A medical expert has since diagnosed that they both suffered serious and long-lasting psychological effects.
Jean and Paul contacted my firm for help because we specialise in civil actions against the police. We have a long track record of success against forces throughout England and Wales.
I spoke to them both about the incident. I was struck by the police’s dismissive attitude. They did not give Jean and Paul the courtesy of an explanation about what happened and what went wrong. They did not apologise for their actions, which included the most intimate physical search of Paul. They did not even follow up to enquire as to their well-being.
I was determined to help Jean and Paul seek justice.
Letter of Claim to the Police
Before starting a civil action against the police, it is important for me to find out what “justice” means to my clients. Remedies in claims against the police differ depending on the circumstances. In order of importance, my clients wanted an:
- explanation about what happened
- assurance that it will not happen again
- appropriate amount of compensation for their personal injuries.
I submitted full details to the police, using a Letter of Claim which met the Civil Procedure Rules requirements. The letter gave full details so the police could:
- identify the incident from their records
- consider liability and respond fully. This could be either
- accepting liability, or
- denying it with reasons
- consider the likely value of my clients’ claims.
I also asked for:
- specific documentation and evidence, including body worn camera footage, which would help the parties and the court establish facts and value claims
- a formal written apology
- an explanation of
- what happened
- what went wrong
- an assurance that this error would not be repeated.
Police Arrogance in Response
The police’s response was dismissively short and failed to deal with my letter in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules. They offered no explanation, no apology, or assurance that they would not raid my clients’ home again.
Instead, their response simply said:
Can you confirm what quantum your clients are seeking?
“Quantum” is a legal term for the amount of compensation. As mentioned above, this was the least important of the four things my clients sought by way of justice.
I was disappointed, but not shocked, by the police’s arrogant response. I have seen similar responses from this Force in the past. I responded:
The defendant seems to have a policy of throwing money at cases in the hope that they would not have to explain themselves for any wrongdoing.
The defendant shows a clear lack of empathy to clients in these situations and think they are only interested in monetary compensation.
This case is not just about recovering compensation, it is about vindication and restoring their reputations, something which the defendant has left in tatters.
As well as the arrogance of their response, the Force failed to provide any documentation or other evidence by way of disclosure.
Disclosure is not something that can be avoided by either party in civil claims.
It is essential to help narrow the issues and promote settlement. If the parties cannot agree, the courts expect to see all relevant evidence to make a fair and just decision.
The police’s refusal to co-operate with their legal disclosure requirements left me with no alternative. I had to issue court proceedings and pay expensive court fees to get a hearing before a County Court judge.
It was worth it.
The proceedings resulted in a Court Order which forced the police to comply with their legal duty to provide disclosure. The documents confirmed what went wrong: the police acted on flawed intelligence that my client’s home was being used for drug trafficking when executing a search warrant.
Despite handing over documentation which proved my clients’ claims, the police continued their dismissive and arrogant approach. They ignored my clients’ reasonable requests for an apology and assurance that it would not happen again.
Instead, the Force simply made a “low-ball” offer without considering medical evidence. I advised my clients not to consider it. They could not tell if the offer was fair without an expert opinion.
Persistence Pays Off
I have no hesitation in taking cases all the way to trial when merited. My clients authorised me to continue aggressively litigating their case. This resulted in a written apology from the Force’s Head of Professional Standards. In it, he:
- acknowledged the effect of the unlawful police raid
- confirmed that the officers involved had received training
- assured my clients that the Force is confident it won’t happen again.
Both my clients are absolutely delighted that they have achieved this outcome. After all, they were innocent victims of police misconduct and simply sought justice.
Compensation Award to Follow
As well as an:
it is right and proper that Jean and Paul also get financial compensation. No judge can turn back time. Financial damages are the court’s way of putting innocent victims of police misconduct in the pre-incident position. This will be dealt with in due course.
It is clear that the police’s arrogant and unsympathetic approach has:
- made my clients’ stress and upset worse, and
- will cost taxpayers more money in legal and court fees.
Senior officers would do well to reflect on these issues before complaining about any perceived lack of public or political support and campaigning for increases in police budgets.
Daniel Fitzsimmons is a Chartered Legal Executive at Donoghue Solicitors. Contact him here.