These types of claims are based in the law of tort, which deals with civil wrongs.
In claims against the police, we use tort law to seek remedies and depending on the circumstances these include, but are not limited to:
- Wrongful/ unlawful arrest
- False imprisonment
- Assault & battery
- Malicious Prosecution
- Misfeasance in Public Office
Each of these heads of claim has its own particular rules to satisfy the court, on the balance of probabilities, that the Claimant’s claim is justified and that legal remedies should follow.
Available Remedies in Claims Against the Police
Tort law is used in police claims to put the innocent victim in the pre-loss position.
Unfortunately, no court can turn back time and undo the harm caused to a Claimant by the police’s misconduct. The best the law can do is help the Claimant get other remedies. The main remedies include:
- a finding of liability (blame)
- a declaration (especially in Human Rights Act claims but also in discrimination claims)
- damages (financial compensation)
- legal costs.
We will look at these in more detail below.
1. A finding of liability and 2. A Declaration
Claims against the police are complex from a legal perspective, as the law in civil actions against the police page shows.
They are also hard to win because they are almost universally contested. The police, as agents of the State, are well-funded and jealously guard their reputations on an institutional and personal level.
For these reasons Claimants should be ready for a long, hard fight when suing the police.
What is a Finding of Liability?
Despite the legal complexities and police’s approach to claims, in cases which go to trial courts can make positive findings of liability and/ or a declaration.
A finding of liability means that the court finds in favour of either the Claimant or Defendant in the matter presented to it.
In a successful claim against the police the Judge is said to “find for the Claimant”. This means that s/he holds the police responsible for the matter which led to the claim.
The court can then “enter judgment” the Claimant. The Claimant is then entitled to other legal remedies (usually damages, see below).
What is a Declaration?
If requested, in a written and/or oral judgment the court can also include a declaration to support the finding of liability.
Declarations are particularly useful in claims against the police where there is a valid Human Rights Act claim. For example, an alleged breach of:
- Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to liberty and security of the person) may support a claim for unlawful arrest and false imprisonment.
- Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to private and family life, home and correspondence) can help a claim for trespass.
In these cases, the Claimant can seek a declaration from the court to support a finding of liability and help value the police abuse compensation claim.
The Claimant would normally seek such a declaration in formal court papers, known as “Particulars of Claim”. For example, the Claimant might say in the Particulars:
“In respect of the breaches of Human Rights the Claimant seeks just satisfaction and a declaration that such were violated by the officers.”
For many Claimants, hearing a judge say that the police were responsible for misconduct and receiving a written judgment confirming liability can be hugely satisfying.
But the courts are under no obligation to make such findings or declarations, and often cases are settled out-of-court without them.
Fortunately, the system allows for other remedies, including the payment of damages and costs.
3. Damages and 4. Costs
The most common remedy in claims against the police is damages and costs. By agreeing financial compensation, the parties (and court, if the matter goes to trial) acknowledge the harm caused by the police’s actions, and seek to remedy that by making the police force involved pay money to the innocent Claimant.
Legal costs usually follow the payment of damages, so can be recovered from the police by the successful Claimant.
In certain matters we may take your case on under no win no fee agreements.
The cost of making a police compensation claim varies greatly depending on the case.
Factors which affect the amount of costs in police compensation claims include:
- the circumstances of your claim against the police;
- how your claim is funded;
- what you are claiming compensation for;
- how much work we are required to do;
- how long your case lasts;
- whether the police accept responsibility and, if so, when;
- how many experts are instructed;
- whether a barrister is instructed, and what they do;
- if your claim settles before trial;
- how many witnesses are involved;
- how many court appearances are required;
- whether your case goes to trial, how long it takes, and if a jury is involved;
So, unfortunately, it is impossible to say how much the legal costs are likely to be without knowing more about your particular case.
As a rough guide though, because these claims are so complex, legal costs for successful cases are rarely less than £5,000, and can go into the tens of thousands (e.g. for cases that go to a multi-day jury trial).
When we take your police compensation claim, we will give you a realistic costs estimate based on your circumstances.
In the event the case succeeds, most of these costs are paid by the losing defendant (the police, or those acting with police-like powers.).
If the claim fails, you may have to pay the other sides costs
As well as the main remedies detailed above, other, and often preferable, remedies may be available via an out-of-court settlement including:
- an apology
- an agreement to make sure lessons are learned and/or training implemented
- deletion of records from national police systems
- amendment of local police databases to show that the arrest was subject to litigation.