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Examples of police misconduct cases

Cases of police misconduct can be shocking to read about, and understandably so. After all, we expect police officers to help us to stay safe and secure. Their role is to uphold the law and to protect us from those who break it. Police misconduct represents a fundamental failure to meet these expectations. The consequences of this can be extremely painful. It can have long-lasting effects on those subjected to it.

That’s why it’s important to know what police misconduct looks like, and what you can do if you are exposed to it. In this post, we’ll look at some examples of police misconduct cases. In doing so, we’ll encounter some of the various forms police misconduct can take and the kinds of impact it can have. We’ll also look at how victims of police misconduct can have those responsible held accountable and find help to move on from their experience. This includes claiming compensation by pursuing a civil action against the police.

What is police misconduct?

Police misconduct is a general term that refers to any of the myriad ways police officers can fail to fulfil their ethical and/or legal obligations. In extreme cases, these failures can amount to gross misconduct – read our blog on this topic to find out more.

While some kinds of misconduct are more severe than others, they all represent a significant contravention of the expectations and responsibilities that come with being a police officer. And they can all have a substantially detrimental effect on those impacted.

Some of the major types of police misconduct include:

  • Excessive force
  • Wrongful arrest or detention
  • Data protection breaches
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Unlawful stop and search
  • Trespass to your property
  • Assault and battery
  • Negligence

To help you recognise incidents of police misconduct more easily, as well as to emphasise just how damaging they can be, let’s look at some specific examples of police misconduct cases.

Excessive force

Excessive force is one of the most troubling types of police misconduct, and one whose consequences are very clearly damaging to the victim.

The police are entitled to use “reasonable force” in very specific circumstances. For instance, it can be used to make a lawful arrest, prevent a crime, or defend themselves or someone else. The force used must be lawful, proportionate, and necessary – and the officer who uses it must be able to show this was the case.

Unfortunately, however, these limitations are not always adhered to.

A high-profile recent case involved the use of a Taser – a conducted energy device (CED) that can temporarily incapacitate a person – by the Metropolitan Police. In June 2020, a Territorial Support Group (TSG) member shot Jordan Walker-Brown in the back with a Taser as he leapt over a wall to avoid being searched. Walker Brown, who was 24 years old at the time of the incident, was left paralysed from the waist down.

The use of devices such as the Taser is in principle reserved for situations where there is an immediate threat of violence. In this case, however, Walker Brown was running away from the officer.

Walker Brown’s incident was referred to the Independent Office for Police Complaints (IOPC) for investigation. In March, The Guardian reported that the case had subsequently been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after the IOPC concluded the officer may have committed grievous bodily harm.

As this example shows, the consequences of police officers misusing their powers of reasonable force can be severe, and even life-changing. Victims of excessive force must take the necessary steps to seek redress for the impact it can have, both physically and psychologically.

A persons hands resting on a table while in handcuffs.

Wrongful arrest

As with the use of force, the police’s powers of detention and arrest have strict limits. When an arrest is made without a warrant, for instance, the police must be able to demonstrate that:

  • They have reasonable suspicion the person being arrested has committed an offence or intends to do so
  • They have grounds to believe the arrest is necessary

Both conditions must be met in order for the arrest to be lawful. You can read more about the necessity to arrest on our blog.

Being detained or arrested by the police can be an upsetting experience, and it is vital that the rules are followed to avoid unnecessary distress. When these expectations are not met, the emotional impact on the victim can be substantial.

Data breaches

The police retain large amounts of sensitive data about a wide range of individuals, and for good reason. Given this, it is vital that they safeguard this information carefully.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 are very clear about the stringent measures any organisation holding personal data must take to protect it from unauthorised access or misuse. This is particularly important for organisations holding “special category” data, such as biometric data – fingerprints or DNA, for instance – and data concerning a person’s health.

In May 2020, HNK helped a client to pursue civil action against Essex Police after they failed to properly safeguard his personal information. In this case, the police force had failed to keep up-to-date details of our client’s address. As a result, a letter containing information about an allegation for which he had been interviewed was sent to an incorrect address. It was subsequently opened and read by the occupant. This led to significant distress and humiliation for our client.

As a result of the civil action pursued by HNK, Essex Police ultimately agreed to pay our client £11,500 in damages and legal costs in acknowledgement of its failure to meet its data protection obligations. You can read more details on this case here.

False imprisonment and assault and battery

In some cases, multiple different forms of police misconduct occur within a single incident. Such police misconduct cases inevitably cause significant distress to the victim.

In a recent example, also involving Essex Police, an individual was subjected to both false imprisonment and assault and battery. After voluntarily attending an interview at Southend Police Station in September 2018, the individual in question was pushed with force by one of the officers as he left the room. As he passed through the doorway, his shoulder brushed against the officers. He was subsequently taken to the ground with force and arrested on suspicion of assault. He was charged with assaulting an officer and held for 7 hours. The CPS later dismissed the matter.

Thanks to our expertise in police misconduct claims, HNK were able to take up this case on behalf of the victim as part of a civil action against the police. The defendant ultimately offered to pay £14,000 in damages and legal costs. You can read the full details of the case here.

A person writing in a notebook resting on a wooden table.

HNK can help you seek compensation for cases of police misconduct

As you can see, there are a variety of ways in which the police can fail to live up to their ethical and legal obligations. Police misconduct cases can be deeply traumatic for those involved, but there are ways to seek redress. As you can see from the above, this includes claiming compensation.

Compensation can help you to recover physically and emotionally from the impact of police misconduct. It can also offset any loss of earnings you may have suffered, as well as the possible impact on your reputation and your personal relationships.

In pursuing an action against the police, it’s important that you have knowledgeable and experienced legal representation. Here at HNK, our team of expert solicitors have helped many claimants seek compensation as a result of police misconduct. As you can see from the police misconduct cases discussed above, we have succeeded in obtaining substantial damages for those who have been affected by police misconduct.

If any of the above cases resonate with your own experience, or if you have otherwise been a victim of police misconduct, we can provide a free consultation to discuss your case. If we do think you may be entitled to compensation, we can offer to take up your case on a no-win, no-fee basis. Simply fill out the form on our website to request a callback. Alternatively, call us on 0151 203 1104 or email us at enquiries@hnksolicitors.com.

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