HNK Solicitors successfully obtained over £60,000 in damages and legal costs for a client in a case against the Metropolitan Police for false imprisonment and trespass to person.
Our client had been unlawfully stopped and searched on the street as one officer claimed they suspected him of dealing drugs. However, there was no evidence to suggest our client could have been dealing drugs, and he felt it was a clear case of profiling where officers stopped him without basis.
The police must follow strict guidelines outlined in The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1971. If these procedures are not followed, their actions can be classed as police misconduct. You do not have to accept police misconduct or mistreatment from the police. If the police have ever acted unlawfully against you, you could be eligible to claim compensation which could help you move on from the incident and cover any losses you may have suffered as a result.
Read on to find out more details about this case and how we obtained such a large sum in compensation for our client.
Background of the case
Our client was walking along a public road in Brixton on his way to get some items for his child. As he walked into the shop, he noticed a police van but didn’t think anything of it and continued on his journey.
The shop he had intended on going to did not have the items he needed, so he walked back to his property. On his way back, he was stopped by PC Nicotra and two other officers of the Metropolitan Police. Our client was grabbed by his arms and detained.
PC Nicotra said that our client was dealing drugs, and because it was a drug hot spot, he would be conducting a search. A search was conducted, and no drugs or any other illicit items were found. After around 30 minutes, the Claimant was free to leave.
The law around stop and searches
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (“PACE”) governs the correct procedures police officers have to follow to ensure their conduct is lawful and ensure to carefully balance the rights of the individual against the powers of the police.
Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 provides officers the power to stop and search an individual whom they honestly and reasonably suspect is in possession of controlled drugs.
Section 2 of the PACE sets out the information to be given to an individual who has been stopped for the purpose of a search. The officer must inform the person detained of their name, the police station to which they are attached, the purpose of the search, the power used to conduct the search and the reasoning for the search.
In December 2016, our client approached Higgs Newton Kenyon Solicitors (“HNK”) to act on his behalf for this matter. HNK accepted instructions on a no-win-no-fee basis, and the claim was handled by Demi Drury, Senior Associate.
HNK claimed damages for our client for false imprisonment for the detention whilst being searched and trespass to person for the search of our client.
A letter of claim was served on the Metropolitan Police Force Solicitors, which set out our client’s claim and requested documentation which was required to assess our client’s claim. The police force Solicitors responded by denying liability on the basis that PC Nicotra had reasonable grounds to suspect that our client was in possession of controlled drugs for the following reasons:
- a) He noticed our client walking up and down the public road close to a nearby school
- b) When our client saw PC Nicotra, he displayed evasive behaviour and attempted to walk away from officers
- c) On the above, PC Nicotra suspected our client could have been dealing drugs in the vicinity of a nearby school.
On the instructions of our client, HNK made an offer to settle with the Defendant and pointed out that a member of the public merely walking up and down a street is normal behaviour and not something that would lead a person to honestly or reasonably suspect that he was in possession of drugs despite the same being a “drug hot spot”. There were also issues regarding whether PC Nicotra could have actually seen our client, given he was in a police transit van with an obscured view.
The Defendant rejected our client’s offer for settlement. As the Defendant was unwilling to settle our client’s claim, Court proceedings were issued in February 2019.
The Defendant continued to deny our client’s claim and reject our client’s offers for settlement. It was a case which ran for almost 6 years and finally went before the Judge and Jury in June 2022. The case took a total of 5 days in the Royal Courts of Justice.
Our client said that this was a clear case of profiling, and the officer simply stopped him without basis. It was put to PC Nicotra that he had done so, which he denied.
Questions were asked to the Jury as to whether PC Nicotra honestly suspected that our client was in possession of controlled drugs. It was also asked whether PC Nicotra had complied with the provisions of Section 2 of PACE.
The Jury unanimously gave the verdict that the Defendant did not satisfy the Jury that it was more likely than not that PC Nicotra honestly suspected that our client was in possession of controlled drugs.
The Jury also unanimously decided that PC Nicotra failed to confirm his name and the police station to which he was attached, failed to inform our client that he was being searched for drugs and failed to give our client the grounds for the search. PC Nicotra had, therefore, not complied with Section 2 of PACE.
Our client was awarded damages and legal costs of £60,091.77.
HNK Solicitors can help you with your police claim
When police act unlawfully, it can have a huge effect on a person and can cause physical injuries, mental distress, loss of earnings and reputational damage. Therefore, those who have been mistreated by the police or suffered police misconduct could be entitled to claim compensation for the ordeal.
While no amount of money can erase what happened to you, obtaining compensation can go some way in helping you move on from the incident and cover any financial losses that may have occurred as a result.
As you can see from this case, police claims are highly contested, and oftentimes, police do not want to accept fault. That’s why it’s beneficial to instruct a specialist civil claims against the police solicitor who can handle the case for you, as they have a deep understanding of the law and regulations around policing and can help you obtain the highest amount of compensation possible for your case. They can even support you in court proceedings, if needed, like with this case.
HNK Solicitors have a team of dedicated action against the police solicitors who can help you get the compensation you deserve. We offer free consultations for our clients and can accept instruction on a no-win, no-fee basis, which means you don’t have to pay a penny upfront to start your claim.
If you’d like to start your police claim today, simply fill out our online claim form. Alternatively, you can get in touch with the team on 0151 668 0810 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.