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Suing the police: everything you need to know

The police are supposed to help uphold the law and keep us safe – and usually, this is what we can expect. However, in some cases, the police can fall short of our expectations. This is often referred to as police misconduct, and it can take many forms, from wrongful arrest and false imprisonment to racial discrimination.

For victims of police misconduct, this can be a deeply traumatising experience. On the one hand, it is distressing to encounter this kind of mistreatment from those supposed to protect us. On the other hand, there can be a number of direct impacts, from physical injury to reputational damage and emotional distress.

Thankfully, there are steps that victims of police misconduct can take to seek redress. This includes suing the police in order to seek compensation. In this post, we’ll talk you through everything you need to know about suing the police, and what you can expect if you decide to take this route.

A photograph of a police officer wearing a high-visibility jacket and white helmet riding a police motorbike down a road.

Who is eligible to sue the police?

Suing the police – often referred to as a civil action against the policeunlike a standard police complaint, is a way for victims of police misconduct to seek compensation. As such, anyone who has experienced police misconduct could be eligible.

Police misconduct is a term used to describe the various ways in which police officers can fail to meet the standards expected of them. This can include:

  • Assault and battery
  • Trespass to the person
  • Discrimination under the Equality Act
  • Negligence
  • Unlawful stop and search
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Breach of data protection

As you can see, there are a wide range of ways in which, unfortunately, the behaviour of the police can fall short of what we’d expect – with damaging consequences. For more information, look at our blog post on examples of police misconduct cases.

If you’ve experienced any of the above issues, you may be entitled to pursue compensation by suing the police. However, you will also need to take into account when the incident took place.

Are there time limits for suing the police?

In most cases, there are time limits for pursuing a civil action against the police. However, the specific time limit will depend on the nature of the incident. For example, you will usually have:

  • Three years from the date of the incident to make a claim for personal injury
  • Six years from the date of the incident to make a claim for false imprisonment.
  • Six years from the date of the incident to make a claim for a data protection breach.

There are some factors that may enable you to claim after this time has elapsed, including if you were under the age of 18 at the time of the incident.

Nevertheless, it’s important to consult a solicitor as soon as possible if you are considering suing the police, as they will be able to advise you on any time limits as well as ensuring your claim gets underway in a timely fashion.

A photograph of a group of 4 police officers wearing high visibility jackets with 'police' on the back riding horses down a street in London.

Why should I consider suing the police?

If you have been a victim of police misconduct, the prospect of suing the police may seem like a big step. Particularly if you’ve suffered physical injuries or reputational damage, you may want to forget the incident and move on with your life.

However, there are a number of significant reasons why taking a civil action against the police could be a hugely positive step, helping you to recover from the incident. Some reasons to consider taking this step include:

  • Compensation for any damages. First and foremost, suing the police is the only way to secure compensation for any damages you have suffered as a result of police misconduct. This compensation can help to cover medical costs, replace any lost income, and help to support your ongoing recovery.
  • Acknowledgment of mistakes. Compensation isn’t just a financial matter – it also serves to acknowledge that something went wrong, that the standards of police behaviour were not upheld, and that this had a significant impact on your life. This kind of acknowledgement can be extremely helpful as you look to move on from the incident.
  • Preventing future incidents. By drawing further attention to the police misconduct you have suffered, you can also contribute to preventing this from happening again by ensuring that there is appropriate recognition of the severity and significance of what took place.

As you can see, taking the significant step of suing the police can have a range of benefits. Taken all together, these make for a compelling reason to consider this option. But let’s look more closely at the amount of compensation you could be entitled to.

How much compensation could I get by suing the police?

The amount of compensation you could receive for a civil action against the police is an important consideration – after all, this is one of the major reasons for contemplating pursuing such an action.

However, it can be difficult to say definitively how much compensation you could receive. It will depend on various factors, including the severity of the incident and the impact it has had on your life. As we explain in our blog on police compensation payouts, there are three levels of damages you could be awarded – basic, aggravated and exemplary. Which one you receive will depend on the nature of the police misconduct you experienced.

Nevertheless, you may be able to get a rough sense of what you could be entitled to by looking at similar cases. For instance, we were able to obtain more than £22,000 for one of our clients who was unlawfully arrested. More recently, we were able to secure upwards of £60,000 for a client who experienced false imprisonment and trespass to the person.

Needless to say, these were very serious cases and so the compensation award reflected this. To explore other examples and get a clearer sense of the level of compensation an action against the police could secure, visit our case studies page.

A photograph of a Metropolitan Police car driving down a road with a lot of road works on.

HNK can support your civil action against the police claim

Suing the police may seem like a big step. But it can be an important way to seek redress for police misconduct. You may be able to secure compensation to help offset the damages you’ve suffered, and it also constitutes an acknowledgement of the harm done, as well as a way to help prevent it happening again.

If you are considering pursuing a civil action against the police, it’s vital that you consult an expert solicitor who has specialist knowledge of this area. They will be able to support your claim in the most effective way, based on a detailed understanding of the relevant legal statutes and regulations, as well as providing tailored support that recognises the difficulty of your situation.

Here at HNK Solicitors, we’ve helped many of our clients get the compensation they deserve following an incident of police misconduct. Our highly experienced team offer free consultations, with no obligation to pursue a claim. So, if you’ve been a victim of police misconduct and think suing the police could be the right choice for you, get in touch today. Call us on 0151 668 0809, or email us at enquiries@hnksolicitors.com.

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