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Unlawful Detention

Unlawful Detention Compensation Claims

Police forces must have a genuine reason for arresting an individual and detaining them in custody and must follow set procedures to stay within the law themselves.

Should an arrest be deemed unlawful (whereby there is no genuine reason or need for making the arrest), then any related period in detention would also be classed as unlawful.

Police officers should always fully consider whether there is a need to arrest, and it cannot be done simply for their own convenience or to make their investigations easier. If they do not have a lawful reason for arresting and detaining an individual, then this could amount to false imprisonment.

Alternatively, if it could be shown that somebody was held for longer than required, or that other realistic alternatives had not been considered, it could be classed as unlawful police detention.

Specialists in Unlawful Detention Claims

Challenging the state in cases of public law can be daunting. Our solicitors are here to act on your behalf, bringing robust action against the government and public bodies when they have acted unlawfully. We challenge the law seeking to secure compensation and justice for human rights breaches that have had a detrimental impact on your freedom and civil liberty.

  • With an expert legal team experienced in holding public authorities to account, we will be a strong and reliable partner in your challenge against the state.
  • We offer competitive private funding rates and routinely act for clients who pay privately. We are proud of the service we offer to our clients.
  • We are also a practice that has the benefit of a legal aid franchise and as such, are able to act for the most vulnerable clients, at no cost to you.
  • An award-winning team that has been nationally recognised and widely accredited for delivering civil liberties legal services to our clients.




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Making an Unlawful Detention Claim

We support our clients in taking a civil action against the police, holding the force to account for unfair and unlawful treatment. Our experienced solicitors handle many police complaints, including failures individual officers have made in the line of duty and false imprisonment accusations.

Whether you’ve been wrongfully arrested and unlawfully detained or have been a victim of battery and police assault, we’ll challenge those responsible and seek a favourable settlement for the physical injuries and psychological trauma you’ve suffered.

If your civil liberties or human rights have been infringed as a result of police misconduct, then you may be entitled to wrongful imprisonment compensation. It’s worth getting in touch and discussing your situation with a solicitor in confidence to find out whether you are able to make a claim.

Our Unlawful Detention Experts

Dr Neil Hudgell Executive Chairman Read more
Terry Wilcox Associate, Civil Liberties Read more
Vicky Richardson Head of Civil Liberties Read more
Alexandra Eldon Trainee Solicitor, Civil Liberties Read more
Eliza Hudgell Solicitor, Civil Liberties Read more

How much will my claim cost?

All claims for unlawful detention by the police taken on by Hudgell Solicitors are handled on a “no win, no fee” basis. This means that you will not have to pay any money upfront and there will be no financial risk if your case is unsuccessful.

If your unlawful detention claim is successful, you will only be expected to pay a contribution to your solicitor’s fees once the case has been resolved. The costs paid are usually a percentage of the compensation awarded and will be agreed upon before your case is carried out.

Find out more


How long can the police detain you?
    Once arrested, an individual can only be held in police custody for up to 24 hours. After that, the police must either charge them with a crime or release them.
    Extensions can be applied for – up to 36 or 96 hours if somebody is suspected of a serious crime – and 14 days if they have been arrested under the Terrorism Act.
    If people are held for longer than appropriate, this can constitute unlawful imprisonment.
What is the law around arrest and detention for people under 18?
    Police forces may be breaking the law if they detain under-18s in adult cells after charging them with an offence.
    Once charged with an offence, anyone under 18 should be bailed to their home or transferred to local authority accommodation unless it is impracticable or if the child needs secure accommodation and it is not available.
    It is the duty of the arresting police force and the local authority to ensure under-18s are handled appropriately, but many children whose bail is refused are wrongly detained in police cells as custody staff fail to transfer them to local authority accommodation when required.
    Police custody is brought to an end by the CPS and custody sergeants’ decisions about whether to charge the child. If there is insufficient evidence to charge at that time, a child can be bailed to return to the police station at a specified future date. Even if there is sufficient evidence to charge, a child can be released on police bail.
    Generally, there is a presumption that a child will be bailed without conditions, however, the police may set conditions, such as to reside in a certain place or avoid certain places or people.
    If a child is released on police bail, an appropriate adult must be available to look after them, as the police’s duty of care extends to the period after release from custody.
    Once a decision has been taken to release a child the police have no power to detain them and must release them when an appropriate adult comes to collect them. Being held in adult cells is not appropriate, or legal.
How will Hudgell Solicitors support me through my unlawful imprisonment claim?
    In the cases we handle at Hudgell Solicitors, we often see police officers fail to follow procedures in their haste to investigate and secure a result, unfairly detaining a suspect later found to have committed no crime at all. In many cases, there has been no need to arrest or hold them for any period of time.
    If you have been unlawfully detained by the police, our expert civil liberties team will be there for you every step of the way. They will begin by offering you a free, confidential, no-obligation chat to discuss your circumstances and what happened. From here, they will provide some initial advice and determine whether or not you have a potential claim for false imprisonment.
    When you decide to proceed, a specialist solicitor will be assigned and dedicated to your case. Using clear, non-legal language, they will explain each step and describe what is needed from you through each stage of the claim.
    Our representation will see us:
  • Carrying out initial fact-finding by discussing with you what happened
  • Make a formal complaint to the police force or Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC)
  • Request evidence including CCTV footage, police station logs, witness statements, and more
  • Communicate with all parties
  • Discuss settlement agreements and possible outcomes of your case
    From here, we will help file your case and we will hold your hand throughout any court proceedings, if necessary.
What is the average unlawful detention compensation rate in the UK?
    The average compensation for false imprisonment will vary depending on the individual details of your case. There are many factors that can affect the damages awarded in a successful case, however, a key element is how long you were wrongfully detained for.
    The longer you were unlawfully detained, the more compensation you can expect to receive. For shorter periods, you can still receive hundreds of pounds, In fact, even unlawful detention periods for as little as five minutes can lead to compensation payouts of over £200.
    If you were falsely imprisoned for hours or even days, damages awarded are typically significantly higher – with payments amounting to thousands of pounds.
    Further, if you have experienced police assault or neglect during your detention, the compensation rate can be pushed even higher.

"We have secured damages for a man after officers arrested him at home having turned up at the wrong address."

Leanne Stephenson, Associate, Civil Liberties

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