Claims Against Police Compensation Claims

If your civil liberties or human rights have been infringed because of some form of police misconduct, harassment, or abuse of power, then you may be entitled to compensation. It’s worth discussing your situation with a solicitor in confidence to find out whether you can make a claim.

The latest statistics from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) show that there are some 35,000 complaints each year about the police. Many of these complaints concern some form of police misconduct such as wrongful arrest, assault, or discrimination.

Get in touch with our expert police compensation solicitors to set up a free, no-obligation consultation and discuss your circumstances, to find out whether you could be entitled to claim compensation.


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Andrew Petherbridge

Lawyer and Head of Civil Liberties

Karl Griffin

Team Supervisor, Civil Liberties

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The Hudgell Promise

When we take on any case, we want you to feel reassured and confident in every aspect of your claim. That’s why we offer a service that puts your needs over and above anything else.
We promise to:

  1. Schedule our first meeting within 24 hours
  2. Return your phone call or email the very same day if received before 3pm
  3. Reply to any letter you send us within 2 days
  4. Write to you every 4 weeks with any updates or information on your case

*Our promise is different for criminal injury claims


What Is Police Misconduct?

The majority of legal actions against the police for misconduct involve wrongful arrest, unlawful imprisonment, and assault or injuries resulting from excessive force that has been used during restraint. However, there are many other types of misconduct, including:

  • Malicious prosecution – where a prosecution is conducted spitefully and without reasonable or probable cause
  • Misconduct in public office – where an officer acts unlawfully, knows that they are acting unlawfully and does so knowing that their actions are likely to cause loss or harm
  • Human Rights Act breaches (e.g. not protecting your data or conducting an unlawful strip search)
  • Trespass to property or goods (e.g. if police forcefully enter your home without a warrant or damage your property or possessions)
  • Discrimination (e.g. racial, sexual, religious etc)
  • Unlawful stop and search (often in conjunction with racial discrimination)
  • Breaches of the Bail Act 1976
  • Breaches of the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984

How To Make A Police Misconduct Claim: Formal Complaints Procedure

For us to properly assess your claim we recommend that you make a formal complaint to the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct). While many people are keen to start their claim immediately, making a complaint at an early stage can have many benefits, including shortening the length of the claim when it is started.

A complaint should be made as soon as possible and doing so poses no financial risk to you. The police may respond with an admission of fault or an appreciation that a situation could have been handled differently. The complaint response can provide valuable information which we can form the basis of your claim, allowing us to anticipate any key points of dispute that may arise at a later stage.

Who is the IOPC?

The IOPC is a public body independent of any individual police force that is responsible for governing and overseeing the system of complaints made against the Police Forces in England and Wales.

While the IOPC is responsible for overseeing the police complaints system, only certain complaints involving death, serious assault, or sexual offences will actually be investigated by them directly.

Everything else will be dealt with by the Professional Standards Department of the relevant police force, who will provide you with a formal written response detailing the outcome of their investigation.

What the IOPC cannot do is order that compensation be paid. If you ask them for this as a remedy, it’s likely they will refuse to investigate your complaint and instead suggest that you contact a lawyer.

What can I complain about?

Common examples of misconduct that you may have been subjected to include:

  • Being wrongfully arrested and detained in police custody.
  • The feeling that you may have been detained in custody longer than was necessary for the police or Crown Prosecution Service to charge, bail, or release you.
  • Being assaulted by a member of the police.
  • You were prosecuted but you either won the case or it was discontinued, and you now consider or did at the time of the initial charge, that the police never had any real reason to suspect you were guilty but attempted to build and bring a case against you anyway.
  • A failure by the police to properly investigate allegations against an individual leading to you or family members suffering harm at the hands of that individual later.

When should I make a complaint and what information should I include?

If possible, your complaint should be submitted in writing within 12 months of the alleged misconduct and contain all relevant information (see below) to enable your complaint to be fully investigated.

When you have finished your draft complaint, one of our police claims lawyers can consider the content and provide additional assistance prior to sending the final copy to the IOPC. Email a copy of your complaint to us at

You should include:

  • Your full name, contact information, and address
  • The name of the Police Force you wish to be subject to the investigation
  • Details of the allegations and complaints you are making together with the outcome you are seeking (For example, specific officers to be disciplined)
  • Details of why you feel the Police have acted inappropriately or outside their powers and what you would have expected them to have done differently
  • A list of any specific questions you would like them to answer.

We’ll review your complaint and advise you on any amends before you formally submit it to the IOPC.

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When will I receive a response from the IOPC?

Once the complaint has been lodged, the IOPC will provide you with an initial acknowledgement. If the decision is made to refer it to the Professional Standards Department you can expect a response within 15 working days as to whether the complaint is to be investigated, together with the reasons for the decision and how it is to be investigated.

If the IOPC decide to refer your complaint to the Professional Standards Department, there is always the chance that once they have reviewed it further, it may become apparent that due to the serious nature of the allegations a referral back to the IOPC is required.

What should I do when I receive the response to my complaint?

When you are in receipt of a final written response, contact us with a copy for us to review so that we may assess the prospects of a successful civil claim and help you understand whether you’re entitled to compensation.

Should you have any queries in relation to making a complaint, please do not hesitate to contact us where will be more than happy to advise further.

What will be considered when investigating an officer?

An officer under investigation will be tested against the Standards of Professional Behaviour. These include:

  • Has the officer acted honestly and with integrity and not abused their position?
  • Has the officer acted with self-control and respect when dealing with the public? Has he or she acted with fairness and impartiality?
  • If force has been used, was it necessary, reasonable and proportionate, considering all the circumstances.
  • Police officers should be diligent in the exercise of their duties and should ensure they are fit to carry out their responsibilities.
  • An officer should treat information with respect and should only access or disclose it in the proper course of their duties.
  • Officers are to only give and carry out lawful orders and are to abide by those orders and other police regulations and policies.
  • Has any officer behaved in such a way as to discredit the police service or undermine public confidence either whilst on or off duty.

How will my complaint be dealt with?

Depending on the circumstances of your complaint and whether it’s handled by the IOPC or the Professional Standards Department, the procedure will vary.

 If the complaint is dealt with by the IOPC:

The investigation carried out will involve taking witness statements from police officers or members of police staff, analysing CCTV footage, and obtaining other documents and records. They may also wish to take a statement from you as well. If they do, we recommend you send the draft statement to us before signing it so we can consider the contents.

At the end of the investigation, you will be provided with a report that will set out the findings and conclusions. It will also include a clear indication as to whether there is a case to answer for misconduct or poor performance.

If there is a suggestion that a member of the police has committed a criminal offence, the report will also be forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service who are responsible for deciding if a person should be prosecuted.

If your complaint against the police was in relation to a death and an inquest is to be held, the IOPC will also provide their report and evidence to the Coroner to be considered at the inquest.

If the complaint is to be dealt with by the Professional Standards Department:

There are two levels of investigatory procedures that the police force subject to investigation may consider employing, depending on the nature of the allegations and, if proved, the element of redress available to them:

  • Local resolution

Some complaints do not require IOPC intervention but may, in fact, result in the police force explaining, apologising, or advising on additional training requirements. While this is the simplest way to resolve a complaint, it is not a reason to believe that the misconduct you are complaining about is any less serious.

You cannot appeal against the result of a Local Resolution. However, you must be asked whether you agree to local resolution before it can go ahead and can state whether you disagree with the result.

You cannot be compelled to use this procedure and should not feel under any obligation to do so. If you consider that you are being pressured into this method of redress, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be more than happy to advise further.

  • Local investigation

Should you refuse to have your complaint dealt with by way of local resolution, the Professional Standards Department will appoint an officer to investigate your complaint. You will be told how your complaint is to be investigated, what is required from you, how a decision is to be reached, and the eventual action to be taken.

The investigation may conclude that the officers subject to complaint should be dealt with by way of misconduct proceedings. You will be contacted with details of these proceedings and will be offered the chance to appear before a panel chaired by a legally-qualified professional together with the officer subject to the misconduct charge also being in attendance.

If there is a finding of gross misconduct the strictest penalty that may be levied against the officer (subject to complaint) is dismissal from the police force.

Can I appeal the Professional Standards Department’s findings?

You can appeal to the IOPC in the following circumstances:

  • You have a grievance with the outcome of the investigation
  • You have not received enough information about the findings of the investigation and the action the police plan to take or;
  • If the police have not followed the process you agreed to.

The letter telling you the outcome of your complaint should include information about how to appeal and the time limits involved. It is important that you lodge any appeal within the time limit provided otherwise your appeal may not be considered.

Before you do so we strongly recommend that you contact us so that we can review the letter and advise as to points that could or should be appealed.

How often will I be updated and when am I likely to receive a response?

You will be contacted at an early stage of your complaint by the nominated investigating officer. After this you will be updated at least every 28 days via letter or email.

There is currently no limit on the length of time for any investigation regardless of who is nominated to deal with your complaint and how. However, we do expect that once your complaint has been acknowledged and assigned to someone an indication should be given to you as to how long the investigation is likely to take.

If for whatever reason you are dissatisfied during the investigation, please feel free to contact one of our specialist lawyers who may be able to advise further.

Claims Against The Police For Assault And Battery

Any physical force which has been used during making an arrest must be reasonable and proportionate. The arrest itself must also have been lawful, otherwise it may be considered assault. Any weapons used by the police, such as batons, tear gas, Taser guns, or firearms will be considered when a decision is being made as to whether the force used was reasonable.

If you have not committed an offence and an action is used which causes you to fear for your physical safety (e.g. a police officer raises their truncheon) this action may, without any actual physical contact, constitute assault. If physical contact is also made this may be considered battery.

Claims Against The Police For Wrongful Arrest And Unlawful Imprisonment

The power to arrest a citizen should only be used by the police as a last resort. There must be a lawful reason to make an arrest in the first place, otherwise this can be a wrongful arrest.

In making an arrest, a certain procedure must be followed. Amongst other things, the arresting officer must identify themselves, tell you what crime you are suspected of having committed, and explain why an arrest is necessary.

Once you have been arrested, you can only be held in police custody for up to 24 hours – after that, the police must either charge you with a crime or release you. Extensions can be applied for – up to 36 or 96 hours if you’re suspected of a serious crime and 14 days if you’re arrested under the Terrorism Act. If you are held for longer than appropriate, this can constitute unlawful imprisonment.

There are some circumstances under which you may have a claim for false imprisonment by the police even if you were not actually taken into custody. Misuse of stop and search powers and containing crowds without letting individuals leave an area (known as “kettling”) can potentially lead to compensation claims of unlawful imprisonment.

There are also procedures which the police must follow while you are in custody. If these are not followed, then any ongoing detention could be unlawful.


Shocking levels of sexual exploitation carried out by police officers in England and Wales were exposed in a report which described the problem as a “disease” and labelled it the ‘most serious form’ of corruption facing forces across the UK.

The main findings outlined in the report were:

  • More than 300 officers, 20 PCSOs, and 8 other members of staff were involved in 436 reported allegations over a two-year period to March 2016 – the equivalent of 18 allegations a month.
  • All but one constabulary in the UK had a complaint against them.
  • Many of the victims of exploitation were already classed as being ‘vulnerable’.
  • Less than half of the complaints (48%) were referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IOPC), and there was a disproportionally low number of dismissals compared to the number of complaints made.
  • Concerns were also raised that officers did not seem to have an understanding about the boundaries which should exist when dealing with “vulnerable” people and victims of crime.

If you have been a victim of any form of exploitation at the hands of a police employee, you can call us in confidence for sympathetic, impartial and free legal advice.

For more information, please watch our police misconduct video:


Funding Options: Police Misconduct Claims

Bringing a no win no fee legal action against the police will not cost you a penny up front, and if successful, you will only be expected to pay a contribution to your solicitor’s fees and any insurance (if required) at the conclusion. These costs are usually a percentage of the compensation you are awarded.

Depending on your circumstances, we may also be able to provide legal aid cover. Contact our experienced civil liberties solicitors to find out if you’re eligible.

With our ‘no win no fee’ police claims service, it won’t cost you anything to begin the process of getting the justice you deserve:

  • Personal insurance cover so there’s no financial risk to you in pursuing a claim.
  • Whatever the outcome of your case, you won’t have to pay (if you fully assist us with your claim) other than an agreed percentage of your damages.
  • Legal aid assistance is available in some circumstances.

Our Other Services

Not found what you’re looking for? Look at our range of other services for more information on how else we can help you.