A Bedfordshire man has been awarded £5,900 damages after being wrongfully arrested, held in a police cell overnight and taken to court in a case of mistaken identity,
The man, of Dunstable, was arrested at home in February and told by officers that it related to his failure to attend a court appearance relating to an offence under the Environmental Health Act.
However, officers had wrongly been issued with the warrant by Luton Magistrates’ Court due to an IT error which had wrongfully seen the offence listed against him. It should have been listed against a man with the same name, who lived in a different town.
Despite pleading his innocence and stating he’d not received a summons at any stage to appear in court, the innocent man was taken to a police station, where he was told the case related to a fly-tipping charge in Hertfordshire.
He was locked in a cell overnight and taken to Luton Magistrates Court in handcuffs the following morning, where he faced magistrates to answer to the allegations, without having had the opportunity to speak to the duty solicitor.
Having told the court he had no idea why he had been arrested, the hearing was adjourned, and it was only when the man made his own enquiries that afternoon that the mistake was found, and the Courts and Tribunals Service admitted its error.
Legal case led by civil liberties specialists
The man sought legal advice through specialist civil liberties lawyers at Hudgell Solicitors, who launched a case for damages from His Majesty’s Courts And Tribunals Service, leading to the out of court damages settlement being agreed.
Civil Liberties specialist Alexandra Eldon represented the man in his case, claiming his overnight detainment had been a breach of his right to liberty and security, and that the court had breached data protection laws by failing to maintain accurate records, which led to his wrongful arrest.
She said: “This was a very traumatic experience for our client, who is a man of good character.
“To be arrested at home and taken to the police car in view of his neighbours was obviously damaging, and then he had the stress and anxiety of being held in a cell overnight, not knowing why he had been arrested, worrying how it would all end. He was struggling to get anyone to listen.
“His period of detention resulted in him missing a day of work, so he had to explain to his to employer that he had been arrested and that it was a case of mistaken identity.
“He was also told he would have an opportunity to discuss matters with a duty solicitor before appearing before the magistrates, but that didn’t happen and so he was extremely worried when he was taken into court. He simply told them he had no idea why we was there.”
Court admitted IT error led to warrant and arrest
When granted bail, the man immediately contacted both the police and Luton Magistrates Court when returning home, neither of whom had any record of his detention. He then called Central Bedfordshire Council, as they were the organisation that put the case in motion, and they confirmed the case had been against another individual, of the same name, who lived in a different town.
Miss Eldon added: “Had it not been for my client’s own efforts to get to the bottom of this the prosecution against him may have continued.
“It transpired the council had provided the Court with all of the correct information, but due to an IT error the initial warrant was recorded against his name in November of last year.
“Even then an opportunity was missed to prevent his arrest, as the error was spotted by the court service and the warrant was withdrawn. However, a notification was not then sent to the police, meaning the warrant remained live and he was arrested.
“There were two system failures here which led to a very traumatic and upsetting experience for an innocent man. We were pleased to secure damages for him, and we hope the case has led to lessons being learned within the court service to prevent such an avoidable incident happening again.”
Specialists in Wrongful Arrest
Our team at Hudgell Solicitors are highly experienced in supporting people who have been wrongfully arrested. Whilst we all understand, and to a degree accept, that unlawful arrests will happen as part of the police trying to get to the bottom of cases, there still has to be a genuine reason for each and every arrest carried out.