Hudgell Solicitors’ specialist police claims team have secured damages of £3,750 for a man who was unlawfully arrested and held in custody for 21 hours by the Metropolitan Police after voluntarily attending at a police station.
The man had received a phone call from his daughter that day informing him that police officers had called at his home asking to speak to him about allegations of criminal damage made against him.
As a result, he telephoned the police to inform them he was leaving for Scotland that evening to attend a college course, but agreed to voluntarily attend at the nearest police station before doing so.
However, when he arrived at Barnet Police Station at around 5.30pm, rather than sitting him down for questioning under caution, he was arrested on the spot on suspicion of causing criminal damage.
He then spent 21 hours in custody, without being charged, and never subsequently facing any charges at all.
Victim tells of ‘hell’ of being unlawfully arrested and held in a police cell
“It was ridiculous and I was in complete shock. I would have never have believed that the police could act as they did had it not happened to me,” said the man, who has asked for only his first name, Isaac, to be used.
“It was alleged that I’d damaged the lock on the door of the home I’d shared with my now ex-wife, when in fact I’d actually removed it in order to replace it to make sure all family members had a key and access in and out of the home, and this was within the tenancy agreement. Not everybody had a key for the old lock and that would have been dangerous in an emergency.
“I’ve never been in trouble with the police, but when I arrived at Barnet Police Station the officers said they needed to take me to Collingdale Police Station and they weren’t prepared to talk to me at all. They didn’t treat me with any dignity or respect. It was like I was simply a bit of cargo being delivered to the next station.”
On arrival at Collingdale, the man was locked in a cell and not interviewed until the late hours of the morning.
“It was a hell. I had nothing to eat, I was offered food and water but I had no appetite. I only had water. I couldn’t sleep and until when I was interviewed I kept asking why on earth someone would be locked up for changing a lock on a door of his home,” he said.
“The duty solicitor told me to answer ‘no comment’ to every question, which I did, and in total I spent 21 hours under arrest, despite doing exactly as asked to help them.”
Police denied wrongdoing but victim contacted IPCC and sought legal advice
Having eventually being released and told no further action would be taken, Isaac himself decided to take the matter further.
“I wasn’t happy and I wrote to the police force to complain about their treatment of me,” he said.
“I initially got a letter back from the force’s appeals officer saying that the officers had acted appropriately and had not done anything wrong, and that is why I went to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and took legal action.
“The powers of arrest given to the police are not for things like this. They can’t just lock people up on the most trivial of matters. I am glad I took legal advice and I am happy that they have now been held to account for their actions.”
Legal case resulted in offer of damages for unlawful arrest and detention from Met Police
The case was handled day to day by Jade Garner of the Hudgell Solicitors Civil Liberties department, and overseen by specialist Andrew Petherbridge, who said it was a familiar situation in cases handled by the firm, and one which is completely unacceptable.
“Unfortunately we see this quite often in our work handling claims against the police and it is completely unacceptable,” he said.
“When people who are willing to attend at police stations voluntarily they deserve the right to be treated responsibly and fairly. This is crucial if trust is to be maintained between police forces and the people they serve.
“In this case, there was no need to arrest at all before questioning. There was obviously no threat of him absconding, or of intimidating anyone else in the case as he was there at the station of his own accord and happy to take questions.
“Police forces need people to be willing to do as our client did in this case, but if they are to be treated in this manner, fewer people will be willing to attend of their own free will, putting a greater strain on resources and time.
“There has to be reasonable grounds and a genuine reason for arresting someone and detaining them in custody, and forces must follow set procedures to stay within the law themselves.
“Our client was right to make an official complaint, and take it further by seeking independent reviews of his arrest, and legal expertise.
“It is telling that, within a matter of weeks of us submitting legal papers to the Metropolitan Police in this case, we received an offer of damages. That offer was lower than we felt it should be and as a result we were able to secure a higher settlement for our client.
“This should not be happening though and needs to be challenged, as our client did.”