By Andrew Petherbridge, Associate of Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, Neil Hudgell Solicitors – an expert in handling claims against the police for unlawful arrest, unlawful detention, assault and human rights breaches.
IMAGINE the situation. Despite being completely innocent, you are suddenly arrested by police, told anything you say could be used against you in evidence, and you are locked in a cell.
All of a sudden you have gone from being an upstanding, law-abiding member of society to a suspect – perhaps of a serious crime.
It’s a situation you probably think is highly unlikely – and because it is a rarity – that would be true. However, it is not an impossibility, as it is something which still often happens to many innocent people across the UK.
The consequences are extremely damaging, not only for the reputation of the police force involved, but more importantly for those who find the finger of suspicion and blame wrongly pointing in their direction.
Scan through your local newspapers – and the nationals in particular – and you’ll no doubt soon see examples of innocent members of the public being wrongly accused of committing an offence.
Only recently it was reported that police officers in Cambridgeshire have cost the force almost £90,000 in damages for wrongful arrest, with the highest pay-out at £18,500 – almost a year’s salary for a PCSO.
Given my role as an Associate of Chartered Institute of Legal Executives at Neil Hudgell Solicitors, in which I handle a variety of claims against the police, I am always particularly interested in the finer details of all such cases, from how the police have come to make the wrong arrest, to how the matters are eventually resolved and how lessons could be learned.
I often act for clients who have been wrongfully arrested and accused of serious offences, such as murder, and in some cases they have even been subjected to assaults by the police. I am also experienced in dealing with cases against the police which include human rights breaches.
All cases I handle are different, but what connects each and every one is the huge emotional and psychological impact it has on them and their families. That usually stays with me long after a case has closed.
It is for that reason that the proudest moment of my career came when I was successful with a claim for a client who was unlawfully arrested and accused of sexual offences. They were totally innocent and police had arrested the wrong person.
The actions of the police had a massive effect both on the client and his family, but thankfully, they found people who would listen and stand in their corner when they were needed most.
When people have been through such an emotionally draining ordeal such as this, I find it is never about seeking financial compensation when victims seek legal advice and sue the force responsible. If it was, they wouldn’t have the drive or determination to go through another legal battle.
It is always, without fail, motivated a desire to clear their name and reputation of good character, and restore their position of good standing within their communities.
That is the most satisfying outcome there can be for me, for every client unfortunate enough to need to call upon my expertise.