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Tag Archive: Civil Liberties

Authorities must investigate suspected cases of female genital mutilation quicker and prevent children being wrongly taken from parents



It is shocking that some children in the UK are being taken from their parents on child protection plans or placed in foster care on the false suspicion they have been the victims of female genital mutilation (FGM).

A new report from the BBC in the past week week said some children are being separated from their parents for months whilst investigations and examinations take place, despite experts claiming the majority of concerns turn out to be unfounded.

FGM is a term given to all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitals, or other injury to female genital organs where there is no medical reason.

It has been illegal in the UK since 1985, and is an offence to arrange outside the country for British citizens or permanent residents.

FGM can be carried out for various cultural, religious and social reasons within families and communities, in the mistaken belief that it will benefit the girl in some way. It can however seriously harm the health of women and girls and cause long-term problems with sex, childbirth and mental health.

Most commonly carried out on girls under the age of 15, the majority under the age of five (according to Unicef), there are no definitive figures on the number of cases, but the British government has warned thousands of women and children are at risk, describing it as a ‘hidden crime’.

Quite rightly, it is therefore a legal requirement for all health professionals, social workers and teachers to report cases of suspected FGM in under-18s to the police, and to refer suspected cases to local safeguarding teams.

Certainly, all professionals should not hesitate should they have any suspicion at all, however, it is how cases are then handled from this point onwards which is a matter of growing concern.

Investigations must be quicker to children being wrongly taken from parents

As a specialist in handling cases of human rights breaches, I have many concerns as to how cases of suspected FGM are handled when reported to the relevant authorities – and how the rights of law-abiding parents and their children can be too easily overlooked.

Of course, any case of child protection comes with an extra sense of urgency, but still, police forces and other authorities have a duty not only to protect, but also to prevent injustice.

Toks Okeniyi, head of programmes and operations for Forward, a campaign and support organisation committed to gender equality and safeguarding the rights of African girls and women, says there is too often a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to suspected FGM cases.

This is something we have seen at Hudgell Solicitors in cases we have been involved in, as police forces have been too quick to assume there to have been FGM simply because of the ethnic origin of the child.

Such assumptions can result in children being wrongly taken from their parents while investigations take place, and this is where a second issue, over the speed of investigations and examinations being carried out, is a major concern

Studies by experts at University College London Hospital in 2016 showed it took nearly two months for children to be referred for an examination by local authorities – and that there have been waits of more than a year.

Ms Okeniyi has also revealed how her organisation supported a family where a child was placed in foster care for eight months before being examined, and was found not to have undergone FGM.

This is simply an unacceptable situation, and must be addressed as a matter of urgency as the Government continues to work to ending this offence against many young girls.

Whilst we fully understand the complexities of cases involving child protection, mistakes leading to the wrongful separation of children from parents – for any period of time – can leave innocent people traumatised long-term.

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12/09/2017 No Comments

Neil Hudgell celebrates 20 years in business and outlines future plans having established firm as one of UK’s top 150

Neil Hudgell MD | Hudgell Solicitors celebrates 20th anniversary


Hudgell Solicitors has marked its 20th year by outlining its intentions to cement its position as one of the UK’s leading law firms.

Neil Hudgell established his own law practice on September 1, 1997, having been offered the opportunity to take over three offices at the firm where he was employed, after it ran into difficult times.

It was an opportunity he took on instinct – an approach which has served him well over the past two decades – growing the business from a local company operating in all areas of law to establishing a reputation as leading personal injury and medical negligence specialists, representing thousands of clients across the UK.

In the past 18 months it has moved into three new freehold offices in Hull, Leeds and London, seen rapid growth in handling civil liberties and police misconduct cases, and forged its way to becoming one of the top 150 law firms in the UK with a turnover of more than £12m.

The recipe for success, according to Mr Hudgell, is never being afraid to take an opportunity, and never being afraid of change.

“You can never stand still in this line of business, you have to be flexible and able to adapt to changes in the industry and respond to new opportunities,” said Mr Hudgell, reflecting on the past two decades.

“It is why we took a step back this year as a business and looked at how we were working, where we needed to be heading, and devised a new strategy. We weren’t content to just keep going as we were, despite our success.”

Customer service remains priority after two decades in business

Mr Hudgell insists the main priority remains the same, no matter how the firm changes over the years.

“From day one I was of the mind-set that my firm was going to be client led,” he said.

“In my opinion, lawyers and solicitors all too often are not focussed on the customer service of their work and simply the legal side of things, but at the end of the day, that is what we provide.

“You have to ask, what extra you are giving to your clients? At the end of the day, clients can easily find someone else who knows the law. What they want is someone to care about their case and situation, care about looking after their needs and give them the best possible service.

“In that sense, nothing has changed about the firm. It was the priority at the start and remains so now. You always have to remember that is what you are there to do as a business grows and changes over the years.

“Equally, lawyers have a key role to play in the development of the business, forging the right relationships with outside organisations and promoting the work and expertise of the firm, they can’t just do the day job. Everybody has to add value in all areas.”

It is an approach which has brought continued industry recognition, with national awards for a number of the firm’s leading solicitors.

Most recently it secured a second successive shortlisting at the national Rehabilitation First Awards this month, recognising how Hudgell Solicitors puts the recovery of those seriously injured at the forefront of its work.

It follows a case in which a man has been supported through brain injury recovery following a road accident, with his progress so successful he is now studying at university.

The firm has also continually campaigned for improved standards of health care, particularly in care homes, where it has called for greater compassion and dignity for the elderly, whilst many medical negligence cases have resulted in hospital trusts amending policies and procedures to improve care and reduce risk, including a national review of use of hand gels in hospitals following the death of an elderly patient who drank a bottle.

Firm soon became established as specialists in personal injury claims

In the early days the firm offered all areas of law expertise, from conveyancing and probate to wills and company law. After just three years though, Mr Hudgell says he realised moving into the niche area of personal injury was the route to success.

“Personal injury was an area of work which fitted hand in glove with the aim of providing people with a personal service. People who have suffered an injury need that support and to feel that somebody is on their side,” he said.

“I know it’s an area which some are uncomfortable with, and some people will never be comfortable making a claim, but I firmly believe that if someone is injured through no fault of their own, impacting on their quality of life and ability to work and enjoy leisure time, they deserve to be compensated and supported.

“We see so many cases of lives forever changed by serious injury. Why should they be further punished by not being compensated? The damages we secure help people rebuild their lives and secure much-needed rehabilitation support. They haven’t won the jackpot, they’ve simply been given the chance to make the best of a difficult situation.

“We’ve had so many people thank us for turning their lives around, from feeling they had little to look forward to. That is so rewarding and these people are grateful to our lawyers for the rest of their lives.

“Of course, like any industry, there are some firms which give the work we do a bad name, but not us. We only support people with genuine injuries and helping them towards a better life is a rewarding line of work.”

Hudgell Solicitors continues to grow new areas of work as it enters third decade

Key to the continuing development of Hudgell Solicitors has been its track-record of acquiring caseloads from other firms exiting the market as squeezes on fees, increases in the small claims limit and restrictions on the entitlement to claim for certain injury types all impact on the industry.

The firm is now approaching its 50th completed deal since establishing its www.webuyanyfiles offer in 2011. Just last month it acquired of all cases from personal injury specialists Hinchliffes Solicitors, whilst it purchased London-based Josie Robinson Solicitors in June, which works in the area of sports injuries.

In another example of the firm never standing still, its growth in handling civil liberties, human rights and police misconduct work over the past 18 months sees it now handle a significant number of active cases at any one time.

This department continues to grow at pace, recruiting leading solicitors Andrew Arthur, who was a partner and the head of London-based Fisher Meredith’s Police Law and Civil Liberties department, and Cyrilia Davies Knight, who has experience of working on behalf of families who lost loved ones in the Hillsborough disaster.

“We’ve seen rapid growth in that area of work and we have secured a number of cases of national significance, so that has been a fine example of us not being prepared to standstill and spotting a business opportunity,” added Mr Hudgell.

“We have made it a priority to identify and recruit solicitors who are recognised as being amongst the leaders in their field, and with experience of handling cases of significance.

“The new additions we have made to our team this year has further enhanced our position as being a go-to firm for those who feel their civil liberties and human rights may have been breached.”

Mr Hudgell says he has always tried to look beyond the present and to the future in a bid to stay ahead of the game, something required now more than ever.

It is why a management restructure was announced earlier this year, appointing highly-experienced lawyer Amanda Stevens as chief executive, in a role which will see her shape the growth of the business alongside Mr Hudgell and the senior management team.

“I started the firm out working in all areas of law, but after three or four years I realised that the area of growth was personal injury. Medical Negligence developed about seven years ago and in recent times those areas have been split 50/50 in terms of workloads,” he said.

“There have been many challenges for us over the years, but I’d say the industry is more challenging now than in any of the 20 years previous with all the changes and restrictions coming in.

“The challenge now perhaps is to maintain our position and strength in the years to come. That is why it has been so important to look at new ways of working, introduce greater efficiencies into the legal process whilst improving customer service and developing new areas of work.

“Stand still and you’ll go backwards. That is my strongest message. We must keep moving forward.”

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30/08/2017 No Comments

Fisher Meredith Solicitors’ expertise acquired by Hudgell Solicitors

Andrew Arthur | Police Complaints Solicitor and Head of Civil Liberties Department London


Hudgell Solicitors is delighted to have further expanded its Human Rights Breaches department by appointing a leading civil liberties expert from Fisher Meredith Solicitors London.

Andrew Arthur, the Head of Fisher Meredith LLP’s Police Law and Civil Liberties department has joined Hudgell Solicitors to oversee its rapidly growing department in the capital.

Highly experienced in this specialised area of legal work, Mr Arthur’s current caseload covers all areas of police and prison law – including County Court and High Court trials, and Judicial Reviews.

He has extensive expertise in supporting victims of false imprisonment arising from wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution, miscarriages of justice, unlawful stop and searches or assault by police or prison officers. He has also led many cases involving Human Rights Act and Data Protection Act issues, discrimination on grounds of race, gender or other characteristics.

Fisher Meredith Solicitor has proven track record of winning cases leading to new legal guidelines

In his role at Fisher Meredith London, Mr Arthur regularly provided advice on a range of prison law matters – including assaults on inmates, lifer panels, parole hearings, visiting rights, home detention curfew, categorisation and adjudications.

Having developed into a specialist in claims against the Prison Service, brought under the Human Rights Act 1998, he has acted in a number of claims relating to disabled prisoners’ rights.

His notable police law cases include helping secure a client £25,200 damages in the High Court after a jury found that a police officer had fabricated his evidence leading to a wrongful conviction.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner appealed the decision, but ultimately lost the appeal, with the Court of Appeal finding in his client’s favour. The case established and confirmed important legal principles for all malicious prosecution claims.

He also won another case in the Court of Appeal which highlighted the duty of the Crown Prosecution Service to act quickly upon receipt of new evidence that might exonerate those held in custody on remand.

His notable prison law cases include a case in which he succeeded in the High Court on behalf of his client, where it was found that the decision to handcuff him during medical treatment amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.

More recently, he helped to secure £45,000 damages from the Metropolitan Police for an autistic man who was bitten by an out-of-control police dog which was not on lead and had been ‘trained to bite’. The victim had been talking to the dog handler when it suddenly attacked without warning.

Having qualified as a solicitor in May 1999 and joined Fisher Meredith in June 2001, Mr Arthur is a member of the Police Action Lawyers Group and the Association of Prison Lawyers and was shortlisted for “Human Rights Lawyer of the Year” award in the Law Society Excellence Awards 2016.

Whilst he is obviously excited at the prospect of joining the Hudgell team, Mr Arthur will still oversee all aspects of the strong civil liberties caseload he built up during his time at Fisher Meredith LLP.

He said: “Fisher Meredith London has been very successful in our work in recent years and recognised across the industry for our expertise. We are bringing a strong caseload and a proven track record to Hudgell Solicitors.

“I am sure this move will be very positive for both Hudgell Solicitors and for myself as we have very similar goals as to how we want to represent people and what we want to achieve.”

Neil Hudgell, managing director of Hudgell Solicitors, believes the deal indicates why his firm is becoming the first choice for those seeking advice relating to police misconduct and breaches of human rights.

Get free legal advice from our expert human rights solicitors

Do you think you’ve been wrongfully arrested or unjustly treated by those in authority?

Taking on a public body like the police or prison service can be complex when it comes to human rights cases. Enlisting the help of our former Fisher Meredith human rights solicitor, Andrew Arthur, will make the whole process easier, so why not get in touch?

 

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15/08/2017 No Comments

Hudgell Solicitors welcomes swift IPCC response in case of police search which ended with baby’s ashes spilled across floor

Memory teddy


Lawyers acting on behalf of a young mother who says police officers tore apart her ‘memory teddy bear’ containing the remains of her 10-month-old son have welcomed a swift investigation into the matter.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has today issued a statement in which it says officers in this incident, which happened in June, have already given their accounts of the events and that video footage from body cameras is also being studied.

The IPCC has said it is “looking at the actions of officers and whether there is any organisational learning arising.”

Ms Wright, 23, said she had been left “hysterical” on her hands and knees trying to recover the precious remains of her baby boy Nathan after officers from Staffordshire Police Force left her partner’s property.

She had been at his flat at the time, and despite officers having a warrant relating to a stolen laptop, Ms Wright says she and her partner were not suspected of committing any offence themselves, and that she informed officers before they carried out the search that the teddy contained her son’s ashes.

When officers left empty-handed, Ms Wright went into the bedroom and was “completely heartbroken” by what she found.

IPCC Operations Manager Steve Bimson said: “We have met with Ms Wright and her partner to explain our role and we will keep all parties regularly updated on our investigation.

“This is an emotive case and we are conscious of the distress and wider concern this has caused. We will be looking at the actions of officers and whether there is any organisational learning arising from this incident.”

Civil Liberties Lawyer Andrew Petherbridge is representing Ms Wright, and says the IPCC response has rightly been quick.

“Given the harrowing circumstances for our client, we welcome the swift IPCC response in this case,” he said.

“We feel there are many serious questions which need asking around the events of this search, and welcome the reviewing of video footage from body cameras worn at the time.

“Whatever happened during the search, there can be no doubt that finding her son’s ashes scattered on the bedroom floor afterwards must have been a horrifying experience for our client.  This should never have been the outcome given the search was in relation to a stolen laptop.”

Ms Wright and her boyfriend James have lived with the trauma of losing Nathan, aged 10 months, in April 2014. Despite being born prematurely at 34 weeks, he was a ‘happy and healthy’ boy until his sudden death.

Chelsea says she has carried the memory bear and Nathan’s ashes with her everywhere since, to feel close to him.

Of the police search, she said: “I’d been staying with James at his flat when the police arrived to search his property at about 7.45am. We had nothing to hide so of course, we let them in. James wasn’t even under any suspicion as it was all in relation to somebody else.

“I even mentioned the teddy bear to the police before they started searching, but the Velcro on the teddy bear’s back had been opened and the bag had been cut open. How on earth could they have expected to find a laptop inside a small plastic bag which was inside a teddy bear? It is absolutely disgusting.

“I can’t understand how the police can be so heartless and so inconsiderate. As soon as I went into the bedroom and saw the mess I knew it was Nathan’s ashes spread around the room.

“I was just in hysterics. I got onto my hands and knees and tried to salvage the ashes and brush them onto pieces of paper, but it was impossible. How on earth could they do this to a mum who has lost a baby boy?”

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08/08/2017 No Comments

Appeal for information as legal action considered against West Midlands Police relating to paedophile officer who abused boys

Allan Richards | Paedophile Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison


A solicitor representing a victim of a paedophile police officer who abused his position to sexually exploit young boys says the trials which saw Allan Richards jailed for 22 years may have only ‘scratched the surface’ in terms of identifying victims.

The former West Midlands Police Sergeant, who was also a Scout master, was jailed last year after being found to have committed 40 offences against boys and young men in crimes dating back to the 1970s.

Seventeen boys had been victims of abuse or exploitation, with his offences including rape and indecent assaults.

Over two trials, Birmingham Crown Court heard how he had sexually abused boys at police stations, at scout camps, in swimming pools, in a park, at his home, and other locations.

‘Highly likely victims have still not come forward’

Cyrilia Davies Knight, civil liberties specialist at Hudgell Solicitors, believes it is ‘highly likely’ there were more victims than those who formed part of the criminal cases against Richards.

It comes as she is currently supporting one of his victims and is preparing a civil legal case against West Midlands Police on his behalf.

“We have serious concerns that there may still be many people out there who were victims of Richards and have still not come forward. That means they are still to receive any form of relevant and probably much needed support, and are still coping alone,” said Ms Davies Knight.

“It was only last year that officers from West Midlands Police contacted our client and told him some other victims had come forward. He has, quite understandably, been badly affected by what happened to him and it has had a huge impact on his life to this date, and will do for the foreseeable future.

“He was contacted as the police had put Richards’ details through the database to see which cases he had worked on. That is when our client’s name came up. This is far from a complete record of the young boys Richards came into contact with though over many years.

“The judge in court described him as someone who would have been a predator for the whole of his adult life, and therefore someone who would likely find a way to get to young victims in many ways, such as through his position as a scout leader.

“It is clear from supporting our client that Richards relied on his position as a police officer to frighten his victims and intimidate them into never speaking out. Our client would not have come forward. He simply didn’t feel he could.

“Many people would also perhaps feel unable to come forward and face the trauma of giving evidence in court as our client, and others, so bravely did.

“It is likely that the trials may have only have scratched the surface in terms of identifying the true number of victims.”

Police officer told abuse victim he’d ‘make his family disappear’

The victim represented by Ms Davies Knight had been introduced to Richards having already been the victim of a rape.

Rather than providing support in his role as a police sergeant, Richards abused him and threatened to ‘make his family disappear’ if he did not do as he said.

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “The abuse was something I had locked away inside for almost 20 years. I couldn’t talk about it and it was very difficult giving evidence for the trial.

“In many ways, when the police contacted me, I wasn’t shocked to find out there had been more victims, I probably expected it. I just didn’t expect him to be caught as I assumed people would have been the same as me. He was a police officer and I was afraid of him and afraid of saying what he had done.

“I am glad I gave evidence but others may have not felt able to come forward. It’s not easy to deal with and I don’t trust many people now. You lose trust, and again, that can stop you from speaking out.”

Police force investigated as opportunities to prevent abuse may have been missed

Richards was convicted last October of carrying out nine indecent assaults against six boys aged 11 to 15 at camps, swimming baths and other locations between 1982 and 2003.

He had already been found guilty earlier in the year of a further 31 sex offences against other boys, including two rapes, going back to the 1970s.

It was revealed he had avoided prosecution after being questioned when allegations first surfaced in 2000. He also avoided prosecution when allegations resurfaced in 2004.

At that time he had his Scout leader’s warrant removed by the Scout movement following allegations of sexual abuse against a boy at a camp.

He was only ‘removed from public contact’ by West Midlands Police however, and was then told he would not be prosecuted in January 2005.

He remained with the force until he retired in 2011, but a fresh investigation was launched in 2014 when another victim came forward, leading to his convictions.

The force referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in May 2015 having admitted opportunities may have been missed to prevent Richards abusing other victims after the 2004 allegations came to light.

During a search of his home in Thaxted Road, Tile Cross, Birmingham, detectives found a list of 35 male names Richards had a ‘sexual interest’ in.  They also discovered diaries where Richards kept details of ‘touching’ boys as well as describing their underwear.

Ms Davies Knight added: “The trial and subsequent sentence handed out to Richards may have brought some form of closure for some of his victims, but it is certainly believed there may be more victims police have been unable to trace, and therefore more people who will have had no form of closure, and no support at all.”

In total, Richards was found guilty of two rapes, 20 indecent assaults, seven cases of sexual activity with a child, three instances of gross indecency, one count of inciting sexual activity with a child, one charge of a serious sexual assault, five counts of misconduct in public office, and one charge of voyeurism.

For more information on civil liberties and claims relating to police complaints, click here.

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24/07/2017 No Comments

Concern over possible wrongful convictions as report highlights police and prosecutors failings over evidence

Investigations File Label.


A new report has highlighted deeply concerning issues over the failure of police and prosecutors to fully disclose all evidence in advance of court trials failings which it is said could be leading to wrongful convictions.

The ‘Making it Fair’ report by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSi) and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has highlighted how many areas of evidence are not being disclosed to the defence until the very last moment, if at all.

This is a shocking situation.

A defendant has the right for all evidence to be fully explored by their legal team and then challenged in court to ensure a fair trial. This failure undermines that basic principle of our legal system.

Ensuring their legal representatives are aware of such evidence well in advance is essential, yet this report says there are often “chaotic scenes” outside courtrooms over disclosure failings at the “last-minute”.

Defence unaware of vital evidence as cases went to trial

Examples given in the report make for worrying reading.

One case involved an alleged sexual assault involving a child, but the case had to be delayed when it emerged a day before the trial that the child had written a letter which contradicted their evidence.

In another case where a defendant was to stand trial for burglary, police and prosecutors failed to disclose evidence to the defence that although chisel marks had been found on a window of the burgled property and that the defendant was found with a chisel, the two didn’t match.

The jury were discharged and a retrial ordered after the judge decided their view of the matter had been distorted by the failure.

In summary, the report suggests police and prosecutors are undermining justice in criminal trials by failing to follow basic rules.

HMCPSi chief inspector Kevin McGinty says the failure ‘has a corrosive effect on the criminal justice system’, undermining the principles of a fair trial, and that is certainly something I’d agree with.

Securing convictions must never come at the cost of our legal rights

Through our work at Hudgell Solicitors in representing people in actions against the police such as for wrongful arrest and unlawful detention, we see too many occasions where police forces have failed to follow basic standards and procedures.

It is therefore sadly not a shock to me to see the report has found police officers’ record keeping to be ‘routinely poor’.

We all appreciate the pressures on police forces to secure successful convictions, drive down crime rates and make our streets and communities safer.

But handling that pressure and meeting targets must never come at the expense of breaching our human rights and in particular that right to a fair trial as set out in Article 6 European Convention of Human Rights.

Such failures will inevitably, in some case, lead to innocent people being wrongly convicted.

Each and every case brought to trial must be done fairly and in a way in which a jury can make a verdict based on all evidence gathered.

Sadly, at present, that may not be the case for all, and that is not how the justice system was devised to work.

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18/07/2017 No Comments

Stalking and Harassment Crimes Badly Handled by Police, Report Says

Stalking and harassment crimes badly handled by police | Hudgell Solicitors


Victims of stalking and harassment are being left at risk by the police, a new report suggests, with crimes not being reported and complaints not taken seriously.

The report, published by the Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI), found that crimes of persistence weren’t logged by police officers, and others weren’t investigated — with poor management offering scant legal protection for victims.

Of the 112 cases inspected as part of the report, not a single one was found to have been investigated properly, raising questions about the police’s commitment to victims of stalking and harassment.

In its report, the HMIC spoke to several stalking victims who felt they had been abandoned by the police after reporting a case of harassment. Shockingly, one victim said she was made to feel at fault for receiving abusive social media messages, after a police officer told her she shouldn’t have been on Facebook.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the report is the fact that police officers are failing to recognise repeat patterns of stalking and harassment, choosing instead to log incidents as one-off crimes. This means victims repeatedly targeted by a stalker aren’t being safeguarded by authorities, placing them at increased risk of more serious offences such as assault, rape or murder.

This lack of appreciation for the “bigger harassment picture” possibly suggests that police don’t respect the scale of harm and psychological trauma posed by stalkers — or the fear suffered by their victims. The public should expect incidents of harassment to be recorded and investigated thoroughly by the police, and where the required threshold is met, their case should be referred to the CPS.

More Must be Done to Protect Harassment Victims

As part of the joint report between the HMIC and HMCPSI, investigators spoke to Helen Pearson, who reported her stalker to the police 125 times over 5 years. She said police treated her “like a nuisance” and “didn’t know what to do” regarding her harassment, which ended with her being stabbed and left for dead by her abuser.

Helen’s case demonstrates the importance that harassment claims are properly managed and investigated by police, especially when the victim has made similar complaints in the past. Speaking to the BBC, Laura Richards of the Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service said that too many harassment victims are exposed to “murder in slow motion”, and that the police must do more to educate their officers on recording, investigating and managing stalking crimes.

While police chiefs have pledged to do more to safeguard victims of stalking and improve performance, the current spending cuts and lack of resources may mean that frontline officers continue to overlook the complaints of harassment victims — with potentially disastrous consequences.

If you’ve been let down by the police, click here to find out how our experienced civil liberties lawyers can help you.

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06/07/2017 No Comments

Hudgell Solicitors appoints human rights lawyer with Hillsborough disaster and Mark Duggan shooting on case list

Cyrilia Davies Knight | Civil Liberties


Hudgell Solicitors have recruited civil liberties solicitor Cyrilia Davies Knight to join the firm’s growing London team – which she says can become one of the leading of its kind in the capital.

Ms Davies Knight joins after nine years with Birnberg Peirce, where she has specialised in handling cases of breaches of human rights, civil actions against the police, inquests and judicial reviews.

She was part of a nine-strong team which acted for 77 families in the inquests into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool football fans as a result of the Hillsborough disaster, from which the jury’s conclusions included a finding of unlawful killing last year.

She has also represented the family of Mark Duggan, who was killed when shot by a Metropolitan Police firearms officer in 2011.

Her appointment at Hudgell Solicitors comes on the back of rapid growth in the specialised area of civil liberties work for the firm over the past 18 months, and is indicative of the firm’s commitment to the development of this area of law.

Hudgell Solicitors has ‘excellent reputation with leading barristers’

Ms Davies Knight says that she is excited by the opportunities now ahead for a firm which she says has been hailed as “one to watch” by several leading barristers.

“When the opportunity came to join Hudgell Solicitors’ civil liberties team I carried out my own research and spoke to a number of barristers who were aware of their work, and who had worked with them on cases, and they all had great things to say, “ she said.

“It was in doing my own due diligence that it became clear that this was a great opportunity for me to be a part of the growth of this progressive firm. Hudgells is among the leading national firms in terms of the high-value, good, solid clinical negligence work it is doing, and it has rightly won recognition for its civil liberties work.”

Award-winning team handles civil liberties cases of ‘national significance’

Hudgell Solicitors’ growth of civil liberties cases has been led by award-winning lawyer Andrew Petherbridge over the past 18 months.

The growing department now handles a significant number of active cases at any one time, including many of national significance in terms of holding police forces to account for their actions and investigations. Ms Davies Knight is highly experienced in this challenging but extremely rewarding practice area.

“You have to be fearless in many ways and it can be a daily uphill struggle when you are dealing with cases against major police forces, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and handling matters which are also politically sensitive in their nature,” she said.

“A good civil liberties lawyer though is someone who can handle all of that and keep the client’s best interests at the heart of all they do. You need to be a good listener and you must have empathy. Many of the people we represent are very vulnerable and have been through some of the most difficult of times.”

Cyrilia Davies Knight a ‘perfect fit’ for Hudgell Solicitors’ growing civil liberties team

Having met the senior management at Hudgell Solicitors, Ms Davies Knight says she has been looking forward to joining the firm.

“Everybody at Hudgell Solicitors seems really friendly and dedicated to excellent client care, which appealed to me immediately,” she added.

“I am sure my experience and in this area of work can bring major benefits to the firm, and it is an exciting opportunity for me to help mould and grow an area of work which is developing in London as I join.”

Managing director Neil Hudgell, who himself is actively involved in the firm’s civil liberties work and with Mr Petherbridge is representing the families of the four victims of murderer Stephen Port, said: “We have established a very successful civil liberties arm to the firm over the past two years, and it is an area of the business we feel we can further grow given the nature and seriousness of cases we are now handling, the expertise we already have within the business, and the further expertise we will be looking to add in the future.

“The appointment of Cyrilia is an indication of our ambition and intention to continue to grow this area of work and support the many people who find their human rights violated, and are victims of police misconduct and failings.”

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04/07/2017 No Comments

Heartbroken mum says police ripped open teddy bear containing remains of her baby boy and left ashes scattered on bedroom floor

Baby Nathan


Hudgell Solicitors has written to Staffordshire Police Force asking for an explanation as to how and why the ashes of a baby boy – which had been contained inside a teddy bear – were scattered across a bedroom during a search, leaving his parents devastated.

Chelsea Wright, 23, says she was left ‘hysterical’ and on her hands and knees trying to recover the precious remains of her baby boy Nathan after officers left the property.

Nathan died suddenly aged just 10 months, and Miss Wright, who was not suspected of committing any offence, has carried them in the ‘memory bear’ ever since.

However, when officers called at her boyfriend’s flat with a warrant relating to a stolen laptop, she says they left the ashes of her 10-month-old son scattered across the floor.

She has therefore turned to Hudgell Solicitors’ civil liberties specialists for support as she demands answers.

Mum had informed search officers that bear had son’s ashes inside

Miss Wright says she had informed officers from Staffordshire Police Force that the teddy, in a Spiderman baby grow, contained her son’s ashes before they conducted the search.

However, she says that when they left, she went into the bedroom where the bear had been left and was completely heart-broken by what she found.

“As soon as I walked into the room I could see white dust everywhere and I immediately knew it was Nathan,” she said.

“I was just in hysterics. I got onto my hands and knees and tried to salvage the ashes and brush them onto pieces of paper, but it was impossible. How on earth could they do this to a mum who has lost a baby boy?

“I’d even mentioned it to them before they started searching, but the Velcro on the teddy bear’s back had been opened and the bag had been cut open.

“How on earth could they have expected to find a laptop inside a small plastic bag which was inside a teddy bear? It is absolutely disgusting.”

Lawyer Andrew Petherbridge says police actions appear ‘impossible to justify’

Miss Wright says she called Staffordshire Police later in the day to make a complaint and was later called back by a sergeant, who she says was unwilling to log it as a formal complaint.

She said: “He said he wouldn’t take it on as a matter to investigate as ‘accidents happen’ and said he wanted to apologise for the ‘inconvenience’ caused.

“It was not an ‘inconvenience’, it was my 10-month-old baby boy who officers showed no care or compassion for. It is disgusting and I won’t let them brush this off as they have tried to do.”

Andrew Petherbridge, a lawyer who specialises in civil liberties actions against the police at Hudgell Solicitors, said he has written to the force on Miss Wright’s behalf asking them to explain their actions.

“Whatever reasons the police give for their actions in this case, it appears impossible to justify opening up the bag with Nathan’s remains inside and leaving his ashes scattered across the room,” he said.

“Even had they wished to take the teddy bear away for testing or any other reason, they had a duty of care to handle it in the appropriate manner, particularly given the fact Miss Wright had made an officer aware of the sensitive nature of the contents.

“Police forces have a duty to carry out their investigations in a responsible and proportionate manner, and on an initial assessment of what happened here, they look to have fallen way below the standards expected.

“We therefore expect a full explanation as to why the search was conducted in this manner when the property owner was accommodating.”

Memory bear made mum feel close to son who died suddenly

Miss Wright and her boyfriend James have lived with the trauma of suddenly losing Nathan in April 2014. Despite being born prematurely at 34 weeks, he was a ‘happy and healthy’ boy until his sudden death.

“It was absolutely heart-breaking when we lost him, and at the time it simply didn’t feel real. It was like something which happens to other people,” added Chelsea, of Rugeley, Staffordshire

“He had taken his very first steps that day and went to bed as normal. Suddenly he woke up and he was crying and James tried to calm him down by feeding him, but he wouldn’t settle and he just kept crying.

“Then, all of a sudden his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he turned blue. We dialled 999 and the paramedics tried to save him for around and hour and a half, but they couldn’t. It was absolutely devastating.”

Chelsea says she has carried the memory bear and Nathan’s ashes with her everywhere since to feel close to him, and to comfort her as she and James still have no clear answers as to why he suddenly died, with a full inquest still to be heard.

“Having the teddy bear with me and Nathan’s ashes has been important to me as it makes me feel close to him. I have taken that bear with me everywhere ever since. It even comes with me to the supermarket when I go shopping as it feels like Nathan is with me,” she added.

“I’d been staying with James at his flat when the police arrived to search his property at about 7.45am. We had nothing to hide so of course we let them in. James wasn’t even under any suspicion as it was all in relation to somebody else.

“To have this happen feels like I have lost Nathan again. It has taken me three years to come to terms with what happened to our family, but now I feel hurt again, like I did when we lost him.

“I can’t understand how the police can be so heartless and so inconsiderate. As soon as I went into the bedroom and saw the mess I knew it was Nathan’s ashes spread around the room.

“They obviously came in and just tore into things and threw things around. There were clothes which had just been left out of drawers also.”

Related News:

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Daily Mail  

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30/06/2017 No Comments

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