Police Misconduct

Police misconduct is often sudden, unexpected and life-changing for those on the receiving end. Many people are bewildered and then shocked at the extent by which the Police are then prepared to protect their own interests against those they are sworn to protect.

The various Police Forces in the UK have a wide range of powers to detain and investigate members of the public. Problems arise when police officers abuse their powers. Police misconduct is often sudden, unexpected and life-changing for those on the receiving end. Many people are bewildered and then shocked at the extent by which the Police are then prepared to protect their own interests against those they are sworn to protect. However, many people still do not realise that it is possible to formally complain against the Police. It is also possible to take legal action to sue the Police and obtain damages if the Police have been found to have acted unlawfully. In some cases legal action can also lead to other remedies, such as an apology and / or removal of fingerprints and DNA from the police database.

What we can offer

We offer sympathetic supportive advice to those who believe they have been wrongfully arrested, falsely imprisoned, assaulted and maliciously prosecuted by the Police and / or discriminated against for a reason such as their ethnic origin or a disability. We also help prisoners assaulted by staff or who have been detained unlawfully. We are also able to advise in claims against the UK Border Agency for unlawful immigration detention and / or searches at airports. We offer expert advice to those arrested for “public order” offences. The legal right to demonstrate and to protest peacefully is one specific area where police have in practice sought to “push the boundaries “ of lawful behaviour. The nature and extent of the force used against non-violent protesters is an obvious example but there are more insidious policy decisions that need concern all those pursuing the right to protest. The use of undercover officers as agents provocateurs in peaceful and law-abiding protest organisations is a notorious example, but the use of “kettling” to confine crowds in a manner that effectively brands all participants as “a problem” and therefore somehow deserving of such measures is another obvious example of more immediate and concerning developments. As the reach of information technology operated by the police relating to the control of protest grows ever more sophisticated and extensive, so the need grows for effective legal remedies to hold the police accountable. We offer supportive advice and where possible, representation to bereaved families who are trying to get answers to the questions that always arise over the standard of the care offered to their loved ones by the authorities. .Inquest hearings are fact-finding Court investigations presided over by a Coroner, into a sudden and / or suspicious death. Many of these hearings occur when the deceased has come into contact with the authorities-perhaps detained in a police station or prison. The families and loved ones of the deceased are faced with a double blow-not only having to cope with the trauma caused by the death itself but also having to cope with a legal procedure that was none of their making and where the Authorities involved use their unlimited resources to obtain expert legal representation in front of the Coroner, often to put their actions in the best possible light. The team is able to advise on judicial review challenges against a range of public bodies including the police, Crown Prosecution Service and Independent Police Complaints Commission. Judicial review is a means of challenging the decisions of public bodies when these are irrational, unfair or cause a breach of human rights. For example, we may be able to assist in challenging cautions administered by the police.

We would say this... but

We offer proactive and dynamic representation where proceeding to trial and winning is always our primary goal but is also the way in which your claim can achieve a settlement out of Court that truly reflects the seriousness of the case.

What we have done for others

  • Proceedings issued against Essex Police for an assault involving a young woman taking place in her own home and in front of her 8 year old daughter, with her 2 year old son sleeping upstairs. In the course of the assault she was molested, punched in the face and sustained head injuries, a broken hand and a broken wrist. The claim settled with an agreement for the Essex police to pay our client £20,000 plus her legal costs.
  • Our client, a 23 year old mixed race male, had mild learning difficulties, was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and had a history of mental illness. At the time of the incident he was resident in supported accommodation provided by Social Services. Police attended at 5.30 am at the client’s hostel in order to execute an arrest for breach of a bail condition. Despite our client exhibiting a willingness to comply with police, what ought to have been a straight-forward arrest very quickly and needlessly escalated into the deployment of physical force and the use of riot equipment. Our client was charged with common assault (and notably, not charged with the specific offence of assaulting a police officer in the execution of his duty). GT Stewart represented him in those proceedings. Our clients case was before the court on a total of 7 occasions before the matter was finally discontinued by the CPS on the basis of a lack of public interest. Our client then sued for assault, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and disability discrimination. His claim settled with the Metropolitan Police agreeing to pay damages of £10,000.
  • £22,000 obtained for a man tasered by police and not charged with any offence
  • £6,000 for a man accused of driving round a traffic roundabout twice and then arrested when he remonstrated and detained for 11 hours
  • £2000 for a man detained for 3 hours on an invalid arrest Warrant

Not happy with the conduct of the police?

Often we are contacted from people who are not interested in claiming money from the police but rather they wish to ensure that others do not suffer the same distress that they have from the actions of the police. A police complaint can achieve an apology, an explanation or disciplinary action being taken against the police officers concerned. It can result in the police officer admitting their wrong doing and advice and further training being recommended so that the same situation does not occur again. In some circumstances, a complaint will result in the police taking pro active action ie. by deleting clients data from the police databases or investigating a crime. A police complaint can be a first step in the procedure for claiming compensation from the police.

Most complaints are dealt with locally by the police force involved. You can make a complaint by approaching the local police station or by using the online form. Once you have done so, the police have a duty to record the complaint under the Police Reform Act 2002 and a senior officer will then be appointed to investigate the matter. If the police refuse to record the complaint, you may have a right to appeal to the IPCC. The Investigating Officer will then contact you to discuss the complaints procedure you and they should also discuss with you what you are looking to achieve by making the complaint. You may wish to receive an apology, an explanation, for certain action to be taken or for disciplinary action to be taken.

There are 2 ways of dealing with a police complaint:

Local Resolution:

This is a way of dealing with complaints that are not considered to be serious. It will usually involve the Investigating Officer meeting with you to discuss the complaints procedure and to obtain your consent to investigating the matter through Local Resolution. The Investigating Officer will usually agree with you a plan to investigate the matter. Following his investigation, he will usually arrange to meet with you again to let you know the outcome of his enquiries. He may also locally resolve your complaint by providing you with an explanation, an apology on behalf of the force (he will not be in a position to apologise for an individual officer as this must come from the officer himself), and/or arrange for force policy/procedures to be changed.

An important point to know about Local Resolution is that if you have agreed to this process and you disagree with the outcome of the complaint, you will NOT have any right of appeal to the IPCC.

The advantage of Local Resolution is that it is often a fairly quick way of resolving the complaints process. If you wish to apply for legal aid to pursue a civil claim and are not overly concerned with the outcome of the complaint aspect then this may be a consideration. However, you should know that Local Resolution will not result in any formal disciplinary action being taken.

Local Investigation:

As with Local Resolution, we can help you with drafting a letter of complaint. The Investigating Officer should then discuss with you how the complaint will be investigated. Normally they will ask you to provide a detailed statement outlining what has happened and summarising your complaints. They will carry out an investigation which could take up to one year to carry out – they should keep you informed of progress. Once they have completed the investigation, they will normally send you the Investigating Officers report and if appropriate, any recommendations for disciplinary action to be taken. If you disagree with the outcome, you do have a right of appeal to the IPCC.

Normally, a police complaint has to be made within 1 year from the date of the incident giving rise to the complaint.

Do you want to claim compensation?

The procedure for pursuing a civil claim against the police is governed by the civil procedure rules. The procedure is started by serving a formal Letter of Claim on the Chief Constable of the police force that you are complaining about. The police will then have 21 days to acknowledge receipt of this letter and 3 months thereafter to investigate the matter and provide a formal response on liability. If liability is accepted, you can then look to negotiate a settlement. If liability is denied, the next step would be to issue court proceedings in your local County Court.

Normally, a claimant (the person bringing the claim) has 6 years to issue court proceedings from the date giving rise to the claim ie date of arrest. This time limit is reduced to 3 years where the person is alleging that he has suffered personal injuries as a consequence of the incident. A claim under the Human Rights Act 1998 should be brought within 1 year.

Once a claim has been issued, it would normally proceed to a trial around 9-12 months later. Before this, witness statements, medical evidence and any other relevant documentation will be exchanged.

In order to pursue a claim, you must have a cause of action in law. Examples of these would be Assault or Malicious Prosecution.

Unlawfull Arrest and False Imprisonment

The police in England and Wales have fairly extensive powers to arrest and detain people. However, they can still get this wrong and false imprisonment (which is sometimes known as unlawful arrest) occurs usually where the police make an arrest which cannot be lawfully justified. The test for arresting a person is whether the arresting officer has reasonable grounds to suspect you are involved in a crime for which an arrest is necessary.

Examples of claims:

  • If it was not necessary to arrest you and you could have attended a police interview as a volunteer
  • If the arrest was initially lawful but the length of detention is excessive or the procedural requirements of detention have not been met. The police have to justify detention on a minute by minute basis.

Malicious Prosecution

You may have been prosecuted for an offence and acquitted and there is evidence that the police did not have enough evidence in the first place to charge you and therefore, that they did not have an honest belief in your guilt. If so, you may have a claim for malicious prosecution. You may believe that the police may have fabricated evidence to cover up serious wrongdoing or failings on their part. These cases can be complex as it is necessary not only to prove what the police have done but also their motive for doing so.

Police Assaults

An assault or battery may have occurred if the police have used 1) unlawful force or 2) excessive or unreasonable force when arresting or restraining you.

Example of claim:

  • where the police have used handcuffs when it was not necessary
  • assaults with police tasers, batons and cs spray
  • police dog bite cases
  • if your biometric data (fingerprints, DNA and photographs) have been taken and the case against you has been discontinued but they have not been destroyed on your request

Data Protection

The police hold lots of sensitive information about arrests and convictions which they will provide to potential employers when an application is made for a Criminal Records Bureau check and also relied on when visa applications are considered.

A complaint may arise if it comes to light that the data held is inaccurate or provided to third parties without your consent or where certain safeguards are not complied with. The consequences of data protection breaches are often serious with a person being refused a job or being sacked by their employer, being refused visa clearance, being evicted from their house or their character being questioned in their local community.

This area also impacts on Article 8 of the Human Rights Act if you can show that your right to private and family life has been breached. If you can show that you have suffered actual financial loss as a consequence of the breach, you may be able to claim compensation.

Unlawful Searchers

The police do have powers to stop and search but only in certain conditions. An officer must have reasonable suspicion that the person they are stopping is carrying a stolen or prohibited item. Police officers are under an obligation to provide certain information to the person being searched. This includes the officer’s name, their shoulder number or the station they are based at, the law the search is based on, the reason for the search, what they are looking for and why they have chosen to search you. They should not ask you to remove more than the outer layers of clothing in view of the public and cannot usually ask you to provide your name or address.

If these requirements are not complied with, the search is likely to be unlawful. Further the search may lead to force being used if you decide not to cooperate or handcuffs being used. It can sometimes lead to you being arrested for an offence such as obstructing a constable. If so, you may also be able to claim for additional causes of action such as assault and false imprisonment.

There can also be a claim for an unlawful search on land if police officers have entered a house or garden without permission or a warrant or any other lawful justification. In some cases, it is possible to show that whilst the police may have entered under lawful authority, if they have committed a trespass ie by assaulting the owner whilst conducting the search, the entire search can be deemed to be unlawful.

There will be a potential claim where goods are damaged by the direct and deliberate actions of police officers, where they lose goods they have seized and where they refuse to return goods which they have seized which they no longer require for the purpose of their investigation.


The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right. The Human Rights Act protects the right of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. We can also advise on the statutory and common law restraints on the police when dealing with protests.


If a police officer knowingly or recklessly abuses their powers or commits an act intended to injure you then you may have a claim for misfeasance.

Examples of claims:

  • If a police officer discloses information to a third party with the intention of causing someone damage
  • If a police officer falsifies evidence knowing that they will have negative consequences on someone short of prosecution
  • If a police officer makes a lawful arrest with a malicious motive
  • If a person is prosecuted by police officers who are acting maliciously but with reasonable and probable cause
We are always happy to do a free initial assessment on any potential cases. Our initial advice is free and without obligation. If you do have a case that we can then assist you with, we can usually offer legal aid funding. If you are not eligible for legal aid for any reason, we can offer assisting you for a fixed fee of £750 plus VAT on a police complaint matter (subject to assessment) or on a Conditional Fee Agreement (no win no fee) on a civil claim for compensation against the police. In these circumstances, you normally have nothing or very little to pay to pursue the matter and take action to achieve justice.