Bhaskar specialises in actions against the police and state authorities and has a passion for holding public bodies to account. He regularly advises on a range of private law civil claims against the police and other public authorities including claims for false imprisonment, assault and battery by state agents, malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office, as well as for breaches of the Human Rights Act 1998. He also regularly assists with public law claims, police complaints and appeals to the Independent Office for Police Conduct. He has experience of working on inquests and public inquiries.
Before joining GT Stewart Bhaskar qualified at Hodge Jones and Allen in 2016, where he undertook a range of contentious public and administrative law work. He also worked for a year post qualification as criminal defence lawyer, and consequently brings an in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system to his current practice advising on claims against the police.
Prior to qualification as a solicitor, Bhaskar has worked in civil litigation as a caseworker since 2010 and brings eight years of fee earning experience to the table. Bhaskar also volunteered with the national human rights organisation LIBERTY (National Council of Civil Liberties) and worked as a researcher for the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, an international non-governmental organisation that tracks the human rights impacts of multinational corporations worldwide.
Education and Qualifications
- 2007 – Undergraduate Degree in Philosophy from Washington and Lee University, USA.
- 2009 – Bachelor of Laws (Queen Mary, University of London)
- 2012 – Legal Practice Course (BPP University College)
- 2016 – Qualified solicitor
SZ v Ministry of Justice – We have recently secured a settlement for our client SZ, who was a victim of a stabbing at Swaleside prison on 5 July 2019. The incident was a prisoner on prisoner assault, and our client was slashed in the face causing him temporary facial disfigurement which has now resolved. There was some risk as it is trite law that prisons are ordinarily not liable for prisoner on prisoner assaults unless there was a known threat from the assailant or known anomisity between the parties. SZ did have non associations because of gangs but in this case a non-affiliated outsider carried out the attack and it is agreed between the parties that our client had no previous incidents with this person and the attacker was not connected to the gangs with whom he had non associations. We pushed ahead solely because of his general risk due to the profile of the victim of the crime for which he was imprisoned – the killing of a notorious mob boss whose death sparked a gang war back in 2013. There were also issues of contributory negligence in that SZ had been told not to leave his wing due to risk from gangs in other wings, and was stabbed outside his wing. The matter settled for £ 18000 on a 50/50 split liability basis, so the client was awarded £9000 in damages. The solicitor in the case was Bhaskar Banerjee, assisted by Farheen Ahmed. Counsel was Fatima Jichi of Garden Court Chambers.
Inquest touching the death of SOR – We recently acted in an inquest for the family of SOR, who sadly took his own life whilst an inmate at HMP Wandsworth, two years after his brother also took his own life whilst remanded at HMP Belmarsh. Following a suicide attempt, he was transferred to a secure psychiatric hospital for 17 months. He was then transferred to HMP High Down, where he was monitored in secure healthcare wing, as he continued to be at high risk of self-harm. When it came to his criminal trial, the decision was taken to move him to Wandsworth, which was closer to the Central Criminal Court. Nurse leads at HMP High Down urgently contacted Wandsworth and told them that they should only accept him if they would put him on a healthcare wing due to his suicide risk. It was well documented in his paperwork that a conviction in his trial would be a trigger for suicide. A conviction was supposed to prompt a review of his mental health, with a view to putting him in a constant watch cell where he would be monitored 24/7. SOR was convicted on 15 December 2020. Despite a psychiatrist and nurse promptly flagging he now needed to be reviewed in and possibly put on constant watch so that he wouldn’t hurt himself, none of the prison officers on duty carried out the review, passing the task between themselves with no one taking responsibility and he was only briefly checked once an hour. SOR was discovered suspended by a ligature in his cell at 11:17pm on 15 December.
Following a two inquest into his death between 15 and 26 May, a jury found multiple systematic failures as regards the management of prisoners at risk of self-harm at Wandsworth, highlighting the inadequate communication between prison and healthcare staff as well as the incomplete policy documents (including ACCT reviews). We are now pursuing a civil claim on behalf of the family.
The family was represented by Bhaskar Banerjee, assisted by Keiu Kikas of our Actions against the Police Team. Counsel was Sarah Hemingway of Garden Court Chambers.
VO v Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis – We secured £2,500 in compensation for a black man who was assaulted and falsely imprisoned by a police officer following an accusation of shoplifting which was never pursued on 3 May 2018. Despite VO agreeing to go the store and view the CCTV with a police officer to verify his indentity, the officer suddenly took the decision to arrest instead whilst en route to the shop, pushing him forward. When VO tried to resist what he thought was a sudden unprovoked assault he was himself charged with assaulting a police officer, though the case against him was dropped by a magistrate who found that the officer had not been acting in execution of his duty. The client was represented by Bhaskar Banerjee, assisted by Molly Nathan.
R (G) v HM Senior Coroner for Inner North London – We represented the sister of a man who sadly took his own life at HMP Pentonville in 2018, three weeks after he was remanded following conviction. A six day inquest with jury was held into his death in 2019. The family pursued a judicial review of the outcome on the basis that the Senior Coroner for Inner North London failed to properly direct the jury on the conclusions they needed to reach on probable causes of death and therefore failed to discharge the states procedural obligations to properly investigate deaths in custody as required by Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The High Court Judge, Mrs Justice Steyn DBE, agreed with the family that there is a need for a coroner to elicit the jury’s conclusions on the central factual issues at the inquest and that in this case and found that following her summing up, the Senior Coroner “did not identify the central issues, direct the jury that they must consider them or direct the jury that they must include in the narrative any such matters that they determined caused or contributed to..[the] death”. She went onto say “As a consequence, she failed to elicit the jury’s conclusions on the central factual issues at the inquest…and the inquest did not comply with article 2.”
SB v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (2018) – acted for a fifteen year old young boy of Asian descent who was accused of smoking cannabis on a public road. Though no cannabis was found on his person, he was arrested and subjected to an unlawful strip search. Proceedings were brought against the Metropolitan Police alleging false imprisonment, assault, unlawful strip search of a minor and malicious prosecution. The police settled for £21,000 in Dec 2018
HK v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – We acted for a young black man of good character in a claim against the Metropolitan Police, who was stopped in his car after being mistaken for another person who discarded a knife, the only similarity between the two being their ethnicity. He was not believed when he put forward his account of where he had been that day and he was put in handcuffs in a public highway despite being cooperative throughout his encounter with the police. He was detained in cells. We sent a letter of claim to the Metropolitan Police alleging discriminatory treatment as a result of his ethnicity and false imprisonment on the basis that his arrest was unnecessary. The police settled for £3,000 in May 2021
Inquest touching the death of JOR – acted for the family in a eleven day inquest with jury into the death of a young man who sadly died from a self-inflicted ligature wound at HMP Belmarsh in January 2021. Despite having a long and well documented history of self-harm and suicide attempts on his prison health records, and a rapid deterioration in his mental health resulting him in self isolating for weeks, poor information sharing between prison healthcare and prison staff meant he was assessed as being of no risk of suicide, the words ‘no history of self harm’ put on his record and he was not put on suicide watch as he had been in all previous times in remand. As it was an Article 2 inquest, the jury were allowed to comment on failings and identified numerous failings by both the prison and healthcare staff. The Coroner made numerous recommendations to the prison and healthcare in relation to information sharing and the policy for self-isolators was amended following this inquest. A civil claim is being pursued.
Inquest touching the death of AM– acted for the family of an elderly gentleman suffering from dementia and epilepsy who was allowed to escape from a state run care home, in a two day inquest in January 2021. He was sadly found dead days later by a member of the public. The inquest explored staffing levels, the frequency of checks and the adequacy of the missing persons search. The coroner’s ruling highlighted the fact that the care home had allowed him to escape through an unsecured unmonitored door and a civil claim is being pursued against the care home.
R (G) v HM Senior Coroner for Inner North London – We represented the sister of a man who sadly took his own life at HMP Pentonville in 2018, three weeks after he was remanded following conviction. A six day inquest with jury was held into his death in 2019. The family pursued a judicial review of the outcome on the basis that the Senior Coroner for Inner North London failed to properly direct the jury on the conclusions they needed to reach on probable causes of death and therefore failed to discharge the states procedural obligations to properly investigate deaths in custody as required by Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The High Court Judge, Mrs Justice Steyn DBE, agreed with the family that there is a need for a coroner to elicit the jury’s conclusions on the central factual issues at the inquest and found that following her summing up, the Senior Coroner “did not identify the central issues, direct the jury that they must consider them or direct the jury that they must include in the narrative any such matters that they determined caused or contributed to..[the] death”. She went onto say “As a consequence, she failed to elicit the jury’s conclusions on the central factual issues at the inquest…and the inquest did not comply with article 2.”
MR v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – We secured a settlement of £10,000 for false imprisonment in the case of a 14 year old child who was detained overnight in adult cells in 2015 at Lewisham police station. At the time he was a schoolchild. He was and remains of good character. The police arrived at his home suspecting adult members of his family of involvement in drug offences but simply arrested our child client along with everyone on the premises. No convictions arose out of the incident, of our client or any of his family members. Police guidance suggests children should not be placed overnight in adult cells without attempts being made to secure alternative secure accommodation and in any event arrest of a child should only be a measure of last resort after exhausting every alternative. We argued amongst other things in pre-action correspondence that this was in breach of the UKs own obligations under the UN Convention of Rights of the Child, which prohibits detention of children except as a ‘measure of last resort.’ We also suggested that it was relevant that he was a black child, who are more likely to be treated as adults. Despite the above guidance and the criminal justice systems supposed emphasis on child welfare, the systemic practice of detaining children in adult cells by police forces sadly continues. After fighting the case for seven years, the police settled this matter two months before trial. Solicitor with conduct was Bhaskar Banerjee. Maya Sikand QC of Doughty Street Chambers was instructed.
JM v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – We secured a £4,000 settlement for a 56 year old black woman for assault and false imprisonment by members of the Territorial Support Group in Sydenham, South East London in 2016. She was arrested on suspicion that her dog, whom she was walking when approached by the police, was a banned breed. The dog belonged to her son, who had sadly passed away the year before, and she became upset when the officers tried to take it off her. She alleged that police then took her to the ground and discharged CS spray into her eyes. She was charged with assaulting a police officer despite the officers being significantly younger than her, and possessing a dangerous dog. She also alleged racial abuse at the hands of the officers. She was acquitted of the assault charge. She pleaded on advice to the dangerous dogs charge as she was advised this was the quickest way to get her dog back, meaning we had to make a formal application to bring the claim in assault against the police to set aside the requirement that no claim could be bought in assault or false imprisonment where a conviction arose on the facts. We were granted permission to bring the claim on the basis that the force used was grossly disproportionate and the police settled the claim. Solicitor in the case was Bhaskar Banerjee
VO v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – We secured a £1,000 settlement in false imprisonment for a man who we claimed was illegally stopped by police while driving for 1 hour 26 minutes.
RB v Ministry of Justice and Commissioner Police of the Metropolis – We secured a settlement of £19,250 for our client RB arising out of 13 days false imprisonment – a case of mistaken identity where the police initially thought he was his own twin brother.
Our client, who was on bail on tag while standing trial for an offence, was unlawfully arrested by MPS on the mistaken belief that he was his own twin. He spent 3 hours in custody after which the error was identified, when they took his fingerprints and realised it was not in fact his brother. However he was then arrested for breaching bail conditions. He was produced next day for court who ordered his release on bail immediately but due an error his paperwork still had his brothers details on it, so that he was sent to prison at HMP Wandsworth for 13 days. On the first day he was told he was not supposed to be there and he would be released imminently. However nothing happened the next day, or the next. He insisted during the whole time he was there on accident, but no one believed him, until 13 days later. This caused a deterioration in his mental health from which he sadly still suffers. The Metropolitan police settled the claim for the initial unlawful arrest for £1,250 and the Ministry of Justice awarded him a further £ 18,000 for his further detention at Wandsworth. Solicitor with conduct was Bhaskar Banerjee.
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