Police Negligence – The Courage to Complain
Can you imagine life without an entrusted, professional police force? Believe it or not, the police force as we know it today is less than 200 years old. In 1829 the Metropolitan Police Force was established by Sir Robert Peel and today we rely on the police to keep our persons and property safe. And most of the time they do an exemplary job. However, like all professionals, police officers are not immune to making critical errors of judgement that can cause irreparable damage.
Take for example the following recent incidences:
•In January 2014 police accepted liability for a serious brain injury which caused irreversible, long-term damage to a young man who was left in a cell for 10 hours with no medical treatment after sustaining a head injury. The custody sergeant was made aware that the youth had suffered a head injury but he failed to make a record of it. The victim was classified as drunk and simply placed on half-hourly checks. The victim’s family were advised that had treatment been sought sooner he would have made a full recovery.
•In May 2014a 28 year old man settled his claim for personal injury against the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The victim was joyriding in a stolen car in Belfast seven years ago when he was shot by police and left permanently blinded in one eye. He sued the PSNI on the grounds that, “….the policeman who opened fire acted in complete defiance of the relevant regulations. The officer shot directly at the car, aiming for the upper body or head, using lethal force in a built-up residential area”.
•In July 2013a Scotland Yard marksman was found by an official inquiry to have unlawfully killed a man he shot six times. The family are still waiting for criminal charges to be brought against the officer.
Because the police are in an authoritative position, many people have no idea what steps to take if they have suffered harm due to police negligence. Examples of wrongs endured include:
False imprisonment/Wrongful arrest
You may be entitled to compensation if the police have detained you unlawfully. The police must have a lawful excuse for detaining you; they cannot restrict your movements for their convenience.
Police have a right to use reasonable force. However, if you are the victim of wrongful arrest, or you feel the force used against you by a police officer was excessive you may be able to claim compensation.
In July 2013, a father of one was thrown into a police cell and suffered broken fingers after being pulled over for driving too slowly. A jury at Manchester County Court found the Greater Manchester Police guilty of unlawful detention and assault and stated there was no justification for his three hour detention.
Discrimination or harassment
The police are a public body and therefore must fulfil both the general and specific requirements under the Equality Act 2010. The characteristics protected from discrimination under the Act are:
• Gender reassignment
• Marriage and civil partnership
• Religion or belief
• Sexual orientation
If you believe you have been harassed or discriminated against because of any of these characteristics you may be entitled to compensation.
You may also make a complaint against the police if you have been injured by a police vehicle or you believe a weapon was unlawfully used against you by a police officer. The harm does not need to be physical, you may be entitled to compensation if you have suffered emotional or physiological trauma due to police negligence.
How to Make a Claim
The first step to making a claim is to seek legal advice. Your lawyer will advise you on how best to proceed with a case for compensation.
To assist your case it is vital that you write down any details of the incident and ensure you obtain contact details of any witnesses to the wrongdoing. Make sure you document any medical assistance you have received and take photos of any injuries sustained.