Merseyside Police sergeant found to have used unlawful force

Tuesday 13 October 2015

The claimant was 69 years old and disabled when she was taken to the ground and injured by a sergeant of Merseyside Police at the end of an evening out. On 7 October 2015, at the conclusion of a trial on liability, the claimant succeeded in her claim for assault and Merseyside Police agreed to pay the claimant damages and costs.

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On 26 May 2012, the claimant spent the evening with friends at a party in a pub in Liverpool. There was a disturbance in the early hours of 27 May 2012, which was unconnected to the claimant and her party, and the police received a number of calls to attend the scene. On witnessing the sergeant carrying out the arrest of a girl, the claimant enquired of the officer as to what was happening.

Rather than dealing with the claimant’s enquiry in a reasonable and proportionate manner, the officer used unlawful and unnecessary force on the claimant, which caused her to fall to the ground. The claimant was taken to hospital in an ambulance. The sergeant accepted that he had used force on the claimant but said that it was necessary to use force in the circumstances because the claimant was drunk, aggressive and obstructive.

Mr. Recorder Hilton, in giving judgment for the claimant on liability, rejected the suggestion that the claimant was drunk, as well as rejecting the officer’s account of a prolonged interaction with the claimant prior to the use of force and the suggestion that the claimant had acted with such hostility so as to pose a risk of harm. Mr. Recorder Hilton also rejected the evidence of the inspector who was supervising the officers who attended the scene.

Within hours of the incident, the claimant had made a complaint to the police but that complaint was not upheld by Merseyside Police’s Professional Standards Department and it was found that the sergeant had no case to answer. On appeal, the Independent Police Complaints Commission concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove that excessive force had been used. The claimant’s successful outcome in her civil action highlights failings in the police complaints process.

Upon the claimant succeeding in liability, Merseyside Police agreed to pay the claimant damages of £11,000, plus costs. However, the claimant has never received an apology, nor has she received any acknowledgement from Merseyside Police that the actions of the sergeant on 27 May 2012 were improper.

According to the Independent Police Complaints Commission Annual Report, the number of complaints recorded against the police has increased by 62% in the last 10 years. Read Broudie Jackson Canter's blog on the report on their website.

The claimant was represented by Una Morris, instructed by Chris Topping, Steven Walmsley and Matt Bown of Broudie Jackson Canter. Una is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Claims Against the Police and Public Authorities Team.


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