Six figure damages award in malicious prosecution claim against Metropolitan Police

Wednesday 31 July 2019

Stephen Simblet of the Garden Court Chambers Civil Liberties team represented Gary Vian.

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Garry Vian and another two claimants have each been awarded six figure damages awards for malicious prosecution following a hearing before Cheema-Grubb J: see Rees v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2019] EWHC 2120 (QB).

This award is the culmination of several years of litigation, including having to establish liability in the Court of Appeal last summer: see what is now one of the most important cases on malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office in a police context, Rees and another v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2018] EWCA Civ 1587.  Despite the court’s decision on liability at that hearing and the serious misconduct established against senior police officers, which amounted to a finding that the senior investigating officer was guilty of perverting the course of justice, the Commissioner contested the amounts of damages that the claimants sought. In her judgment of 31st July 2019, Cheema-Grubb J awarded the claimants damages, including aggravated and exemplary damages.

Cheema-Grubb J considered the gravity of the charge he had faced to be important, and thought it appropriate also to compensate for humiliation, distress, reputational loss and loss of liberty.

The exemplary damages award totalled £150 000, split between Mr Garry Vian and the other two claimants. On that issue, the judge said at paragraph 53 of her judgment:

“In my judgment exemplary damages are required. This award is to highlight and condemn the egregious and shameful behaviour of a senior and experienced police officer, DCS Cook. He oversaw the investigation at the relevant time. He was warned about his behaviour on several occasions and misled superior officers. Axiomatically, honest belief in guilt cannot justify prosecuting a suspect on false evidence.  Although the publicly available decision of the Court of Appeal provides some succour it does not replace the impact of a suitable financial award both to the claimants themselves and on the public perception that there is no place for any form of ‘noble-cause’ justification for corrupt practices in those trusted to uphold the law.”

The judge also made some useful comments on aggravated damages, including the relevance of the way in which the claim had been conducted and the relevance of an absence of an apology. At paragraph 40, she said:

“No court has directed, nor even could it, that an apology should be made. The defendant may have her own reasons for not making a public apology before now, or ever but whilst an apology may be a mitigating feature, particularly in respect of exemplary damages, the lack of one does not aggravate the damage.”

The Commissioner will also be required to pay all of Garry Vian’s costs.

Garry Vian was represented by Stephen Simblet of Garden Court’s Civil Liberties team, instructed by Andrew Guile of Guile Nicholas Solicitors, Finchley.    

This case has been widely reported in the media including the Guardian

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