If you are unlawfully arrested or detained by the police, the law will see to it that you are compensated fairly. In a case on point, a window cleaner who was arrested and held in custody after a financial dispute with a customer reached boiling point was awarded damages.
The customer had accused him of aggressively demanding money and subjecting her to a threatening telephone call. He denied any wrongdoing but, after learning that the police wished to speak to him, he attended a police station voluntarily. Once there, he was arrested and detained for about seven hours.
Criminal proceedings against him were subsequently discontinued. Text messages and voicemails he had left on the customer’s phone were calm, professional and courteous. He subsequently succeeded in a money claim against her in respect of unpaid cleaning fees. Following a hearing, however, his false imprisonment claim against his local police force was rejected by a judge.
Upholding his appeal against that outcome, the High Court noted that the central issue in the case was whether the police officer who arrested him had objectively reasonable grounds for believing that his arrest was ‘necessary’, within the meaning of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The test of necessity represents a high bar and, if his arrest was unlawful, then so was his detention.
The Court noted that the man’s voluntary attendance at the police station indicated that he was willing to assist the police in their inquiries. The officer had struggled to explain why conducting a voluntary interview, without arresting him, was not a practical and sensible option. He arrested the man without any discussion or investigation of what he was prepared or not prepared to do.
He posed no realistic threat to the customer whilst he was in the police station. Given the nature of the alleged offences and his apparent willingness to cooperate, it was clearly necessary for the officer to consider whether steps short of arrest would suffice. He was required to give that issue more consideration than he apparently did. Overall, his decision to arrest was objectively unsustainable.
The man was awarded £2,750 in compensation. In declining to make a further award of aggravated damages, the Court noted that there was nothing out of the ordinary in the circumstances of the arrest. A mistake was made, but he was otherwise dealt with by the police in a calm and professional manner.