Actions Against the Police: Suing the Police
If you have been mistreated or harmed by the police, you may have a reason to make a claim against them.
When planning to sue the police, you need to ensure that you have a valid “cause of action”.
The eight main causes of action are:
- Assault – police are allowed to use force if they can protect someone from a crime, stop someone from committing a crime, carry out a lawful arrest and prevent a breach of peace. If the action is carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act or the Terrorism Act. However, if police use more force than necessary in a particular situation, you may have a case for a lawsuit.
- False imprisonment – when the police detain you when the law doesn’t allow them to. Under an arrest or detainment, the police should be able to prove that it is legally justifiable. Some offences are classed as non-arrestable offences. If the police arrest you after you commit one of these, they need to supply sufficient evidence that they thought you were guilty of, or about to commit, an arrestable offence.
- Malicious prosecution – you have grounds to sue if you can prove you have been a victim of a malicious or deliberately harmful prosecution. This has to be shown a number of ways – either you were clearly innocent at the time of the arrest, you have good knowledge that the police were acting maliciously or had no probable cause.
- Trespass – the police can only enter your property with prior permission, sufficient warrant, or if they have just arrested you by the property and have good reason to suspect there is evidence inside. The police can also break into a house if they feel that people are at serious risk of being killed or injured inside or to stop a breach of the peace.
- Trespass to goods and conversion – if you can prove that the police have damaged or interfered with your property without a valid reason, or if they do not return your property when they are not allowed to keep it.
- Negligence – You can sue the police if they are negligent in the way they carry out the work and they either cause you harm or damage when they are taking care not to.
- Breaching the Human Rights Act – you have a case if you can clearly show that the police have breached your rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.
- Racial discrimination –The Race Relations Act 1976 lays out the rules of how the police should not discriminate someone because of their race.
When you choose to sue someone, particularly the police, you need to make sure that your complaint(s) fit into the brackets on one or more of these causes of actions.
A legal advisor will be able to help you define whether your complaint has mileage. Sometimes, poor treatment by the police will not be classed as proper grounds for compensation. For example, verbal abuse from a police office on arrest will not have viable grounds for legal action. However, making a complaint would be recommended.
If you want more information on whether your treatment by the police is unlawful, contact DPP Law today.