Can I Sue the Police for Emotional Distress?
Often, brushes with the police can prove very personally affecting. After all, officers are there to ensure that the law is obeyed and that anyone who breaks it is properly investigated and suitably brought to justice. So, whether you fall under the category of victim, suspect or witness – or you are a family member or friend of any of the above, emotions are bound to run high at certain points during your experience.
It is therefore required that the police force treats everyone involved in an investigation with respect and sensitivity. Officers need to be able to communicate civilly with victims and their families, and to demonstrate that their complaint or report is being taken seriously and investigated correctly. They also need to treat suspects in a considerate manner, as, though they may be collecting evidence against them, UK law acknowledges that those accused of crimes should be considered “innocent until proven guilty”.
So what can you do if you feel you are not being treated with respect by certain police employees, that they are being purposefully negligent or even causing you anguish deliberately? Here are a few steps you can take if you wish to sue the police for emotional distress:
1. Seek Out Proper Legal Representation
The moment you decide to pursue legal action, it’s vitally important that you make contact with a specialist legal advisor, lawyer or solicitor who will help you through the process. They will assist you in collecting all relevant evidence for your case, support you throughout the following steps and represent you in court, meaning you are never left to fight your own corner.
2. Keep a Record of the Facts
Nowadays, many people are able to quickly pull out their mobile phone and start filming as soon as they realise an incident is unfolding that may require video evidence that could be helpful in a courtroom. If you noticed anyone filming your experience, you should try to obtain a copy of that footage. Also, if there were any CCTV cameras in the vicinity of the incident at the time, you should definitely consider contacting the businesses they are connected to and requesting those images too. You absolutely have the right to do this, though you can be charged up to £10 to receive it. Remember though, footage is often destroyed after 30 days of it being recorded, so you need to act quickly.
If you manage to collect any video or audio evidence of the police officials in question behaving in an unsuitable manner towards you – whether that be verbally or physically – it could really bolster your case, particularly if your subsequent emotional struggles are also well documented. The statements of witnesses are also extremely valuable, so it is important to ensure that anyone who experienced the incident is happy to report what they saw to the authorities and, if necessary, back you up in a courtroom.
3. Consider What You Can Prove
If you’re planning a claim stating that your experience with the police left you mentally or emotionally scarred, it is very helpful to have doctors’ reports or mental health write-ups to back you up. Previously recorded mental health conditions that have resulted from mistreatment by the police include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Generalised or Social Anxiety Disorders and many others besides.
Of course, due to official medical confidentiality regulations, you are not required to disclose full details of what you have shared with a mental health specialist in therapy sessions – but the timescale of those sessions and the general nature of what was discussed may prove very helpful to you if your case is taken to court. In fact, calling a therapist or mental health worker as a witness can strengthen your argument, as can asking your family and friends to testify to a change in your personality and behaviour that can be connected directly to the incident or incidents in question.
4. Decide Where to Report the Incident
There are actually a number of places you can turn to file a report of emotional distress against the police. The first is, in fact, your local police station. However, many individuals may understandably prefer to avoid discussing the matter with officials there for fear of being ignored, not being believed, or having to relive the distress they went through in an environment where they may possibly run into the perpetrators again.
The second is the IOPC, or the Independent Office for Police Conduct. They are a specialist body that looks into complaints against the police. You can’t visit the offices of the IOPC in person, but you can complete an online form, email them via email@example.com or call them on 0300 020 0096.