Mr Matthew McConville, the Head of Irvings Law’s Actions Against the Police Department has been successful in a claim against Derbyshire Police and writes the below case report:
I have recently successfully represented a professional and hard-working man, Mr Gareth Clark. Mr Clark was Falsely Imprisoned and Assaulted by Inspector Nash at Derbyshire Constabulary and sought compensation arising from the Inspector’s actions.
Mr Clark was working at a company with offices based at Matlock Job Centre on Lime Grove Walk. On 11th October 2017, Mr Clark was driving from Chesterfield to Matlock in the course of his employment. Mr Clark overtook a vehicle which was travelling at slow speed, and in doing so, crossed a double white line system. The manoeuvre was observed by Inspector Nash who was on duty travelling in an unmarked police vehicle. Inspector Nash pulled out into Matlock Road and followed Mr Clark. Mr Clark noticed this and it made him nervous. Mr Clark pulled into Lime Grove Walk where he parked which happens to be near Matlock police station, such that Mr Clark was parked almost directly opposite the rear entrance to the station.
After parking, Mr Clark remained in his vehicle. Inspector Nash parked his vehicle outside the entrance of Matlock Police Station. Inspector Nash was wearing police uniform underneath a civilian jacket and it was not apparent from his visible clothing that he was a police officer. Inspector Nash approached Mr Clark’s vehicle and stood at the driver side. Mr Clark was nervous; he was concerned that the person (not known by Mr Clark at that time to be a police officer) might assault him and so he did not open his window.
After a short period, Inspector Nash knocked on the window. Mr Clark opened the door and Inspector Nash then used force against Mr Clark by taking hold of his left arm and twisting it towards Mr Clark’s back. Inspector Nash failed to identify himself to Mr Clark as a police officer or to provide any reasons for the use of force so Mr Clark shrugged off Inspector Nash and asked him what he was doing. Inspector Nash then stated Mr Clark was under arrest for contravening a solid white line system and stated for a second time that Mr Clark was under arrest taking hold of his arm. Mr Clark did not pull away but challenged that he did not know who Inspector Nash was and had not been shown any identification. At this point, Inspector Nash unzipped his fleece and showed him two pips on his shoulder and stated that he wanted to take Mr Clark into the police station across the road to interview him about a road traffic offence. Mr Clark queried whether that was necessary and whether it could be dealt with by way of letter. Mr Clark indicated that Inspector Nash could take down the number plate of his vehicle. Inspector Nash refused. Mr Clark then offered his name and address.
Throughout the interaction, Mr Clark found Inspector Nash’s behaviour to be “intimidating and volatile”. Inspector Nash walked Mr Clark to Matlock Police station and, once inside, Mr Clark was placed in an interview room. Sergeant Jones stayed with Mr Clark whilst Inspector Nash went to locate some paperwork. At this point, Mr Clark decided to make an audio record of events using his mobile phone. When Inspector Nash returned to the room and Sergeant Jones left, the audio recording documents that:
‘Prior to the recording being made, Inspector Nash was already aware of (and satisfied with) Mr Clark’s account of his name; no further request was made and Inspector Nash was recorded stating Mr Clark’s name and date of birth when making a call to query any previous convictions. Mr Clark complained to Inspector Nash that Inspector Nash had grabbed him, that his arm hurt, and he and was going to see if there was CCTV. Inspector Nash admitted the use of force, but stated it was to “move” Mr Clark “out of the road”. Mr Clark asked to discuss his arrest. Inspector Nash denied that Mr Clark had been arrested, but threatened that if Mr Clark left he would be arrested, and said that Mr Clark was detained but “not against your will”. Inspector Nash refused to let Mr Clark leave the room and stated he would be arrested “the minute you try to leave”. Inspector Nash stated that he was detaining Mr Clark “so I can serve this summons on you.” After Inspector Nash made a call to query any previous convictions of Mr Clark, Mr Clark complained that it was not professional when reading out previous offences “to go oww err oww.” Inspector Nash did not deny making those noises.’
Mr Clark was then finally permitted to leave Matlock Police Station. On 8th December 2017, it was communicated that “due to evidential difficulties”, Mr Clark would not face any charges in relation to the alleged offence of contravening the double white line system.
In February 2018, Derbyshire Constabulary’s Professional Standards Department upheld complaints made Mr Clark that Inspector Nash was “cocky, unprofessional and his behaviour resulted in [Mr Clark] feeling powerless and scared.” Inspector Nash was found to have a case to answer for misconduct. In relation to Inspector Nash stating that Mr Clark had not been arrested, it was found that there had been “a definite shortfall in the service” Mr Clark received.
Mr Clark then contacted me to pursue a claim for compensation following what had happened to him. I accepted Mr Clark’s case immediately and soon after presented a Letter of Claim to Derbyshire Constabulary challenging Inspector Nash’s conduct as unlawful. Specifically, the Letter of Claim alleged that the arrest of Mr Clark was manifestly unlawful as it was not necessary as required by legislation. In addition, the arrest of Mr Clark was rendered unlawful by the non-compliance by Inspector Nash to inform Mr Clark of the grounds for arrest before grabbing him. Further, the force used upon Mr Clark was unlawful and constituted Assault/Battery as the said use of force was unlawful in the consequence of an unlawful arrest of Mr Clark and in any event, the use of force was wholly excessive in the circumstances.
In response, Derbyshire Constabulary’s legal team responded to the Letter of Claim but did not expressly admit nor deny liability. The legal team only conceded that “it is acknowledged that Inspector Nash provided unclear and inconsistent information to [Mr Clark] as to whether or not [Mr Clark] was under arrest or whether or not he was free to go during which [Mr Clark]’s liberty was restricted”. Despite expressly not admitting liability, the legal team put forward an offer to settle Mr Clark’s claim in the sum of £2,000.00. As an admission of liability was of more importance to Mr Clark, I sought clarification from Derbyshire Constabulary’s legal team in respect of whether liability was admitted or denied on each head of claim presented. The legal team responded by confirming:
“In terms of the false imprisonment, … it is accepted due to the comments made by Inspector Nash that [Mr Clark] was not under arrest/but also apparently not free to leave that the detention later became unlawful and amounted to a false imprisonment. … it is acknowledged that there is a possibility that an award for aggravated damages could be achieved.”
In response to this, Mr Clark instructed me to reject Derbyshire Constabulary’s offer to settle and to then attempt to engage in further settlement discussions. Unfortunately, this invitation was rejected by Derbyshire Constabulary’s legal team leaving Mr Clark with no other option but to issue Court proceedings against them as settlement terms were not acceptable given what he had gone through. These Court proceedings formally and specifically alleged that:
‘Inspector Nash had no honest and/or reasonable grounds to consider that arrest was necessary. In particular, Inspector Nash proceeded to arrest Mr Clark prior to having identified himself at all as a police officer and did so without providing any explanation as to why he was making enquiries of Mr Clark not to mention not making any request of Mr Clark to provide his name. Once Mr Clark offered his name and address, any possible grounds for necessity ceased. Inspector Nash also subsequently stated to Mr Clark that he was not under arrest but that he was also not free to leave. Inspector Nash thus in fact detained Mr Clark whilst also denying to Mr Clark that there was in fact any lawful power to do so and the length of the detention was unreasonable and excessive. Further, the force used upon Mr Clark was a battery as the force was not used to effect a lawful arrest of Mr Clark and the said force was excessive and unreasonable in all the circumstances. In addition, the arrest encompassed aggravated features which were indicated as follows:
- The arrest took place in front of Mr Clark’s workplace during normal working hours and made him late for work. As such, his arrest was known by his work colleagues and exacerbated Mr Clark’s distress and humiliation.
- Inspector Nash “readily admitted” he did not handle the incident “in a professional manner.” Inspector Nash is a senior and experienced officer and his misuse of his authority as a police officer was knowing and intentional. In particular, Inspector Nash behaved in a high handed and insulting manner which was calculated to and did intimate Mr Clark. Inspector Nash can be heard on the recording behaving in a dismissive and at times sarcastic manner towards Mr Clark.
- Mr Clark suffered the frustration of being told he had not been arrested and was not being detained “against his will”, while Inspector Nash refused to let him leave Matlock police station and threatened him with arrest if he attempted to do so.
- To date, Inspector Nash has failed to apologise to Mr Clark and in all the circumstances, the arrest of Mr Clark was arbitrary and oppressive.
When I notified Derbyshire Constabulary of Mr Clark’s intentions to issue and serve Court proceedings, their legal team put forward an increased offer of settlement which was later accepted by Mr Clark.