Head of the Actions Against the Police Department at Irvings Law, Mr Matthew McConville, has successfully represented a family in a civil claim for compensation against Humberside Police after the father was allegedly falsely imprisoned and this infringed upon the family life of the people whom he lived with. Due to the sensitivity of the matter, the family wish to remain anonymous for the purposes of this article.
In November 2018, the father of the family posted on the Facebook page of Hull Daily Mail Online a photograph taken by acclaimed American photographer Nan Goldin entitled ‘Edda and Klara belly-dancing, Berlin (1998)’. The photograph has been exhibited throughout the world and was purchased, as part of a larger installation, by Sir Elton John in 1999. The photograph attracted media attention in 2007 when it was taken from Gateshead’s Baltic gallery by Northumbria Police but was later considered by the Crown Prosecution Service as not indecent. The photograph had, in fact, been considered by the CPS on an earlier occasion and was deemed not indecent following an exhibition at the Saatchi gallery in London in 2001. The photograph, and its history, is widely published online. In December 2018, the Police received a National Crime Agency intelligence referral regarding the photograph posted by the father of the family and a Crime Report was created and in January 2019, it was noted upon the same that there were currently no safeguarding issues in respect of the posting of the photograph.
Despite this, in June 2019, an Investigation Plan was devised identifying the father as the main suspect in the investigation. It was documented by the Investigating Officer that ‘…I intend to deal with this matter with a common sense approach and if agreeable and consents to a search with consent I will then do so, seize devices cover safeguarding and complete a voluntary interview at Grimsby police station’. Later that month, the father was at work when he was contacted by his wife who said that Police Officers were at the house and wanted to speak with him. Without hesitation, the father spoke with one of the officers, explained that he was at work and agreed with the officer that he would be home in 45 minutes. The father returned home within the agreed time but when he arrived, the officers had left but in any event, the father then decided to remain at home. Later that day, a further two police officers attended the father’s address and they were invited inside as the father was entirely cooperative and asked the officers how he could assist even offering the said officers a cup of tea. After another two police officers arrived at the address, the father was bizarrely informed that he was under arrest, placed in handcuffs and taken by police car to Grimsby Police Station all of which was witnessed by his family.
In his police interview, the father explained that he had posted a photograph on the Hull Daily Mail Facebook page in relation to an article about Elton John which was deemed not to be indecent by the CPS in order to express his disapproval regarding Elton John’s ownership of the photograph. The father added that he had used a Google search to locate the image which had been reproduced in a mainstream media article and asked the officers if they had seen the photograph before arresting him and they confirmed that they had not. During the course of the interview, the father was also asked extremely personal questions regarding his sexuality, his marriage and his sex life before later being released from custody under investigation after being given the details of organisations that offer advice to people with a sexual interest in children. To make matters worse, the Police then informed Children Social Care about the father’s arrest and that they believe they may be at risk of harm.
Subsequently, two social workers attended the family home and the father was told to ‘pack a bag’ and to leave and if he didn’t agree, his ‘children would be taken’. The father again explained that the photograph that he had posted online was lawful and that he posted it as part of debate about whether it should be in the public domain but was told that ‘it is not your position to expose paedophiles, it can destroy your entire family.’ The father was told that he was not to have any contact with any of his children and this included that he must not speak to them, even if he saw them in the street. As such, the father packed a bag and left the family home which was witness by his wife and three of his children. With nowhere to go, the father spent the night in his work van and subsequent nights with other members of the family and friends which lasted for six days. Throughout this period, the father received no contact from the Police or Children Social Care and on one occasion during this period, he was driving when he passed one of his children on the pavement who waved at him but due to the instructions of Children Social Care, he felt compelled to ignore his child.
After the six days, the father made contact with the Investigating Officer to explain, again, that the image he had posted was part of an art collection owned by Elton John which had been deemed not to be indecent by the CPS and could be found online by Googling ‘Klara and Edda Saatchi Museum’. After this call, the Crime Report was updated by the Investigating Officer to state that ‘I have completed some research on the Internet regarding this matter and it is well publicised. Seized Elton artwork not indecent … I have discussed these matters with [redacted] of the CPS today as currently safeguarding measures are in place in relation to [redacted]’s own children which now on the face of it may be unnecessary. [redacted] has no previous convictions. I do not believe it is now reasonable or fair to continue with the examination of devices that were recovered and it now transpires the image he had shared was not of an illegal nature and I suggest this matter is now considered for no crime and filed’. The father’s wife was then contacted by Children Social Care and was told that the father may now return home and he was finally reunited with his family.
After this, the father lodged a detailed complaint with the Police stating that he had been unable to work since his arrest and removal from the family home due to stress and anxiety as he felt as though that he could no longer be around children for fear of being labelled a paedophile. In addition, the father’s wife and children had not really eaten or slept since the incident and the said children had been crying at school. Nearly a year later, the father’s complaint was not upheld on the basis that the Police deemed his arrest and interaction with Children Social Care as lawful and so then sought expert legal advice to take matters further. Without hesitation, the father and his family contacted Irvings Law, national specialist Actions Against the Police law firm and the Head of this Department, Mr Matthew McConville, offered the family no win, no fee terms without hesitation.
Once a retainer was signed, Mr McConville alleged that the father’s arrest was unlawful, that he was assaulted and that he was falsely imprisoned. Further, the seizure of the items above amounted to wrongful interference with his property and that compensation under the Data Protection Act was sought arising from the failure to ensure that the information provided by the Police to Children Social Care was accurate and / or the failure to ensure that incorrect information was rectified. In addition, the family as a whole claimed that the Police failed to protect and have respect for their private and family life. Mr McConville alleged that it was not reasonable for the arresting officers to suspect that any offence had been committed having regard to the information available at the time of arrest and that the image had been seen nor had a description of the image been noted on the Crime Report. Further, the Investigation Plan as devised by the Investigating Officer to complete a search, with consent, and conduct a voluntary interview with the father whom was entirely cooperative with the officers when they attended and would, if asked, have consented to a search of his property and would have agreed to a voluntary interview. Additionally, the image had been reported to the Police six months before the father’s arrest and safeguarding issues were identified upon the same where the father attended home when asked and remained there until officers came back. This is not to mention that as a consequence of an unlawful arrest, any touching constitutes an assault/battery and any property seizure was unlawful too. As a result of all this as well as inaccurate information being provided to Children Social Care and the interference in the family’s private life, the father suffered an adjustment disorder, mixed anxiety and depressive reaction to what happened to him which has also made him distrustful towards the Police and makes him experience nervousness when in contact with young children. The father is likely to have these thoughts and feeling for between two to five years with the help of recommended therapy too.
Due to the failure to respond to the family’s claim in accordance with the rules, Mr McConville served proceedings upon the Police whom in response, robustly denied liability and sought to strike out the presented claims. When challenged by Mr McConville, the Police then agreed to meet with the family in a settlement meeting which resulted in the family’s claims being settled for over £10,000.00 plus their legal costs and an apology. After the result, Mr McConville stated that it goes without saying that our clients (and the public in general) have the right to expect integrity in the police service and should have confidence in police officers to act in a professional manner. Unfortunately, there has been a definite shortfall in the service that this family have received from Humberside Police in this incident and there are grave concerns over how it has been dealt with as a whole. Although this should never have occurred in the first place and neither should the family of had to issue Court proceedings to seek the appropriate redress that they deserve, we welcome the Force’s willingness to settle without the need of attending an expensive trial where the public purse would be on the line. We at Irvings Law will continue to represent those across the country whom have been failed by the police and their officers for the recourse that they are entitled to just like this family here so if you have been affected by any police misconduct, please contact us via our website and we may be able to help you too.
Read more: Hull Daily Mail