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This is the case of an Essex man wrongly kept in a police cell from Christmas Day Until the 27th December on his brother’s warrant. Mr A (a client of Mr Matthew McConville at Irvings Law) has a brother named for the purposes of this case report as Mr B. On Christmas Day 2018, Mr B was the subject of a warrant for his arrest relating to a breach of a suspended sentence order. As indicated in Mr A’s PNC, he only had one conviction, namely, a conviction on the 26th November 2018 for theft, for which he received a 12 month conditional discharge. Mr A at no point had been given a suspended sentence whereas Mr B had.

On 25th December 2018, Essex Police received a telephone call from a neighbour of Mr A, who was concerned for his behaviour. Mr A unfortunately suffers with mental ill-health and has diagnoses of schizophrenia, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, and anxiety. PC Major of Essex Police subsequently attended. On PC Major’s arrival, Mr A stated to PC Major that he was trying to evacuate residents as he believed the building was falling down due to there being people in the walls.  Part way through giving that explanation for his actions, Mr A began to have a conversation with a cardboard box and various other imagined objects and people. Mr A also stated to PC Major that he had recently been released from the mental health unit at Basildon Hospital. Notwithstanding the seriousness of Mr A’s presentation and evident ill-health, PC Major did not consider taking him to a place of safety or taking any other steps towards Mr A being provided with health care. Instead, PC Major conducted a PNC check and noted that Mr A used the alias Mr B and that there was a warrant for the arrest of Mr B.

At approximately 17:34hrs, PC Major detained Mr A purportedly pursuant to the extant warrant for Mr B. Mr A was taken to Basildon Custody Suite and was later strip searched due to his clear and obvious mental ill-health issues. Mr A remained in custody at Basildon Custody Suite until the morning of 27th December 2018 when he was transferred to Blackfriars Crown Court.  At the Crown Court, it was recognised that the warrant related to Mr B rather than Mr A, and accordingly he was released. In total, Mr A was imprisoned for a period of approximately one day and 17 hours.

Upon receipt of instructions to act, Mr McConville made assessments of Mr A’s claim and thereafter sent a Letter of Claim to Essex Police’s legal team for False Imprisonment given that a warrant for the arrest of Mr B cannot provide any lawful basis for the imprisonment of Mr A and Assault/Battery given that Mr A’s removal of his clothes was without any lawful justification. In addition, Mr McConville also claimed for Aggravated and Exemplary Damages given that no Essex Police Officers showed any reasonable consideration or concern for Mr A’s mental ill-health which ought reasonably have been prioritised above the warrant which it was suspected may relate to Mr A and Mr A’s clothes were forcibly removed in an experience that was acutely humiliating and distressing.

Subsequently, Essex Police’s legal team acknowledged Mr A’s claim and in response to the presented claim, they attempted to suggest that there was reasonable suspicion to suspect that Mr A was in fact Mr B for the purposes of the above-mentioned warrant. Mr McConville was of the strong position that Mr A’s case was clear, when there is a warrant, it is the warrant itself which provides the Police with the lawful authority to arrest/detain a person for the purpose of bringing them before the Court. A warrant issued in respect ‘Person A’ cannot therefore provide any lawful authority for the imprisonment of ‘Person B’. Even if this position is wrong (which it isn’t), Mr McConville argues that even on the Essex Police’s account, there were no reasonable grounds to suspect that Mr A was subject of a warrant as the Court would have been aware of the person’s real name rather than an alias and the Custody Sergeant must have had access to Mr A’s PNC when he was presented to him. Upon the Mr A’s PNC, this would have shown that he had a conviction from 26th November 2018 for Theft where he received a conditional discharge by South Essex Magistrates Court. It would have been inexplicable that he was arrested for breaching a suspended sentence order issued by Basildon Crown Court when no record of any such sentence was on his PNC. Further, the Custody Sergeant could have accessed Mr B’s PNC and he then would have seen such a sentence.

To Mr McConville dismay, Essex Police’s legal team continued to deny liability and this left Mr A with no other option but to issue and serve Court proceedings which he did. Following service of Court proceedings, Essex Police’s legal team then instructed Solicitors (DAC Beachcroft) to represent them. DAC Beachcroft requested a 28-day extension to provide the Police’s Defence to Mr A’s claim but Mr McConville only allowed an extra 7 days. Whilst the Defence was awaited, Mr A made a Part 36 offer to Essex Police in the sum of £10,000.00 in full and final settlement to his claim. Without responding to this said offer, DAC Beachcroft filed and served its Defence on behalf of Essex Police which was on the same basis as their above-mentioned denial. Mr McConville filed and served a formal Reply to the Police’s Defence again highlighting how weak the Police’s case was and not long after, DAC Beachcroft made an offer of £5,000.00 (plus reasonable costs) on behalf of the Police in full and final settlement of Mr A’s claim. After consideration, Mr A instructed Mr McConville to accept the same but instead, Mr McConville engaged in further without prejudice discussions with DAC Beachcroft which resulted in them settling Mr A’s matter for an increased sum of £7,500.00 in full and final settlement.

Author: Matthew McConville