Head of the Actions Against the Police Department at Irvings Law, Mr Matthew McConville, has successfully represented a client (Mr Mohamed Warsame) against the Metropolitan Police in a claim for false imprisonment, associated assault, an intentional infliction of injury and malicious prosecution.
In 2019, Mr Warsame drove his daughter to nursery and after this, he was intending to go and visit his mother-in-law. Unfortunately, on the way, he drove over some glass in the road. Mr Warsame then put on his vehicle’s hazard lights and looked at his tyre which looked a bit deflated. Due to this, Mr Warsame then telephoned his local garage and explained what had happened and he arranged to go immediately to the said garage without going to see his mother-in-law. The said garage was about 5 minutes away from Mr Warsame’s location.
On his way to the said garage, Mr Warsame kept on his said hazard lights and drove very slowly. During this, he was followed by Police Officers from the Metropolitan Police Force. When Mr Warsame was near to the said garage that he had telephoned moments earlier, he was instructed by the said Police Officers to pull over and he did so immediately. After being instructed to pull over which was completed without hesitation, Mr Warsame stayed in his car before being approached by PC Brooke who approached the passenger side of his vehicle and when arrived, Mr Warsame lowered the said passenger window. PC Brooke then asked Mr Warsame to turn off the vehicle engine and provide the keys and Mr Warsame again complied with this instruction without any delay whatsoever. After this, Mr Warsame then got out of his vehicle again as requested by PC Brooke.
At this stage, Mr Warsame saw a total of three Police Officers in attendance; PC Brooke, PC Dhillon and PC Private. Mr Warsame was then asked for his name and for some identification. Mr Warsame gave his name again without hesitation and also provided his foreign drivers licence which had his full name and date of birth upon as well as a bank card which confirmed his name upon too. Then, suddenly and without any further dialog, Mr Warsame was told that he was under arrest and immediately placed in handcuffs to his rear by PC Brooke and was then told that he was a person that they were looking for. Mr Warsame was totally confused with this suggestion.
Mr Warsame then remained stood on the pavement with PC Brooke next to him who was holding his right arm whilst he was handcuffed as members of the public were watching what was going on. Mr Warsame felt embarrassed and like he was a criminal even though he had done absolutely nothing wrong. Further, Mr Warsame did not need to be handcuffed given his compliance before arrest and neither was there any need for PC Brooke to continually hold him where he was because he could not evade given that he was in handcuffs and also that his car keys were in the possession of PC Brooke himself not to mention his care having a deflated tyre.
After 20 minutes or so, PC Private then approached Mr Warsame and PC Brooke and very surprisingly confirmed that a Home Office check was now going to be undertaken where Mr Warsame was asked very intrusive questions such as how long he had lived in the UK, whether he has a UK Passport and what is his nationality. Mr Warsame confirmed that he was born in Somalia and moved to Denmark in 1994 before then moving to the UK in 2003; Mr Warsame is living in the UK perfectly legally. There was no suggestion that he was not other than PC Private’s own stereotypical view of Mr Warsame which can only be drawn to race. The said Home Office check was then completed about 20 minutes later and after this, Mr Warsame received a pat down search before his handcuffs were taken off him.
It was at this stage that Mr Warsame was told that he was de-arrested as it was explained to him that they thought that he was connected with a theft but it was a mistake in identification. Further, it was confirmed to Mr Warsame that the Home Office had confirmed that he was in fact legally living in the UK. Due to these findings, Mr Warsame believed that he could then leave the scene and he then made his way to the driver side of his vehicle but he remembered that PC Brooke still had his car keys so he stopped at the said driver door of the said vehicle. In response to Mr Warsame doing this, PC Brooke asked Mr Warsame where he was going because his tyre was now significantly deflated and so started to complete the requisite paperwork for a road traffic offence being committed by Mr Warsame.
Mr Warsame challenged the said offence that he was being told that he had committed and this is when an altercation with PC Dhillon then transpired. During the altercation between PC Dhillon and Mr Warsame, PC Dhillon threatened Mr Warsame by inviting him away from the scene to fight. This is evidenced by the fact that PC Dhillon actually turned off his body worn camera and he then walked over to where he wanted to fulfil his threat and during the same, he also unbuckled his belt. There was no reason whatsoever for PC Dhillon to resort to this conduct and it is wholly reasonable to suggest that Mr Warsame felt exceptionally threatened by PC Dhillon particularly as he was an isolated black man in the company of three white and fully trained Police Officers with weapons. Thankfully, PC Brooke finished the paperwork that he was completing and gave the keys back to Mr Warsame before he then quickly got into his car and drove away without engaging any further with anyone else.
Mr Warsame was relieved to get away from such a situation but is still confused as to how he was allowed to drive away particularly given the attending Police Officer’s position that he had committed a road traffic offence by driving a deflated tyre but yet they still allowed him to drive away. Mr Warsame then made his way sharply to the garage that he was intending to go to before being stopped and he stayed there whilst his tyre was fixed. After this, Mr Warsame went to his mother-in-law’s house as originally planned and told her what had happened; staying there until it was time to pick his daughter up from nursery. After this, Mr Warsame tried to deal with the rest of the day at home.
Later that night, Mr Warsame lodged a complaint via the Metropolitan Police Force’s website to their Professional Standards Department in regards to what had happened to him earlier in the day. After receipt of this complaint, Mr Warsame was invited to the Police Station to discuss the same but understandably, he did not feel comfortable or safe to do so, so he instead instructed Mr McConville at Irvings Law to deal with his complaint for him. Upon receipt of this said instruction from Mr Warsame, Mr McConville notified the Metropolitan Police Force that Mr Warsame’s complaint was now being taken over by him and Irvings Law and also lodged a subject access request for disclosure and preservation of information surrounding Mr Warsame’s arrest.
When the Metropolitan Police received communication from Mr McConville, they issued a conditional offer of a fixed penalty to Mr Warsame. In response, Mr McConville wrote to the Metropolitan Police that if the charge was not dropped then it would be fully contested at Court and if successful in Criminal Defence, Mr Warsame would bring a malicious prosecution claim against them thereafter as a result. The said representations made by Mr McConville on behalf of Mr Warsame were simply because the charge against Mr Warsame was malicious given the above circumstances and also the said conditional offer of fixed penalty came six weeks after the incident took place and only when he had instructed specialist Solicitors to represent him. The Metropolitan Police surprisingly refused to cancel the fixed penalty notice and so Mr Warsame was forced to instruct other Criminal Defence Solicitors on a private basis which later resulted in a postal charge being received by Mr Warsame.
As expected, Mr Warsame entered a not guilty plea in respect of the malicious charge that had been brought against him by the Metropolitan Police and subsequently, the prosecution was dismissed against him as he was found not guilty at South East London Magistrates Court. Mr Warsame’s version of events was believed by the Court ahead of the said Officers’ accounts and they did not want to talk to Mr Warsame about the vehicle but spent at least 30 minutes detaining him on other matters in which time the deflation of the tyre increased. For clarity and in summary, Mr Warsame’s answers to the attending Police Officers at the scene were consistent with his evidence at Court.
Following his not guilty finding, Mr Warsame’s complaint was then fully investigated in respect of allegations about the lawfulness of being stopped, if the applying of handcuffs was lawful and to determine if the actions of PC Dhillon were justified. The first two allegations were not upheld by the Metropolitan’s own Professional Standards Department whereas the third allegation was so. Rather than lodging an appeal to the said findings especially given the Metropolitan’s Data Protection Unit’s lack of adherence to Mr McConville’s request for information of the index incident, Mr Warsame decided against appealing and instead wanted to focus on the recommended misconduct meeting of PC Dhillon and his civil claim for compensation thereafter. The said misconduct meeting of PC Dhillon was held on 24th February 2020.
At the said misconduct meeting, it was confirmed by Inspector Sutherland (who was Chairing the said meeting) that PC Dhillon had fully accepted the finding against him. To evidence this further, PC Dhillon confirmed as follows:-
- That he accepts the finding and acknowledges that his behaviour should have been better.
- He apologised to Mr Warsame for his actions.
- He accepted the action taken was not the best option.
- He understands that he did not make the best choice.
- That he would have behaved differently in hindsight.
- That he made poor judgment and was not action to be taken in this isolated incident, and
- That he took this incident the wrong way.
These admissions by PC Dhillon were reiterated by his Police Federation representative in PC Dhillon’s mitigation of the finding against him. The said Police Federation representative confirmed that PC Dhillon allowed this situation to get the better of him which is not an excuse for his said actions. The said Police Federation representative also confirmed that following receipt of Mr Warsame’s complaint, he was informally given management and learning advice from his own line manager. Inspector Sutherland responded to this by confirming that this was the main reason why the misconduct meeting took place because the Metropolitan Police Force’s Professional Standards Department deemed that this action was not appropriate and further sanctions were necessary for PC Dhillon.
Inspector Sutherland determined that PC Dhillon would be given a written warning as he had a deliberate none adherence to body worn video protocols to try and hide the actions that he was trying to fulfil. The said Inspector also mentioned that the escalation of this incident came from PC Dhillon and as a result of his actions, he was to go on a refreshing body worn video training and he would also be subject to random spot checks for the next 3-6 months in regards to all his stop and searches which will be reviewed by his line manager thereafter. The said Inspector also made reference that PC Dhillon was attempting to seek support from his colleagues and then he turned off his body worn video but thankfully PC Private still recorded events which captured the threats that PC Dhillon was willing to fulfil against Mr Warsame. Inspector Sutherland also criticised PC Dhillon in respect of trying to justify his actions because he suggested in response to Mr Warsame’s complaint that Mr Warsame was threatening towards him instead. Inspector Sutherland was of the opinion that the escalation happened and then those threats by Mr Warsame were made and it was wholly reasonable for Mr Warsame to feel the way that he did and that PC Dhillon specifically should not have acted in the way that he did by bringing the Metropolitan Police Force into disrepute.
When Mr Warsame instructed Mr McConville, Mr McConville offered no win, no fee terms without hesitation. Once the said criminal and complaint investigations were completed, Mr McConville then advised Mr Warsame to lodge a formal Letter of Claim which he did indeed to do alleging false imprisonment, associated assaulted, an intention infliction of injury and a malicious prosecution. This was because in Mr McConville’s view, it is abundantly clear that there was no need to handcuff Mr Warsame in the first place. The attending Police Officers followed Mr Warsame due to his said flat tyre and when they approached him, he was fully compliant with their instructions. Mr Warsame pulled over, turned off his vehicle engine and provided the keys to PC Brooke. Given that Mr Warsame was unable to drive the car away by reason of not having the keys but also due to the flat tyre, there was no risk of him ever evading. Despite this, Mr Warsame was placed in handcuffs in full view of members of the public.
Although it may be apparent that there was reasonable suspicion to suspect Mr Warsame of committing a road traffic offence in regards to the flat tyre, there was no necessity to place him in handcuffs at the roadside given his compliant conduct. Despite the suspicion about the tyre, there is strong argument to suggest that Mr Warsame’s detention was not under reasonable suspicion because the attending Police Officers were trying to deal with other matters which they say related to Mr Warsame when that was not the case. This resulted in Mr Warsame being mistaken in identity and also resulted in the attending Police Officers maliciously and stereotypically then believing that Mr Warsame was residing in the UK illegally simply from the colour of his skin. In any event, Mr Warsame’s detention in handcuffs was arguably without reasonable suspicion of any offence being committed and at the very least was not necessary in the circumstances as described above.
This situation and attendance by the said Police Officers was in regards to a road traffic offence which then transpired into a mistaken identity allegation and a residence issue. Mr Warsame was fully compliant throughout all of the above situation and the escalation of the situation was solely down to the said attending Police Officers. This said escalation is evidenced by PC Dhillon’s conduct towards Mr Warsame which he has later accepted was wrong whereby he received a written warning after his intentional inflicting of harm threat.
As a final point, Mr Warsame was also maliciously prosecuted following this incident and Mr McConville gave the Metropolitan Police Force the opportunity to withdraw the charge that was being maliciously brought against Mr Warsame given the length of time that had transpired between the alleged offence being committed and serving of the conditional offer of fixed penalty. Mr McConville alleged that this was done simply to try and justify the said attending Police Officer’s unlawful actions as mentioned above and was in complete response to him instructing Mr McConville at Irvings Law to deal with his complaint. Thankfully, Mr Warsame was later exonerated at Court.
As a result, Mr Warsame suffered psychologically from what had happened along with loss of liberty. Further, Mr Warsame endured additional humiliation and suffering following what happened but also the Metropolitan Police Force’s complete disregard to his request for information that he was entitled to receive which was only later provided once Mr McConville complained to the independent data protection body; the ICO whom supported him.
In response to the claim, the Metropolitan Police Force robustly denied liability which left Mr Warsame with no other option but to prepare to issue Court proceedings. However, their legal team wanted to settle when Mr McConville notified them of Mr Warsame’s intention. Without issuing Court proceedings, the parties engaged in without prejudice negotiations as to settlement which culminated in Mr Warsame settling his case for £8,500.00 plus his legal costs.
Read article on MyLondon: https://www.mylondon.news/news/south-london-news/a-police-officer-took-belt-23642454