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Background

Miss Kayleigh Littlemore, Solicitor within Irvings Law’s Action Against the Police Team, has successfully represented Mr X in bringing an action against Nottingham Police for False Imprisonment and Assault for an incident whereby he was wrongfully arrested and detained for breaching Covid-19 Regulations; an apparent offence which occurred whilst he was lawfully out of his home, on his way to the shop to buy food.

The Case

At around 9pm on 14th February 2021, Mr X decided to walk to his nearby shop to buy bread. Even though this was during the national lockdown, as per guidelines, the Claimant was legally allowed out of his property as he was going to purchase food. Whilst on his way to the shop, he noticed Nottingham Police Officers engaged in a physical altercation with a naked man on the street. Mr X was startled by the level of force the officers were using on the male, as they appeared to be beating him. In fact, the situation had alarmed many locals as a crowd of concerned bystanders had begun to form.

Mr X was so shocked by the officer’s behaviour that he began to film the incident on his phone. As soon as he did so, one of the officers immediately turned to him (out of all the bystanders) and began to shout that ‘there is a national lockdown ongoing’. At this time, Mr X was out of his property for a lawful purpose and was over 4m away (double the acceptable social distancing guidance at the time) from the officers. Despite their issue being that Mr X was too close to them – so as to breach the proximity guidelines within the Covid regulations – one of the officers charged at Mr X, punched him in the face and arrested him for breaching said Covid regulations. Mr X was then thrown against a gate and handcuffed behind his back, before being placed inside a police car. After around 30 minutes of being left inside the car, one of the officers handed Mr X a Fixed Penalty Notice and released him.

Given that he was not guilty of breaching the regulations, Mr X refused the Fixed Penalty Notice and decided to defend his case in court.  However, soon after informing the court of his intention to do so, the Claimant received a notification confirming that the case against him had been discontinued; as there was no evidence against him.

Representation

Shortly after being released, Mr X approached Irvings Law for assistance with bringing an action in relation to how he was treated. After considering Mr X’s instructions, Miss Littlemore recognised that it was illogical to suggest that he had breached the Covid regulations as by the officer’s own admission, Mr X was four meters away from them in a public space – and there were other bystanders watching the incident unfold in the same space, who were not accused of the same. Miss Littlemore also recognised that it would not have been necessary to arrest and handcuff Mr X for an offence that could have been dealt with by a Fixed Penalty Notice only. As such, she acknowledged that what had happened to him was wrong, and agreed to act for him on “no win, no fee” terms.

Miss Littlemore was quick to request and obtain all available evidence from the police in order to conduct an analysis on the strength of the case. She was soon satisfied that the conduct of the police in this instance amounted to false imprisonment on the basis that the arrest was unlawful. Given that the arrest was unlawful, she also believed that the application of force to Mr X, would amount to an assault. As a result, Miss Littlemore submitted a detailed letter of claim to Nottingham Police alleging the above.

Resolution

After Nottingham Police received the letter of claim, they swiftly accepted responsibility for the matter and stated explicitly: “It is accepted that your client should not have been arrested (or detained) and that it was unreasonable for handcuffs to be placed upon him in the circumstances”. They made Mr X an offer to settle his case for £1600 compensation plus payment of his legal costs, which he accepted shortly after receipt.

Author: Kayleigh Littlemore