Mr Matthew McConville at Irvings Law has successfully represented a British Accountant (named for the purposes of this Case Report as “Mrs L”) in an action for compensation against the Metropolitan Police Force (“the Police”) following their inaccurate recording of her nationality and occupation.
In 2014, Mrs L became involved in a neighbour dispute. The Police subsequently allocated PC Borges as the Police Officer in charge of the said case / investigation. On or about the 8th April 2015, PC Borges interviewed Mrs L under caution. During that said interview, Mrs L stated, “for crying out loud, I am a British citizen…”. Shortly thereafter, PC Borges recorded on CRIS report 3807059/15 that Mrs L’s nationality was Nigerian and that she was unemployed; this was incorrect as Mrs L is in fact British and was an Accountant. Mrs L discovered this said inaccuracy following a Subject Access Request that she made to the Police after this interview took place out of curiosity that she felt discriminated against by PC Borges.
On or around the 23rd July 2015, Mrs L then lodged a complaint against PC Borges and the resulting investigation found that “…as to (Mrs L’s) nationality, PC Borges admits that she put in Nigerian as (Mrs L) made reference to travelling regularly to Nigeria and as she is black, this assumption was made”. Following receipt of this investigation report, Mrs L appealed to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC); now known as the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) as despite this finding, her complaints were not upheld by the Police. Thankfully, on the 9th November 2015, the IPCC upheld Mrs L’s appeal and directed the Police to reinvestigate her complaint.
In the course of this said re-investigation, PC Borges provided an account. PC Borges conceded that “…(Mrs L’s) nationality was something of an assumption on her behalf. This was based in part due to the fact that (Mrs L) is a dark-skinned woman…”. This section of the report concluded by stating, “it is clear that (Mrs L) is unhappy with these two pieces of information being listed on a police report. I shall unsure that both of these inaccuracies are changed to reflect the truth regarding (Mrs L’s) occupation and ethnicity”. Following this finding, it was concluded that PC Borges had a case to answer for misconduct in relation to the inaccurate recording of Mrs L’s nationality and occupation and that management action was necessary.
As Mrs L believed that this finding was inadequate, she appealed this finding to the IOPC and they upheld her appeal once more. In its response dated the 15th March 2018, the IOPC found that “there is creditable evidence available to indicate that the Officer may have breached the Standard of Professional Behaviour relating to equality and diversity. PC Borges admits that she made an assumption about (Mrs L’s) nationality because (Mrs L) is a dark skinned woman and had been told that (Mrs L) spends a lot of time in Nigeria”. The IOPC concluded that the management action taken by the Police was inadequate as it did not “appear to acknowledge or address the discrimination element of (Mrs L’s) complaint … information was available to PC Borges which meant that she should have been aware of both of (Mrs L’s) correct nationality and employment status. PC Borges completed the relevant form within hours on leading a lengthy voluntary interview with (Mrs L) and in it, (Mrs L) can be heard to state more than once that (Mrs L) is a British national and that (Mrs L) has a British passport. (Mrs L) can also be heard to say that she worked from home… the matter of unconscious bias has not been fully acknowledged by the investigation outcome report…”.
On the 30th March 2018, the Police challenged this recommendation by the IOPC and on the 8th June 2018, the IOPC reversed its decision stating that PC Borges should be given further management action and training that should consider the discriminatory nature of the allegation, the impact on Mrs L and unconscious bias.
Following the above-mentioned actions of PC Borges, Mrs L (still without legal representation at the time) issued a claim for compensation at Croydon County Court. Then, the Police’s Solicitors (Plexus Law) decided to use this against Mrs L by making an application to strike out her claim. Given this, Mrs L then found Mr McConville to represent her and he offered no win, no fee terms (as he does to all his client) to her without hesitation.
Despite Mr McConville reasonably requesting Plexus Law (on behalf of the Police) to withdraw their application given that Mrs L is now instructed by specialist Solicitors, the Police instructed Plexus Law to run their strike out application to a contested hearing. As expected, the Court dismissed the Police’s application to strike out Mrs L’s claim and instead, Mrs L was allowed to amend her case to be properly put with Mr McConville’s expertise.
Mr McConville amended Mrs L’s case to allege that the Police had breached their duty under the Data Protection Act 1998 (as the said acts were performed prior to the introduction of GDPR) as Mrs L’s personal data was not recorded accurately. Further, Mr McConville alleged that the Police had breached Mrs L’s Human Rights on the grounds that the Police’s inaccuracies were performed on the sole basis of discrimination.
In response to this and although the Police surprisingly denied liability, they also stated within their Defence that ‘it is admitted that information relating to (Mrs L’s) nationality and occupation on the CRIS report were inaccurate’. Following receipt of the Police’s Defence, Mrs L followed Mr McConville’s advice in making an offer to settle her claim in the sum of £3,000.00.
Rather than engaging with Mrs L, the Police decided to still defend her case until it reached the stage of disclosure of evidence between the parties. Following Mrs L’s disclosure of her Birth Certificate (confirming that she is British), her qualifications and tax returns (confirming her occupation as an Accountant). The Police made Mrs L an offer of £1,500.00 in full and final settlement. In response and again following Mr McConville’s advice, Mrs L rejected this offer from the Police and made a revised offer to settle her claim in the sum of £2,500.00 which was accepted by the Police a few days later.