Mr Matthew McConville, Head of Irvings Law’s specialist Actions Against the Police Department, has successfully represented Mr Timothy Johnson in a claim for compensation against West Mercia Police.
Mr Johnson’s ex-wife contacted West Mercia Police concerned for his wellbeing which culminated in Mr Johnson being invited into Redditch Police Station for a “safe and well check”. Mr Johnson accepted such an invitation and after being assessed, he was deemed at no risk but nonetheless arrested on suspicion of having made threats to kill; Mr Johnson was subsequently conveyed to Kidderminster Police Station. Mr Johnson was then remanded in Police custody until he was brought before the Redditch Magistrates’ Court where he was released on bail with conditions not to contact by any means whatsoever his ex-wife. Later that same day, Mr Johnson’s ex-wife contacted West Mercia Police to report that Mr Johnson had sent her a text message saying that he was going to kill himself so Police Officers attended Mr Johnson’s address; all captured on body worn video footage.
When the Police Officers arrived, Mr Johnson was found in his living room, sat on the sofa talking on his mobile telephone. Mr Johnson had put up a step ladder and tied a noose to one of his ceiling beams; he also had prepared a suicide letter. Mr Johnson was visibly distressed and crying; he had also consumed a significant amount of tablets and brandy. Despite some attending Police Officers trying to calm Mr Johnson , Constable Herlihy arrested Mr Johnson citing breach of bail conditions and immediately reached for his handcuffs. Constable Herlihy walked straight over to Mr Johnson who was still seated and started to apply handcuffs. Distress and intoxicated Mr Johnson recoiled and as soon as he did, Constable Herlihy violently and aggressively lunged at Mr Johnson, grabbing him and putting him in a headlock. Mr Johnson was then dragged from the sofa and became face down on the floor with Constable Herlihy on top of him. Using handcuffs, Mr Johnson was then struck to the top of his head before Mr Johnson was brought to his feet and taken to the same Police Station he was taken the day before. Despite his state and injuries, Mr Johnson was put into a Police cell before being taken to the hospital the next day. When Mr Johnson returned from the hospital some many hours later, he returned to the same Police Station and was interviewed. The next day, Mr Johnson was again to the same Court as previously and released with no further action given what he went through.
West Mercia Police’s Professional Standards Department investigated the actions of Constable Herlihy and concluded that he had a case to answer for misconduct in respect of his treatment of Mr Johnson. After appealing and being successful with the IOPC that this Constable Herlihy should have instead faced a public gross misconduct hearing instead, West Mercia Police held a meeting with Mr Johnson and Constable Herlihy which concluded that he had used excessive force and so was issued a final written warning. To make everything worse and during the course of Mr Johnson’s attendance at this meeting, Mr Johnson was served a hot drink in a mug bearing the slogan “may the force be with you”. After this meeting, Constable Herlihy attempted to appeal the finding but was unsuccessful in doing so.
During the Professional Standards investigation, Mr Johnson approached specialist Actions Against the Police Solicitors, Irvings Law, for assistance. Mr McConville immediately acknowledged that what happened to Mr Johnson was completely wrong and without hesitation, offered to act for him by way of “no win, no fee”. After lodging an appeal to the IOPC, attending the misconduct meeting with Mr Johnson and then obtaining all documentation, information and footage from West Mercia Police, Mr McConville alleged that the force used upon Mr Johnson was excessive causing physical and psychological injury as well as Constable Herlihy abusing his powers as a Police Officer too. Quite bizarrely and despite the finding of their own Professional Standards Department, West Mercia Police’s legal department denied liability which forced Mr Johnson to instruct Mr McConville issue and serve expensive Court proceedings.
After serving his claim, West Mercia Police agreed to pay Mr Johnson £37,500.00 plus the payment of his legal costs. Whilst the case should never have taken this long to reach a conclusion, we and Mr Johnson are very pleased that West Mercia Police finally saw sense.