Dozens of police forces have concluded extrajudicial settlements totaling more than GBP 30 million over the past four years, which, according to the latest data, have been identified as the “iceberg peak” for people at the receiving end of the illegal police. behavior.
Payments range from small amounts for loss of property or £ 100 paid by Sussex police for “embarrassment and humiliation” to hundreds of thousands of pounds paid for unlawful arrests, records appearing under the Freedom of Information Act.
The metropolitan police were responsible for the left proportion of settlements (GBP 19.6 million). Of this, the force paid GBP 7.9 million to settle 479 claims classified as ‘bad’.
FOI figures did not include the large costs of legal representation, which police forces also had to cover, which further increases them.
In an environment of increased control of police behavior, experts said that disclosures indicate inconsistent standards and disproportionate accountability mechanisms.
Mark Stephens, a lawyer for former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, who met $ 500,000 in indemnity after investigating allegations of VIP pedophile ring allegations, warned that the figures revealed very different standards in the treatment of police forces. complaints, and some forces seem to be fighting the bitter end even in severe cases.
“The metropolitan police are known to select the battles they will win and settle the cases they know will lose, with a small gap between them,” said Stephens of Howard Kennedy LLP.
“Then, when you use a force like Sussex, they will fight all the bitter end, they will bear enormous legal costs – a total loss of money because the victim wants compensation and settlement, while the only ones who get are lawyers.
“Tell the client that he is going to do this, and we know this particular police force is acting in such a ridiculous way… as a result, we are likely to issue a document that is likely to cost up to £ 10,000 for a fee.
“So, for each issue, there is £ 10,000 because they have not started sensible and meaningful negotiations, nor have they started mediation or dispute resolution, which could have prevented legal costs.”
Waqas Tufail, a lecturer in forensic science at Leeds Beckett University and co-founder of the Northern Police Monitoring Project (NPMP), stated that existing accountability mechanisms, either internally within the police forces or the mechanisms of the Independent Police Office (IOPC). , apparently not effective enough or robust enough.
“Questions should now be raised to what extent the police are using redress to protect their reputation and protect officers who may have misused police powers,” he added.
Of the other 32 UK police forces that provided data, additional information was on payouts. Over the past four years, the Thames Valley police have paid more than GBP 800 000, which included more than GBP 300 000 in 60 cases classified as ‘punishment for liberty / reputation’ after arrests. The biggest payouts in this category were one for GBP 30,000 and three for GBP 20,000.
Like other forces, Thames Valley’s dogs were pinched by five payouts, which last year included two £ 10,000. Sussex has paid £ 878,777 over the past four years, including one payment of £ 128,369 for negligence and one £ 5,500 for a data protection failure. Another was seven for false imprisonment, one for GBP 15 000 and another for GBP 13 500.
GBP 63 000 paid by Gwent police over the last four years included a payment of GBP 10 000 after the breach of the Data Protection Act. GBP 420 000 for police Scotland included cases such as GBP 2 000 for the ‘alleged non-investigation’ and GBP 12 000 for the ‘alleged use of excessive force’.
Some forces refused to disclose their out-of-court settlement data in response to the Guardian’s request by claiming that it would be too costly or, in the case of the police in the Greater Manchester, not providing any reason why it could not. Cambridgeshire constabulary said they could not do this because they “outsourced” their legal team.
Joanna Gilmore, an academic at the University of York and co-founder of the NPMP, stated that the overall figures “are likely to be the tip of the iceberg for those who were” behaviors “at the end of the illegal police.
She added that it was increasingly difficult to obtain access to legal aid to bring an action against the police and that it was difficult to obtain access to specialized legal advice, especially outside London.
“The reality is that most people experiencing illicit police behavior do not file a civil action against the police,” said Gilmore, whose own research in protest cases has shown that claims can take years to process.
Met did not respond to the comment request.
The Sussex Police said: “Any complaint received by the Sussex Police, regardless of its value and circumstances, is fully and objectively investigated by a dedicated civil claims team.
“Where there is responsibility, we work with applicants to ensure that their claim is settled fairly and as quickly as possible, and also to ensure that the public purse is protected from inadequate, inadequate and sometimes false claims. This often does not require the intervention of the courts, as shown in the figures for 2016-2019 – 21 cases resolved in court, compared to 332 external cases.
“If there is no liability, it is right and correct that it should be defended thoroughly to ensure that only those receivables that are material are paid at the taxpayer’s expense.”
Other forces that have invested heavily in out-of-court settlements since early 2016 included laboratory constabulary (GBP 1.96 million), West Midlands police (GBP 1.7 million) and Warwickshire (GBP 1.19 million).