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Actions against the police
When dealing with the public, the police are expected to maintain strict professional standards to ensure your safety and that they are working within the law. If you believe the police have treated you in a way that breaks the law or professional standards, we can help you take action to protect your rights, seek redress and secure compensation where appropriate.
Our civil liberties solicitors have been helping people all over the UK to take action against the police for over 30 years in relation to a wide variety of issues. If you have been the victim of false imprisonment, assault by a police officer, or need to bring a claim under the Human Rights Act or any other type of police misconduct, we can help put things right.
No matter who you are, you deserve to be treated fairly by the police. Our experience and expertise in this area, acquired over many years of successful actions against the police, means we can offer practical, effective legal advice and representation giving you the best chance of a positive outcome.
When you contact us for help taking action against the police, we will:
- Review your situation with you and give a realistic assessment of the strength of your case.
- Share our recommendations for how to proceed and the likely timescale involved in pursuing your complaint or claim.
- Discuss whether you are likely to be eligible for Legal Aid to help fund your case and explain how this type of funding works.
- Support and guide you through the entire process of making a complaint, whether directly to the police, through the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) or via civil action.
- Keep you informed every step of the way, so you always know what is going on and can have complete confidence in the way your case is being handled.
To start an action against the police or find out more about how we can help you, call 0113 245 8549 or use the contact form on the right to ask a question.
How our solicitors can help you take legal action against the police
If you believe you have grounds for a complaint or civil action against the police, or another state body, such as the prison service, our experienced lawyers can help you decide how to proceed, then support and represent you through the entire process, helping you to achieve a fair outcome.
When you first contact us, we will discuss your case with you and establish the general details of what has occurred and what outcome you are hoping to achieve. Using our legal expertise and experience, we can make a realistic assessment of the strengths of your case and how likely it is that your complaint or any civil action will be successful, as well as how long this is likely to take and the likely costs involved.
Depending on the nature of the incident you experienced, we may recommend making a complaint to the police, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) or initiating a civil claim for damages. Whichever option we recommend, we will support and guide you through the entire process, ensuring your case is presented in the best possible way while making the process as straightforward and stress-free as possible for you.
We regularly assist our clients with actions against the police including:
- Complaints to the police
- Independent Police Complains Commission (IPCC) proceedings
- IPCC appeals
- Civil litigation against the police, including court action
Whatever your situation, we can offer the appropriate support, guidance and representation to ensure that your complaint is taken seriously and dealt with effectively.
What you can take action against the police for
You may be able to take action against the police if you believe you have experienced a number of issues, including:
- False Imprisonment
- Misfeasance in a Public Office
- Malicious Prosecution
- Assault by Police Officer
- Police Dog Bite injuries
- Failure to investigate
- Claims under the Human Rights Act
- Breaches of Data Protection/duty of confidentiality
You may also be able to make a civil claim against the Prison Service for issues including:
- Assault by a Prison Officer
- Assault by prisoner caused by the Negligence of the Prison
If you believe you have experienced one of these issues, or you have experienced something else which you feel could be actionable, please get in touch with our experienced civil liberties solicitors and we will be happy to discuss the specifics of your case.
Your rights when dealing with the police
When the police deal with members of the public, they have to comply with all aspects of UK law, as well as various professional codes of practice.
Your rights when dealing with the police include:
- The right not to be discriminated against based on a protected characteristic e.g. age, disability, race or sexual orientation
- Not to be subjected to unreasonable force
- Not to have your property entered without a warrant, except under certain specific circumstances e.g. if they have reason to believe a serious or dangerous incident has occurred
- Not to be arrested without a valid warrant, except under specific circumstances e.g. if they have reason to believe you have committed or are about to commit a criminal offence
It you believe these, or any other rights have been violated by the police, please get in touch to discuss what action you can take.
Making a complaint to the police
In the first instance, you may wish to make a complaint directly to your local police force, depending on the nature of your complaint. Understandably, many people who feel they have been mistreated by the police do not have much confidence that their complaint will be treated appropriately, which is why it can be helpful to have one of our solicitors make the complaint for you.
When you complain to the police, they should respond within 15 days, telling you whether they intend to record your complaint and take follow up action. If they choose not to record your complaint, they should explain why. If the police decide to follow up your complaint, they will decide whether the matter can be dealt with at a local level or whether it needs to be handed to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
If the police decide to deal with the complaint at a local level, this will usually result in a ‘local resolution’, which can involve an apology and action to prevent similar incidents occurring in future.
Although all complaints to the police should be treated equally, having our solicitors involved can give you confidence that your complaint will be treated seriously and we can take on the burden of chasing up the complaint for you if you do not receive a satisfactory response in a timely fashion. We can also help you take further action if the police reject your complaint or you feel their response is not satisfactory.
How the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) works
You can make a complaint about a police officer or police force directly to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), or the relevant police force may refer the matter to the IPCC if they feel this is the most appropriate court of action.
Most police complaints will be dealt with locally, however police forces must refer certain complaints and incidents to the IPCC – for example, when there has been an allegation that an officer has seriously assaulted someone or committed a serious sexual offence, or if someone has died or been seriously injured following direct or indirect contact with the police.
You can complain directly to the IPCC; however it is likely that they will refer the matter back to the local force unless one of the above applies. That said, if you believe there will be negative consequences for you if the matter is dealt with by your local police force, you can include this information in your complaint and the IPCC will consider this when deciding how to handle the matter.
We can help you prepare your complaint to give you the best chance of a fair outcome and support you during any investigation that takes place to ensure your best interests are protected and your side of the story effectively represented.
If you are not happy with the way your complaint has been handled, or the outcome of any investigation that takes place, we can support you in making an appeal. Many appeals will be dealt with at a local level but by a higher ranking officer within the force, however some appeals will be dealt with by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
You may be able to lodge an appeal for issues including:
- Failure to record your complaint
- The outcome of local resolution
- A decision to discontinue the investigation into your complaint
- The investigation itself
If you are considering an appeal, we can advise you on the appropriate appeal body and whether you have strong grounds for an appeal and guide you through the process to give you the best chance of a positive resolution.
Taking civil action against the police
In some cases it may be necessary to take civil action against the police or an individual police officer, depending on the circumstances. This can include initiating court action and is usually the only route that can result in a compensation settlement.
Our solicitors specialising in actions against the police can advise you on whether civil action is likely to be appropriate and support you through the entire process, including negotiating with police authorities and representing you in court where required.
If a loved one has died in an incident involving the police or any other state body, we can represent you at the inquest and help ensure that justice is done.
We can assist you with inquests into matters including:
- The death has occurred in State Detention (Prison, police custody, immigration detention, when sectioned under the Mental Health Act);
- Police shooting
- The death has occurred following contact with the police
At Minton Morrill, our specialist civil liberties solicitors can quickly establish whether you have a case and, if so, work with you to achieve the best possible outcome.
To find out how one of our team can help you, please contact us.
Funding actions against the police
Legal Aid is available for funding actions against the police in some circumstances and we are able to support many of our clients on a Legal Aid basis. When you first approach us about your complaint, we will discuss whether Legal Aid is likely to be available, how you go about securing this type of funding and what alternative fee arrangements might be available if Legal Aid is not an option.
Frequently Asked Questions about police complaints
Can you sue the police?
You may be able to “sue the police” i.e. bring a civil claim against them if they have broken the law in their treatment of you. Depending on the exact nature of your complaint, you may be able to secure a formal apology and compensation and the officer or officers responsible may face disciplinary action.
Certain complaints may not be suitable for civil claims, for example if an officer was rude and aggressive in their treatment of you, but did not actually break the law. Such cases are more appropriately pursued by way of a police complaint.
What can you sue the police for?
In general, you may be able to take civil action against the police for issues such as:
- Falsely imprisonment
- Malicious prosecution
- Trespass to goods & conversion (e.g. if the police damage or interfere with your property, or refuse to return property without lawful reason)
- Breach of the Human Rights Act
- Racial discrimination
- Misfeasance in a public office
- Breach of the Data Protection Act
If your case does not fit one of these grounds, you may be able to make a complaint anyway. Our team can advise you on whether your claim is appropriate for a civil claim or police complaint, and help you take the right action to achieve a fair outcome.
How do you take action against the police?
Depending on the nature of your complaint, we may advise you to contact the police force directly, use the IPCC’s complaints process or to bring civil proceedings. Either way, we will help you take all of the necessary steps to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible and that you get the right result.
In most cases, complaints against the police can be resolved without the need for court action by a negotiated settlement. This is usually in your best interests as it can allow you to get a fair outcome faster, at a lower cost and with less stress involved.
Can you sue the police for negligence?
Unlike most other professions, the police cannot currently be sued in negligence. This is because they are considered to have a special position under the law as established by a historic Law Lords ruling from 1988 and reaffirmed by a Supreme Court judgement from 2015.
The reason for this principle is that it is deemed to be in the overall public best interest that the police cannot be sued for negligence. The argument goes that the police would not be able to do their jobs effectively if they were constantly worried about “covering their backs” against claims of negligence.
If you believe the police have been negligent in dealing with you or a crime you were affected by, it is still worth getting in touch, however, as there may still be action you can take to seek redress.
Can you get compensation from the police?
You may be able to obtain compensation from the police depending on the nature of your action. Complaints cannot result in an award of compensation from either the police or the IPCC, , so if this is your goal you will need to take civil action against the police.
Our civil liberties team can advise you on whether you are likely to be able to claim compensation and the best approach to help you secure an appropriate settlement.
Can you get Legal Aid for actions against the police?
We may be able to offer our services funded by Legal Aid in cases related to:
- Assault or use of excessive force
- Wrongful arrest
- False imprisonment
- Malicious prosecution
- Breach of the Data Protection Act 1998
- Trespass to property
- Unlawful retention of property
- Discrimination on the basis of race or disability
- Breaches of the Human Rights Act 1998
What is wrongful arrest?
You may be the victim of wrongful arrest, also known as ‘false imprisonment’ if the police arrest you with no good reason. Under UK law, a police offer can only arrest you if they have a warrant for your arrest or they have “reasonable belief” that you may have been involved in, or are planning to commit, an “arrestable offence”.
Arrestable offences tend to be those that are more serious in nature, such as assault, burglary or theft. Police should not normally arrest you for more minor offences, unless certain other conditions apply.
The police can arrest you for more minor offences if:
- They don’t know and can’t easily find out your name
- They have good reason to believe you have given a false name
- You fail to give an adequate address
- They have good reason to believe the address you have given is false.
Is there a time limit to make a claim against the police?
The time limit for making a complaint or bringing civil action against the police depends on the type of situation you experienced.
Some of the key time limits are:
12 months – Complaint against the police
12 months – Claims for breach of the Human Rights Act
3 years – Assault and criminal injury claims (including psychological injuries)
6 years – False imprisonment, misfeasance and trespass claims
If you are considering making a complaint or starting civil action against the police, please speak to a member of our team at the earliest opportunity to ensure you do not miss your chance to make a claim.
What is excessive force by the police?
The police are allowed to use “reasonable and proportionate” force only where it is “absolutely necessary for a purpose permitted by the law”. For example, they can physically restrain someone if they are acting violently, in order to protect others.
However, if you believe the police used force that was not reasonable and proportionate for the situation, you may be able to make a claim, especially if you were injured as a result. Judging what is an appropriate level of force can be difficult, which is why it is worth consulting one of our experienced civil liberties solicitors at the earliest opportunity.
What is police misconduct?
Police misconduct covers a range of issues and can apply to police offers, police staff members, police volunteers and contractors working for the police. You may have grounds to make a complaint if you have:
- Experienced inappropriate behaviour from a police officer or other qualifying individual.
- Witnessed inappropriate behaviour from a police officer or other qualifying individual.
- Been adversely affected by the conduct of a police offer or other qualifying individual, whether directly or indirectly.
If you are unsure whether an incident you experienced, witnessed or were affected by counts as police misconduct, our experienced solicitors can advise you and help you explore your options for making a complaint or taking legal action.
Our expertise in actions against the police
Our Leeds-based solicitors have been supporting people all over the UK with complaints against the police for over 30 years. We regularly work on all types of actions against the police for a wide variety of clients and have a proven history of successful outcomes under challenging circumstances.
Our experience and strong track record of success in this specialist area of law means we are able to quickly establish the facts of your case, help you choose the most appropriate route for dealing with your complaint and give you the strongest chance of a positive outcome.
Our solicitors are highly recommended by the Legal 500 and Chambers’ Guide to the Legal Profession, which is based entirely on feedback from our clients and other professionals we work with. We are members of the Police Action Lawyers Group and our team includes a number of Accredited Police Station Representatives and qualified Legal Aid Supervisors.
As a firm, we have achieved the Law Society’s Lexcel Legal Practice Quality mark, reflecting the strength of our legal practice, and we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) ensuring we continue to maintain the highest professional standards at all times.
Recognition for our individual solicitors include a Law Society Excellence Award for Lawyer of the Year: Private Client, a Yorkshire Lawyer of the Year Litigation Award, recognition as Leeds Advocate of the Year by the District Judges of the region, British Legal Awards: Assistant Solicitor of the Year and several of our solicitors have been shortlisted for Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards.
Get in touch with our UK civil liberties solicitors
If you believe you have grounds for a complaint against the police, contact our civil liberties solicitors based in Leeds for support with a claim anywhere in the UK.
Speak to us today by calling 0113 245 8549 or use the contact form below to ask us a question and we will get back to you promptly.
Examples Of Some Of Our Other Actions Against Police Successful Claims
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