Wrongful Arrest - When Can I Make a Claim?

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14 October, 2020

Under UK Law, the Police can only arrest a person if they have a warrant to do so, or a genuine belief that a criminal offence has been committed. Anyone who is arrested must be told by the arresting officer as soon as is reasonably practicable, why they are being arrested and detained, otherwise the arrest may be deemed unlawful.

Under UK law there are only two types of offence:

  • Arrestable offences: (i.e. serious crimes such as theft, affray, assault, and other violent crimes)
  • Non-arrestable offences: (i.e. driving offences)

Under Human Rights laws, whenever an arrest is made, the person arrested always has the right to:

  • Be treated humanely and with respect
  • See written evidence governing their rights and how they are to be treated
  • Speak to the custody officer responsible for their welfare
  • Have someone notified of their arrest
  • Seek legal advice and consult with a solicitor in private.

The Police can only arrest you if:

  • They have good reason to suspect you may have committed an arrestable offence
  • If they think a breach of the peace is about to take place
  • To stop a breach of the peace
  • When a court has issued an arrest warrant
  • If a person is in the process of committing an arrestable offence
  • If a person is about to commit an arrestable offence
  • If a person is guilty of an arrestable offence.

Even if you have been legally arrested by the police, there are still circumstances where it can become unlawful, i.e.:

  • If evidence comes to light and there is no longer a valid reason for keeping you under arrest
  • If you are not charged with an offence within the allocated time, even though there may be enough evidence to do so
  • If the police do not follow the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

If you have been the victim of an unlawful arrest the time spent in custody is classed as being a 'false imprisonment' because your Human Rights have been violated and your freedom of movement has been restricted. In these circumstances you may be the victim of a civil wrong which could give rise to a claim for compensation. The amount of damages which could be received depends on how long you were unlawfully detained against your will. If the nature of your arrest was violent you may also be able to claim additional compensation for assault (i.e. if you were tightly handcuffed, or the police used unreasonable force to forcefully arrested you and/or cause you injuries.) When considering an unlawful arrest, the police will need to provide a valid reason for the arrest and prove that it was necessary (i.e. there were no other suitable options at that moment, and that it was reasonable for them to think that the arrest needed to be made in that instant).

There are strict time limits within which to bring compensation claims against the Police - 12-months for a breach of your Human Rights, 3 years for negligence, assault and personal injury claims (including psychological injuries), and 6 years for false imprisonment, misfeasance or trespass. It is always therefore advisable to start a claim as soon as possible, so that the memories and evidence are fresh in your mind.

At Forbes Solicitors we understand that securing justice for an unlawful arrest is often just as important to the victim as the financial compensation. We have a specialist team with experience in representing individuals for civil actions and complaints against the police.

If you have suffered physical or psychological injuries as a result of an unlawful arrest please contact Lisa Atkinson, Associate at Forbes Solicitors in Accrington direct on 01254 222 448 or another member of the Claims team on 01254 872 111. You can also contact the team via the Contact form.

Learn more about our Personal Injury department here

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