Suing The Police
If the police threaten to arrest you unlawfully (for example, under an unlawful Section 14 notice) then they have assaulted you, as assault is defined at common law as any act that puts someone in anticipation of a battery Use the small claims procedure in your local County Court, which can be used for claims of up to £5,000 and is free to those on Income Support or JSA. It’s a user friendly procedure designed for ordinary people not lawyers, and you don’t have to pay costs even if you lose. Your local courts will have leaflets explaining delete ‘how’ the procedure. When suing the police, you would usually sue the chief constable of the police force in question. It is your right to sue, and it is important that it is exercised. If you do not sue, it sends a message to the police that they can get away with breaking the law and oppressing you. If everyone sued then the police would be a lot more careful before arresting activists indiscriminately, Suing may take several years, and you will need to fight your corner at times. However, by doing so you will no only be gaining a considerable sum of money but helping other activists in the long run. Recommended solicitors to use for suing the police are:
- Irwin Mitchell, St Peter’s House, Hartshead, Sheffield, S1 2EL. Tel: 0114 276 7777. Web: http://www.irwinmitchell.co.uk/
- Bindman & Partners, 275 Gray’s Inn Road, London, WC1X 8QB. Tel: 020 7833 4433.
Before the passing of the HRA, it was much harder to assert your European Rights. If you wanted to sue the police for infringement of your ECHR rights, you had to go to the European court in Strasbourg – a lengthy and time-consuming experience. Now the Act has “brought the ECHR home”, and you can sue the police in the county courts and the High Court. Section 6 of the Act states that it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way, which is incompatible with a convention right. Public authorities include both the courts and the police. So if a police officer acts in a way, which is incompatible with a convention right, you can sue them for breach of Section 6 of the Act. And this also imposes an obligation on the courts themselves to develop the law consistently with the convention.
This now gives us a powerful tool against the police. Most of them don’t understand the new law, and probably don’t even realise that it is now unlawful for them to act in a way, which is incompatible with a convention right. On demonstrations always let the police know that that you know they are obliged by law to respect your convention rights. The police will often back down when confronted by someone who clearly knows the law better than they do, especially if you are videoing them at the same time. Good instances of when to quote the convention are when the police are threatening to make arrests for obstruction of the highway or under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.
William Stirrat was jailed for six years over a £500,000 amphetamine sulphate bust in 2004.
But his conviction was quashed by appeal judges who blasted Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency officers who worked on the investigation.