Mr Matthew McConville, the Head of our specialised Actions Against the Police Department at Irvings Law has successfully represented a client called Mr Philip Carter in a civil claim against Lincolnshire Constabulary.
On the 21st December 2018, a warrant was issued by Lincolnshire Magistrates’ Court for the arrest of Mr Carter as he was wanted for breach of a Court Order dated the day before endorsed by the same Court. On the 10th October 2019 (some nearly ten months later), Police Officers from Lincolnshire Constabulary entered and searched Mr Carter’s residential caravan looking for him in respect of the said warrant. However, Mr Carter was not at the said residential caravan as he had presented himself to Lincolnshire Constabulary at Lincolnshire Custody Suite the day before at 20:45hrs.
Following Mr Carter’s release from custody after receiving a fine from the Court, he returned to his residential caravan to discover that the same had been severely damaged and left insecure. Upon discovering this, Mr Carter then went to speak to his neighbour to see if they knew anything about the situation he had come across. Mr Carter’s neighbour confirmed that they were sorry to inform him but the said damage and the leaving of the premises insecurely was as a result of actions from Police Officers from Lincolnshire Constabulary whilst Mr Carter was in custody as they had been captured on their said CCTV cameras.
Due to what Mr Carter had discovered, he subsequently lodged a complaint to Lincolnshire Constabulary. Mr Carter’s complaint was then investigated in respect of four allegations which consisted of Police Officers from Lincolnshire Constabulary entering his premises with no legal power, causing significant damage, searching his drawers within the said premises again with no legal power and also leaving his property insecure.
As a result of Mr Carter’s allegations, Police Officers were served with gross misconduct and misconduct regulations respectively. After a thorough investigation into Mr Carter’s allegations, each of his allegations were upheld and it was concluded that there was a case to answer for each officer in respect of each said allegation. The said Police Officers from Lincolnshire Constabulary then received management action as a result of the complaint investigation findings with the view to record a formal debrief with them so as to identify the errors they had made as well as to discuss reflection and learning to avoid a repeat of what happened.
The Investigating Officer of Mr Carter’s complaint acknowledged to Mr Carter that it must have been “awful” for him to come back to his home when it had appeared to have been broken into and the damage caused was in fact from Police Officers. The said Complaint Investigator also confirmed that it was even worse that the said Police Officers did this whilst Mr Carter was in custody and that the said Police Officers involved should have checked the Police National Computer (PNC) which would have shown that Mr Carter would have been in custody and not at the said address. Regardless of this, the Investigating Officer said that the attending Police Officers should have left documents to show that they had forced entry into his residential caravan prior to leaving and for this the Complaint Investigator offered his apologies to Mr Carter.
Although disappointed that Lincolnshire Constabulary only offered management action to the involved Police Officers, Mr Carter did not wish to appeal such a finding so that he could now focus upon his compensation claim for recourse in respect of repairing the significant damage caused to his home and the infringement of his privacy and trespass to his property / land particularly as his complaint had been upheld and an apology offered to him. Mr Carter confirmed that due to the quotes he provided to the Complaint Investigator being from companies whom could not offer a colour match on his residential caravan panels and window frames due to the age of the said caravan, he would rather the said monies to be paid out to him directly as part of his compensation claim so that he can restore the caravan back to how it was before these Police Officers did what they did to his home. Until then, Mr Carter had undertaken temporary repairs to make the said caravan a liveable premises until this claim concluded.
It is clear that Lincolnshire Constabulary accepted that there was a PNC marker created after Mr Carter had handed himself into custody at Lincolnshire Custody Suite following this outstanding warrant for his arrest. Further to this, it is acknowledged that there was damage caused to Mr Carter’s residential caravan and it was left insecure when the said attending Police Officers left the premises and in addition to this, those said Police Officers also failed to leave any paperwork for Mr Carter neither.
Clearly, the Police Officers involved should have checked the PNC prior to forcing entry to Mr Carter’s premises which would have shown that Mr Carter had been arrested and the said warrant executed. Instead, Mr Carter came back from custody to be greeted to his home significantly damaged and no prior knowledge that it was in fact as a result from Police Officers Lincolnshire Constabulary before speaking to his neighbours as no search record was left at the premises. Clearly, the Police Officers could and should have left a handwritten note for Mr Carter with the said Police Officer’s details and a reference number if there was an inability to produce a formal paper record.
Upon receipt of instructions to act, assessments were made of the Mr Carter’s potential claim and without hesitation, Mr McConville offered no win no fee terms. Once a retainer was signed, a Letter of Claim was sent by Mr McConville on behalf of Mr Carter to Lincolnshire Constabulary alleging Breach of the Human Rights Act 1998, Trespass to Land/Property and Misfeasance in Public Office.
Mr McConville alleged that it is clear that Mr Carter has a right to family and private life which includes his home and is protected under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The actions of the Police Officers from Lincolnshire Constabulary breached and/or invaded Mr Carter’s privacy and Mr Carter relied upon the self-evident nature of what is agreed to have happened in this incident as falling within the core aspects of his private life which is protected under this statutory instrument. Mr McConville added that Lincolnshire Constabulary’s said Police Officer’s actions were carried out without his knowledge and consent with no legal power to do so and further, by reason of the matters complained of, the Article 8 rights of Mr Carter have been seriously infringed whereby he has suffered damage to his personal dignity, autonomy and integrity.
Further to this, Mr McConville outlined for Lincolnshire Constabulary that Section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 provides the legislative power of entry for the purpose of arrest. The relevant parts of this section stipulate that a Police Constable may enter and search any premises for the purpose of executing a warrant issued in connection with or arising out of criminal proceedings and/or there are reasonable grounds for the said Police Constable believing that the person whom he is seeking is on the premises. As highlighted above, even though the involved Police Officers speculate that they heard or saw Mr Carter in the premises (which is impossible) meaning that they say that they had a reasonable belief that he was inside the address, Mr Carter had already been arrested and the warrant had been executed. Mr Carter was in custody within Lincolnshire Constabulary and it follows, as mentioned above, that the Police Officers involved should have checked the PNC prior to forcing entry too Mr Carter’s residential caravan which would have shown that he had been detained.
Thus, Mr McConville stated that as the warrant had been executed, there was therefore no legal power to force entry to Mr Carter’s premises and this position was agreed by Lincolnshire Constabulary’s Complaint Investigator into Mr Carter’s complaint arising from this matter. As there was no legal power of entry by the Police Officers from Lincolnshire Constabulary, Mr McConville alleged that the damage that they caused to his property is also unlawful for which he sought recovery of Mr Carter so as to put back in the position it was before such an unlawful act took place and such significant damage caused by Lincolnshire Constabulary Police Officers included but was not limited to the following:-
- Windows smashed,
- Metal frames bent,
- Caravan exterior dented,
- Glass in bedding,
- TV damaged,
- Muddy carpet,
- Pulled away units,
- corner sofa pulled and damaged metal brackets,
- Curtains pulled down, and
- Medication left all over the floor
In addition to there being no legal power to enter and such damage arising as a result of that unlawful act, Mr McConville added that the failing by Lincolnshire Constabulary’s Police Officers in regards to not securing the property before they left is a breach of their own Police Force’s policy which sets out the procedure following the search of a premises where no occupant is present. The said policy states that where entry is forced by the Police and the premises are not occupied at the time, it must be left secure which it is accepted that is wasn’t in this matter. Further to this, no search record was left at the location and a paper record is required to be left at the location for the information of the occupant but also to comply with search legislation such as Code B of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which again was accepted never happened and thus is a breach of such provisions.
Mr McConville further alleged that it is clear that Lincolnshire Constabulary Police Officers misused or abused their power within Lincolnshire Constabulary during this incident. Police Officers are taught to, and are expected to, act with integrity and professionalism which did not happen in this case as one of the involved Police Officers intentionally instigated the “break in” to Mr Carter’s residential caravan. Mr McConville surmised that it is coincidental to say the least that such a warrant for Mr Carter’s arrest had been outstanding for almost ten months and upon the exact date that Mr Carter was captured in custody, Police Officers from Lincolnshire Constabulary decided it would then be best to go to his residential caravan and force their entry to try and execute the said warrant. Mr McConville highlighted that there is evidence to show that the Police Officers involved attended Mr Carter’s caravan late in the evening and after speaking to the Mr Carter’s neighbour, they left the area and came back when it was much more quiet to complete their intended and malicious actions. Further, Mr Carter submitted to Mr McConville that one of the Police Officers involved intentionally did this because of a personal friendship involving Mr Carter and the daughter of another Sergeant at Lincoln Custody Suite.
The mere fact that Lincolnshire Constabulary Police Officers tried to justify their unlawful entry to Mr Carter’s residential caravan is (as suggested by Mr McConville) evidence of further maliciousness when they have attempted to speculate that they heard and/or saw movement inside the said premises which is completely impossible given that Mr Carter was captured in custody and such a caravan is in an isolated area of the country which the said Police Officers knew beforehand was only occupied by Mr Carter himself. Another coincidence to this matter as suggested by Mr McConville was that no attending Police Officer seems to have activated their body warn video nor taken any pictures of the entry nor as mentioned above left any details of the entry taking place. If it had not have been for Mr Carter’s neighbour capturing the involved Police Officers on their CCTV camera, Mr Carter would never have known whom had invaded his privacy and trespassed upon his property / land.
In addition, Mr McConville stated that the lead Police Officer in the attendance had all of the relevant details in relation to this incident and operation which were not known to anybody else and he was the one who used the crow bar to open and smash the window of Mr Carter’s residential caravan. The malicious opinion of this Police Officer towards Mr Carter can be further evidence within his own email to Professional Standards in response to Mr Carter’s complaint where he makes discourteous descriptive comments upon the horrible area where Mr Carter lives and is sarcastic to comment that the window “miraculously smashed” and that it was “unfortunate” that Mr Carter was not found. Subsequently to Mr Carter’s complaint, this Police Officer has accepted that this wording was inappropriate to say the least. Mr McConville added that it goes without saying that Mr Carter (and the public in general) have the right to expect integrity in the police service and should have confidence in Police Officers to act in a professional manner. There has been a definite shortfall in the service that Mr Carter has received in this incident and there are grave concerns over how it has been dealt with as a whole as mentioned above in great detail.
As a result of the above, Mr McConville outlined that Mr Carter suffered psychological injury/distress along with damage to property. Further, by reason of Mr Carter having endured additional humiliation and suffering as a result of Lincolnshire Constabulary’s wrongdoing, Mr McConville claimed aggravated damages for the reasons as set out above as well as exemplary damages as such conduct constitutes arbitrary, oppressive and unconstitutional conduct perpetrated by serving Police Officers of Lincolnshire Constabulary.
In accordance with Mr Carter’s approaching Human Rights limitation (one year from the alleged infringement), Mr McConville issued protective proceedings on behalf of Mr Carter. In response to Mr Carter’s claim, Lincolnshire Constabulary admitted liability for a Human Rights breach and Trespass following what Mr McConville alleged on behalf of Mr Carter. The parties then engaged in without prejudice correspondence and settlement was later achieved by Mr Carter (as he wanted to move on with his life) accepting Lincolnshire Constabulary offer of £4,000.00 plus his legal costs.