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Police postal summons error leads to unlawful detention over a weekend

Police postal summons error leads to unlawful detention over a weekend

The situation

Mr Matthew McConville, Head of the Actions Against the Police and Data Breach Department at Irvings Law has successfully brought a claim for compensation against Avon & Somerset Constabulary for his client following the Police’s erroneous posting of a postal summons to a previous address of his said client.

On the 6th February 2019, Mr Matthew Kerslake was arrested on suspicion of committing criminal damage. As a result, Mr Kerslake was taken to Bridgewater Police Station and booked in. During the booking in process, Mr Kerslake provided an updated home address. Following his time in custody, Mr Kerslake was then released on bail and thereafter received correspondence from the Investigating Officer on his case.

Following Mr Kerslake’s release on bail, he was requested to return to answer the same at Bridgewater Police Station several times over many months that followed.  The correspondence was sent by the said Investigating Officer to Mr Kerslake by both post and text. There was one particular text from the Investigating Officer to Mr Kerslake which confirmed that he was not required to attend the Police Station and for him to also confirm his updated address. Once more, Mr Kerslake confirmed his updated address in accordance with what he provided during his booking in procedure. The last that Mr Kerslake heard from the Police in regards to any answering of any bail was at the beginning of June 2019 when he was told that he was no longer required to attend on his scheduled bail date.

Despite the above and on the 7th September 2019, two Police Officers from Avon & Somerset Constabulary attended another address to query Mr Kerslake’s whereabouts. The address that the said Officers attended was an address of which Mr Kerslake lived at over two years prior and was different to what Mr Kerslake had provided in custody during his booking in process and to his Investigating Officer by text.

The person who resides at this said address was informed by Avon & Somerset Constabulary that there was a warrant that had been issued for Mr Kerslake’s arrest on the 3rd September 2019 at Yeovil Magistrates Court for failing to appear. For clarity, Mr Kerslake had never been informed that he was required to attend either the Police Station or the Court following the correspondence from his Investigating Officer at the beginning of June 2019.

As a result of this Warrant, the person who resides at Mr Kerslake’s old address is thankfully a family friend to Mr Kerslake. Following this attendance by the said Police Officers, the person who resides at 92 Camden Road then called Mr Kerslake to inform him of what had just happened. Obviously confused and worried, Mr Kerslake then called 101 following receiving this information from his family friend and of whom resides at his old address.

The Claimant was put through to a call operator from Avon & Somerset Constabulary and explained the situation. The said call operator then gave Mr Kerslake two options. The first of which was that Mr Kerslake was to hand himself in to his local Police Station now or he could do so on Monday morning. As Mr Kerslake believed it was the honest thing to do, he attended his local Police Station to hand himself in straight after this call was made to Avon & Somerset Constabulary via 101.

Unfortunately, the said Police Station was closed. Due to this, Mr Kerslake then drove himself to Bridgewater Police Station which was where he was taken to following his arrest on the 6th February 2019. Mr Kerslake arrived at the said Police Station at around 17:00hrs and was then held there in custody until the 9th September 2019; Monday morning.

At 09:30hrs on this date, Mr Kerslake was then taken in handcuffs by secured escort to Yeovil Magistrates’ Court where he was kept in a holding cell until 15:00hrs. Eventually, Mr Kerslake was brought into Court and he was asked questions about his current address. Without hesitation, Mr Kerslake confirmed his current address to the Court was as he had provided during his booking in process and via text correspondence to the Investigating Officer.

Following this submission, it was confirmed to Mr Kerslake that a postal requisition for his attendance at Court on the 3rd September 2019 was sent to his old address. For the avoidance of doubt, if Mr Kerslake had received the said postal requisition as he should have at his correct address, he would have attended Court especially as he has no previous conduct of not adhering to any bail conditions and his dialogue with his Investigating Officer post-release evidences his cooperation in regards to bail.

Once this admission was divulged to Mr Kerslake, the Court then dealt with the criminal damage incident. The Claimant pleaded guilty to the same and received a fine and a Conditional Discharge of six months.

Representation

Mr Kerslake then sought expert advice and Mr McConville immediately wanted to help. Mr McConville offered Mr Kerslake ‘no win, no fee terms’ and believed that Avon & Somerset Constabulary had not only breached Mr Kerslake’s data by sending the said postal requisition to the wrong address but they had also infringed upon his right to privacy as well as misusing his private information. These breaches and infringements then resulted in Mr Kerslake being falsely imprisoned and also assaulted when placed in handcuffs when being escorted to Court.

To Mr McConville, it was abundantly clear that Mr Kerslake had provided Avon & Somerset Constabulary an updated address from which he could be contacted from when he was booked into custody. This address was also confirmed by Mr Kerslake to the Investigating Officer post release from custody on bail too. As confirmed at Court on the 9th September 2019 by the Court, Avon & Somerset Constabulary sent a postal requisition to Mr Kerslake’s incorrect address which led to him not being informed of his duty to attend Court as prescribed on 3rd September 2019 at Yeovil Magistrates Court. Again, if Mr Kerslake had been provided with the same like he should have been then he would have attended this hearing.

Resolution

As a result of this, Mr McConville agreed that Mr Kerslake had no other option but to hand himself into custody as soon as he found out that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Mr Kerslake was then held until 9th September 2019 and this said imprisonment/deprivation of liberty could have been wholly avoided if Avon & Somerset Constabulary had simply sent a postal requisition to Mr Kerslake’s correct address.

Once Mr Kerslake has signed up with Mr McConville, a claim was then presented to Avon & Somerset’s legal department. The claim alleged the above-mentioned breaches/infringements and they had caused Mr Kerslake loss of liberty, psychological damage and loss of earnings too. Upon receipt of Mr Kerslake’s claim, Avon & Somerset’s legal department confirmed that ‘liability will not be in dispute’ and Mr Kerslake then later settled his case for a significant amount of compensation as handled and obtained by Mr McConville.

Posted in AAP Case Reports, GDPR Case Reports

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