Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) makes it unlawful for a public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with person’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’). As a public authority, the police must observe S6 HRA and refrain from behaviour which might contravene ECHR rights.
Multiple instances of police misconduct have been brought to the public attention as a result of the recent Black Lives Matter movements. The misconduct highlighted has ranged from discrimination against black, Asian and minority communities to overt, unjustified and unnecessary violence – which might unequivocally carry the title ‘brutality’. When police officers behave in this manner, it is likely to constitute a breach of S6 HRA and would therefore constitute a breach of an individual’s human rights.
Unfortunately, many people affected by misconduct at the hands the police may not be aware of the legal options available to them. There is much that can be done to ensure justice is pursued and redress achieved.
Our Actions against Public Authorities team specialises in helping individuals and families make complaints and bring civil actions against the police. In addition to supporting actions for breaching Human Rights, our specialist lawyers can assist those who have suffered as a result of police misconduct whether as a result of assault/battery, misfeasance, malicious prosecution or a miscarriage of justice.
Claims against the police involve a variety of circumstances and include:
Making a complaint
- Assault and battery
- Data Protection Act / Privacy breaches
- Discrimination / Equality Act
- False imprisonment / Deprivation of liberty
- Protest related
- Unlawful searches
- ‘Wrongful arrests’
It is possible to make complaints against the police, against a particular force, an individual officer and any other member of police staff. Complaints can relate to those claims mentioned above but also in some circumstances where police have not followed correct procedures or have otherwise contravened their own Code for Professional Conduct.
Complaints made to the police in England and Wales should be made to the relevant police force and can sometimes
be investigated, or managed, by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (‘the IOPC’).
It is possible to make a complaint without legal assistance. It is, however, important to remember that complaints are taken seriously and can form the basis of later litigation. What is said in those complaints is therefore very important. Each year, police forces pay considerable compensation to those who are able to evidence misconduct. With the assistance of specialist solicitors, identifying that evidence and presenting your case increases the likelihood of compensation being awarded and justice being served.
In the event of a death occurring as a result of police conduct, a coroner’s inquest may be held. Inquests are opened to investigate a number of things, including how the death happened and then recording this as a fact. An inquest is not designed to ‘pass judgment’ and cannot therefore seek to identify criminal or civil liability, although a coroner may uncover evidence of such liability during the course of proceedings.
Inquests can be extremely important in identifying police misconduct and securing an element of closure for a grieving family. Inquests can be extremely stressful and overwhelming but our department has wide experience of handling inquests investigating deaths.
Police forces in England and Wales effectively have a single role, which is to maintain law and order. The majority of officers are committed to that role and act lawfully. With that in mind, it is all the more important to identify and challenge those who act unlawfully, whether those acts are as a result of recklessness and/or incompetency or are instead borne out of malice and intent.
By highlighting and challenging misconduct and abuses of power – whether wielded by the police, prison authorities or immigration detention centre staff – justice can be served to those who have suffered. In addition to this, the misconduct can also be ‘checked’ and stopped. It can be ameliorated through discipline, training or financial penalty, ultimately ensuring the delicate relationship of trust which exists between a police force and the public which it serves, is not allowed to degenerate into an imbalanced and abusive one.
For more information on taking legal action against the police and other public authorities contact Actions Against Public Authorities director, Graeme Rothwell
or at firstname.lastname@example.org