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P v Chief Constable of Gwent Police

Case Type –

Civil action against the police

File Handler –

Demi Drury – Solicitor (Civil Actions against the Police)

Background –

On 18th September 2015 our client (“P”), was at home when his property was entered with force by Police Officers of Gwent Police. This force resulted in damage costing around £3,000.  The Police officers were acting under a warrant issued by Caerphilly Magistrates Court under the Misuse of Drugs Act. P was immediately handcuffed as his home was searched however the search ultimately proved negative.

P was confused as to why his home was suspected or why the Magistrates Court would grant such a Warrant. P raised his concerns with the attending Sergeant/Inspector who confirmed the damage would be paid for by the Police force (“Defendant”).

When a warrant is applied for, the applicant must offer full and frank disclosure supporting why a warrant should be granted.

Issues –
P engaged in correspondence with the Defendant from 24th September 2015 to January 2016. The Claimant experienced long delays and was constantly told to wait for a response which eventually resulted in the Defendant refusing to pay for the damage caused to his property.

In January 2016, P approached Higgs Newton Kenyon Solicitors (HNK) to act on his behalf in the matter. We were happy to accept instructions on a No-Win No-Fee agreement.
HNK had immediate concerns regarding the documents in support of warrant given pages from a Police National Computer Document and a Custody Record were missing. The pages that were missing later proved crucial in proving P’s claim that the address given to the Magistrates was incorrect.

The Defendant made an offer (£1750) in May 2016 however given this sum did not even cover the damage of the property this offer was rejected.  The Claimant had no alternative but to make an immediate Judicial Review application on the grounds that inaccurate/misleading information had been put before the Magistrate.

The Defendant filed an acknowledgement of service which included the full Police National Computer Document and the Custody Record. It was noted that the pages that were previously omitted from pre-action disclosure showed that the last known address for the individual wanted was not that of the P’s address. The particular individual sought had been subject to a curfew order at a different address around 4 months prior to the incident.  This information was available to the Defendant at the time of the warrant application however was clearly not presented to the Magistrate.

Mr Henry Gow (Barrister of New Bailey Chambers) for P attended the Judicial Hearing and permission was granted on the ground that the Defendants officer placed inaccurate information before the Magistrate. This meant a full hearing would be set to consider the case in full.
The full Judicial Review hearing was listed for 2nd March 2017.

Outcome –

In February 2017 liability was admitted by the Defendant and we agreed an out of Court settlement in the sum of £7,500.00. The aforementioned Judicial Review proceedings were subsequently vacated due to a settlement being agreed.

Professional Opinion –

Police entry to a property may be unlawful even if a warrant has been executed. Sometimes these matters can be complex and anyone wanting to contest the validity of a warrant should seek legal advice as a matter of urgency.

There is a statute of limitation in place which only permits claims to be submitted within 3 months of the incident occurring. Acting expeditiously is a must. P made his application late but due to the hard work of both Demi and Mr Gow in finding the discrepancies within the documents the Police were relying on and persuasive submissions of Mr Gow, permission for Judicial Review was granted.

The Police have a duty to offer full and frank disclosure to the Magistrates Court when applying for a warrant, if they do not then a warrant maybe issued incorrectly. The obtaining of a warrant if authorised grants the invasion of a person’s home. All the material necessary to justify its grant should be provided to the Court.

If the police fail to disclose all relevant information/documentation and a warrant is granted on inaccurate or misleading grounds, the warrant can be voided and a person subject to the warrant may be entitled to damages.

Anyone, wanting further advice should contact our actions against the police department.

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