We are often asked, ‘Can I sue the police for injury?’ As this case study illustrates, you can sue the police if you are injured while in custody if it can be shown that they did not act correctly.
Our client was injured while in police custody at Taunton police station in Somerset. We made a claim against the police on a no win, no fee basis. At trial the judge agreed that the police had not treated him correctly and awarded compensation. This is a brief summary of what happened.
Our client had taken a legal high which had an adverse effect on him. He became paranoid and scared. His behaviour led to him being arrested to prevent a breach of the peace.
On arrival at the custody suite in Taunton officers noted that he was agitated, sweating, apparently insensitive to pain and paranoid. He was already struggling against the handcuffs being used to restrain him. The officer’s notes recorded that they was causing him bruising and bleeding around his wrists. He was deeply distressed, struggling to free himself and deliberately banging his head against the ground.
There is official national guidance on how people should be restrained in custody. These guidelines were drafted by the National Policing Improvement Agency (“NPIA”). The guidance specifically warns officers of the dangers of a condition known as “Excited Delirium”.
“Excited Delirium” is a set of symptoms that, if exhibited, mean that the person concerned is at risk of collapse and death in custody. These symptoms can arise as a result of psychiatric illness or an adverse reaction to alcohol or drugs.
Our client was displaying all but one of the symptoms listed in the national guidance. The only symptom he was not displaying was in relation to a reaction to incapacitant spray as this kind of spray was not used on him.
The police guidance specifies that where officers suspect a detainee is suffering “Excited Delirium” he should be treated as a medical emergency and immediately taken to hospital for treatment.
This did not happen. Instead, our client was instead put in the cells where he continued to suffer enormous distress. He remained delusional. He was scared that he was going to be tortured and killed. As a result he struggled against the handcuffs causing his wrists to be very deeply cut.
After some time the police called a medical professional, a nurse who had received training in “Excited Delirium”. She examined our client but made no recommendation for him to be treated as a medical emergency despite the severity of his symptoms and the deeps cuts to his wrists.
It was not until hours after his arrival at the custody suite that the police finally called an ambulance and our client was transported to hospital for treatment. Following sedation he underwent surgery to both wrists for his handcuff injuries.
It was against this background that we were appointed to sue the police. We were able to represent our client on a No Win – No Fee basis, so he was not at risk of having to pay legal fees.
We sent a formal Letter of Claim to Avon & Somerset Constabulary setting out the circumstances of the case. The police strongly denied liability and continued to do so as the claim progressed.
We obtained copies of our client’s medical records and arranged for medical experts to consider the impact the events had on him, physically and psychologically. We obtained reports from both a Plastic Surgeon and a Psychiatrist.
Read the full article here.