John Goss appears in significant High Court decision on the principle in Parker

2 March 2022

John was instructed by the Chief Constable of Dorset Police in Fittschen v Chief Constable of Dorset Police [2022] EWHC 399 (QB), the liability trial in the High Court of a claim for wrongful arrest and breach of the Human Rights Act arising out of the Claimant’s arrest in relation to causing or inciting someone to become a prostitute for gain, contrary to s.52 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The Chief Constable admitted that the arrest had been unlawful because the arresting officer had been inadequately briefed, but relied on the principle from Parker v Chief Constable of Essex to say that only nominal damages should be paid, as the Claimant could and would have been lawfully arrested in any event. The arrest had been for a s.52 offence only. The Senior Investigating Officer had had in mind both the s.52 offence, and also an offence under s.53 in relation to controlling prostitution for gain. It was suggested by the Claimant that the Parker counter-factual should relate to the s.52 offence only. However, the judge accepted John’s argument that it was appropriate when applying Parker to look at the whole conclusion reached by the officer who took the decision to arrest, and to assume that the arresting officer would have come to the same conclusion and for the same reasons. On that basis, what mattered was what the SIO had intended, not what the arresting officer did. This is likely to be a finding which is helpful to police forces when considering how Parker should be applied.

On the facts, the SIO’s genuine suspicion that the Claimant was involved in controlling prostitution for gain was held not to have been a reasonable one: there was insufficient to provide reasonable grounds to suspect he was ‘something more than an embarrassed client of a prostitute’, notwithstanding the SIO’s careful recording of his decision and the court’s acceptance that the SIO’s view that the Claimant had been untruthful to the police was a reasonable one. If there had been reasonable grounds for suspicion, it was held that the belief that the Claimant’s arrest was necessary was a reasonable one. The Claimant accordingly established entitlement to substantial damages for false imprisonment, and a quantum trial will take place in due course. The judge accepted John’s submission that the Human Rights Act claim added nothing, and no relief was granted on that claim.

John acts for police forces, Government departments and other public bodies in wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault, malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office claims in the High Court and County Court.


John Goss

Call 2015

Related areas

Police Law


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