John Goss secures dismissal of wrongful arrest claim

9 June 2023

John was instructed by Weightmans LLP for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis in a five-day trial of a claim in the County Court at Central London for wrongful arrest, assault and trespass to land. The claim related to the pre-planned arrest of the Claimant and search of his property in connection with sophisticated fraud offences. The Claimant argued that because there were significant discrepancies between his appearance and the description of the suspect, the arresting officer’s suspicion was not reasonable. He also argued that there was no attempt to arrange a voluntary interview or search, even though this was offered to other suspects.

The claim was listed for trial before a circuit judge sitting with a jury. John successfully argued at the outset of the trial that no jury was required, because the Claimant’s pleaded case did not assert a lack of genuine suspicion or belief in the necessity of arrest. The trial proceeded before a judge alone.

After extensive evidence from the Claimant and from six police officers, the claim was dismissed. In a reserved judgment, the court found that the discrepancies in the description were not sufficient to dispel the reasonableness of the suspicion, in circumstances where there were significant other pointers suggesting that the Claimant had been responsible. It also found that where there was sophisticated offending which was reasonably considered could relate to organised crime, concerns about tipping off, destruction of evidence, or collusion meant that the arresting officer’s belief that the arrest was necessary for a prompt and effective investigation was a reasonable one. The Court held that on these facts, simply asking the Claimant to hand over his devices would not have been effective. The other suspects had a different role in the investigation, and were suspected of much lesser criminality so that treating them differently was justified. The arrest was held to be lawful.

The Court also found that significant additional allegations made by the Claimant in his evidence against the police officers involved, including separate allegations of assault and the planting of evidence, were not true.

As the Claimant had accepted that all his claims stood or fell with the lawfulness of the arrest, the claim was dismissed. John sought permission for the MPS to enforce the costs order against the Claimant on the basis that it was a mixed claim, and this was granted to the extent of 50%. A substantial interim payment was ordered.

John has extensive experience defending claims against the police and other public authorities in the High Court and County Court. He is ranked as a Rising Star for Police Law in The Legal 500 and as Up & Coming for Police Law in Chambers & Partners.


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John Goss

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