Representing the Claimant, in a 4-day Trial before Mr. Recorder Treverton-Jones QC at Cardiff County Court, Ayman Khokhar secured a rare finding that an arresting officer had acted in breach of S24(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 in that he had lacked reasonable grounds to suspect the Claimant was guilty of an offence. This led to the Claimant’s arrest and subsequent detention being declared unlawful.
The background to the claim was that in 2017, Northamptonshire Police had attended the Claimant’s address to conduct a welfare check following an anonymous report to the NSPCC that she had been neglecting her two young children. Body-worn footage and photographs showed the property to be in a poor state of repair and in the view of the Trial Judge “incredibly messy in every room”. The Claimant also had 22 domestic animals living inside the property including 6 dogs and 5 cats.
The Claimant was arrested on suspicion of Child Neglect (S1 of 1933 Children and Young Persons Act) for failing to provide adequate lodgings for her children (pursuant to subsection 2). She was detained for 18 hours in custody before being released with No Further Action being taken in respect of the allegation. The Claimant subsequently sued the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police for Wrongful Arrest and False Imprisonment.
The threshold for the Defendant to establish reasonable grounds for suspicion is famously a very low one. The Court of Appeal summarised the applicable law [at §115] in Parker v Chief Constable of Essex Police  EWCA Civ 2788:
‘The bar for reasonable cause to suspect set out in section 24(2) of the 1984 Act is a low one. It is lower than a prima facie case and far less than the evidence required to convict: Dumbell v Roberts  1 All ER 326 , 329A and Hussien v Chong Fook Kam [1970 ] AC 942 , 948 —949 ; see also Castorina’s case 160 LG Rev 241 and O’Hara’s case, at p 293 . Further, prima facie proof consists of admissible evidence, while suspicion may take account of matters that could not be put in evidence: Hussien’s case, at p 949, and O’Hara’s case, at p 293 . Suspicion may be based on assertions that turn out to be wrong: O’Hara’s case, at p 298D —E ‘
Nevertheless, meticulous cross-examination of the attending officers led to a finding that all three had exaggerated their accounts as to the state of the Claimant’s property and the Trial Judge concluding that whilst the bar for establishing reasonable grounds for suspicion may be a very low one, ‘it is not non-existent’, and the Defendant had failed to show there were objectively reasonable grounds in this case.
Damages were awarded to compensate the Claimant for her Wrongful Arrest and False Imprisonment.
Ayman Khokhar acting for the Claimant was instructed by HNK Solicitors.