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McGrogan v Chief Constable of Cleveland Police

18 February 2002
The issues

Police – Unlawful detention – Breach of the peace.

The facts

The Claimant was arrested on suspicion of having committed an assault early one afternoon. At the civil trial, the Judge found that the arrest was lawful as was the detention. The further continuing detention was also lawful. The assault victim being questioned by a Police Officer then made it known that she did not intend to make a complaint against the Claimant. The assault had been in the context of a domestic argument. The Officer had previous experience of domestic arguments between the two and took the view that she was frightened. The Officer honestly believed that if the Claimant were let out he would go back to the victim’s home and that a breach of the peace would occur. He had an honest and genuine concern for the victim’s safety. It was decided that an information for breach of the peace would be laid against the Claimant who was then detained overnight. The following day the detention was reviewed and continued, the police taking the view that they had no power to bail conditionally. At the trial the Judge found that at this stage the Police should have merely warned the Claimant and released him. He awarded the Claimant £1,500 for false imprisonment. The Police appealed.

The decision

1. The power to detain to prevent further breach of the peace was limited to circumstances where there was a real and not merely a fanciful apprehension of the likelihood of such a breach if the detainee was released. The Officer making the decision to detain had to have an honest belief that the detention was necessary to prevent a breach of the peace and that decision must be objectively reasonable.

2. The Judge had accepted that there had remained a continuing risk of further domestic violence.

3. The Judge had relied upon the correct test but had not applied it.

4. Had he applied the test properly, he ought to have concluded that the detention was justified until such time as the Claimant could be brought before a Court.

Appeal allowed.

Comments

Not a case, but the results of my browsing on the net (!) when I began to work through the Lord Chancellor’s new “money claim on line” site. This is a web-based claim procedure (available at www.moneyclaim.gov.uk) which entitles individuals (and Solicitors and businesses) to commence proceedings for a money claim electronically. The claim can be used for any sum of money up to £99,999.99 and provided you are suing no more than 2 Defendants. Fees are paid by credit card and, once registered, you are given a “unique customer identification and password”. If anything was needed to wake up the dinosaurs or (like me) the merely technologically incompetent, it is the sight of the Lord Chancellor being quite as up to date as this! I recommend you have a look.

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