A High Court judge has questioned why a straightforward claim over alleged police mistreatment required a three-week jury trial.
In a postscript to her judgment in Stewart & Anor v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Mrs Justice McGowan said the costs will be ‘very substantial’, with both sides funded by the public directly or indirectly.
The claim at its highest was for just over £80,000 by the end of trial, and McGowan said it related four incidents of ‘simple factual dispute’.
‘The issues to be determined are of great importance to the parties and to the public but it is difficult to see why a jury trial in the High Court was thought necessary to resolve these issues,’ the judge said.
McGowan awarded £5,400 to the first claimant and £5,700 to the second, and she urged interest and costs to be agreed between the parties.
‘It is to be hoped that no further public funds need be spent on a hearing,’ she added.
The claim followed an arrest in June 2010 in which a police officer was alleged to have called one claimant a ‘stupid boy’ and, when the other claimant remonstrated with him, he lost his temper and became aggressive and violent. It was alleged the officer grabbed one around the throat and deliberately pushed the other claimant, who was three months pregnant, in the stomach.
The officer said he used no more than minimum necessary force and that he was met with aggression. He denied making any observations about the claimant being pregnant.
The jury found the officer had good reason to make the stop, but he had failed to identify himself by name or show his warrant card and describe the reasons for a stop and search.
He was cleared of pushing the pregnant claimant and was found to have exerted ‘reasonable and proportionate’ force.
McGowan said the officer had made an unlawful arrest and she criticised search warrants executed following the arrest.
On the issue of special damages, the judge said evidence given by both claimants was ‘totally unsatisfactory’, a factor recognised in the written submissions in which the sums claimed were reduced by 50% from the original claim.