Police victim's damages cut by pounds 185,000

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The Independent Online
The Court of Appeal yesterday slashed punitive damages awarded against the Metropolitan police for wrongful arrest, assault and imprisonment by pounds 185,000. The court also set guidelines designed to restrict the level of awards set by juries against police forces to pounds 25,000 or less.

Giving judgment in two test appeals by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon, the court reduced to pounds 35,000 the record pounds 220,000 jury award to a London hairdresser, Kenneth Hsu, made last year after he was arrested and assaulted by police officers. Lord Woolf, the Master of the Rolls, said that pounds 15,000 (plus pounds 20,000 basic and aggravated damages for maltreatment) should "suffice to demonstrate publicly the strongest disapproval of what occurred and make it clear to the commissioner and his force that conduct of this nature will not be tolerated by the courts".

Mr Hsu, 34, was held in a neck lock, punched, kicked, struck across the face with keys and racially abused after officers tried to force their way into his home over a dispute with a lodger. He made two unsuccessful complaints to the Police Complaints Authority. His solicitor, Sadiq Kahn, said: "We have previously had clients who have been awarded similar amounts, yet police officers continue to go unpunished."

In the second appeal, the three appeal judges declined to interfere with a pounds 51,500 award (pounds 1,500 in basic damages and pounds 50,000 exemplary) to Claudette Thompson for false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution. But they made it clear that the appropriate award would have been pounds 20,000 for basic and aggravated and pounds 25,000 exemplary.

Under the guidance yesterday, judges will direct juries that the starting point for basic damages should be pounds 500 for the first hour of loss of liberty, with damages on a reducing scale thereafter. In cases of malicious prosecution, the figure should start at pounds 2,000. Aggravated damages, to reflect high- handed, insulting, malicious or oppressive conduct should begin at pounds 1,000.