Taxi driver awarded pounds 450,000 for assault

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The Independent Online
A TAXI driver has been awarded nearly pounds 450,000 compensation for assault in the largest ever damages payout against a police force, it emerged yesterday.

A jury awarded George Randles, 52, the massive amount after hearing that nine years ago he was kneed in the groin by an officer from Merseyside Police, shoulder charged, pushed to the floor and punched in the head.

He was awarded pounds 300,000 exemplary damages, pounds 100,000 aggravated damages, pounds 40,000 for post traumatic stress disorder and pounds 3,500 for his physical injuries - a total of pounds 443,500

Merseyside Police, however, has been given permission to appeal and is likely to have the sum cut substantially. A Court of Appeal ruling last February reduced the level of "exemplary" damages awarded by juries to a maximum of pounds 50,000 in extreme cases.

The claim followed an incident in the Halewood area of Merseyside on Easter Sunday 1989, when Mr Randles, from Stockbridge Village, Merseyside, says he was stopped in his taxi by officers.

A dispute followed and the Mr Randles said he was assaulted.

"He was punching me in the face and I was swallowing blood and losing consciousness. Just then I heard a voice saying `that's enough' and I felt the weight come off my chest," he said.

He said another officer had arrived on the scene and intervened. He suffered seventeen separate injuries including two black eyes, a loose tooth, bruising to his shoulder, chest, face and scratches to his neck.

Following the incident, Mr Randles was convicted at a magistrates' court of threatening behaviour but cleared of assault. He then sued Merseyside Police.

After the hearing, which was held at Liverpool Crown Court, Mr Randles said: "I am here for justice. I did not want a shilling. I was fit and strong, a weaker man may well have died." The case finished on Wednesday, but the full details only emerged yesterday.

He said that since the incident his physical and mental condition have deteriorated so much that he has had to give up work. His solicitor Julian Linskill added: "Mr Randles is absolutely thrilled to bits with the decision."

Sir James Sharples, the Chief Constable of Merseyside, was less delighted. A spokesman said: "The Chief Constable is very disappointed at this decision of the jury and the award of damages.

"These awards seem to be out of all proportion to the incident and apparently out of step with awards and appeals in similar cases."

One of the highest previous awards - pounds 220,000 to London hairdresser Kenneth Hsu for wrongful arrest, assault and imprisonment by police - was slashed to pounds 35,000 last year after Scotland Yard won a landmark case to curb civil damages payouts to victims of unlawful arrest and assault by the police.