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Met makes awards of pounds 400,000 in civil cases

THE METROPOLITAN Police agreed 12 payments of more than pounds 10,000 to settle claims for false imprisonment during the first 11 months of 1992, according to figures released by the Home Office, writes Terry Kirby.

Most of the claims also involved accusations of assault or malicious prosecution, or sometimes all three. The highest award was pounds 50,000 and the total paid out exceeded pounds 400,000.

In a further 11 similar cases determined by jury trial, there were six awards of pounds 10,000 or more, with the two highest being pounds 55,000 and pounds 50,000. During the first 11 months of 1992 the total for court awards was pounds 193,000.

The figures were among civil action payments made by the Metropolitan Police since 1988, which have been disclosed to Chris Mullin, Labour MP for Sunderland South, by Charles Wardle, Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office. The figures do not give details of individual actions, identify the claimants or say whether officers face action as a result.

Mr Mullin said that it was wrong that the figures did not show how many officers had been charged or disciplined in connection with the incidents: 'I suspect the number will be very low,' he added.

The police say that since civil actions are judged by lower standards of proof than criminal trials and police discipline hearings, it is often impossible to bring officers to account. According to the figures, the biggest settlement made by the force during the period was pounds 130,000 in a negligence action in 1990 - believed to be the highest awarded by the force.

Two other payments of more than pounds 100,000 are listed: one for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and interference with goods awarded by a court in 1990, and another for pounds 100,275 for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution awarded in 1989. That payment is believed to have been reduced on appeal to pounds 60,000.