Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News and other Busyness

Damages Limited

New guidelines put police payouts to £50,000 maximum

Squall 15, Summer 1997, pg. 5.

AWARDS for damages against the police were limited to £50,000 in February at a successful High Court appeal against a £220,000 pay out to a London hairdresser

Over the last ten years damage awards made against the police by juries are estimated to have cost the Metropolitan Police Force £10 million.

The appeal against the £220,000 award to a London hairdresser, Kenneth Hsu, for assault, unlawful arrest and false imprisonment, was one of two test cases brought by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon.

Reducing the award to £35,000 the Court of Appeal set new guidelines for compensation awards, imposing a maximum of £50,000.

Lord Woolf, Master of the Rolls, upheld the £20,000 pay out received by Mr Hsu for basic and aggravated damages but slashed the £200,000 exemplary damages award.

Last year a record amount of compensation was paid in damages by the Metropolitan Police leading Paul Condon to question the use of police resources. But the new limit means record pay outs will no longer hit the headlines and cause embarrassment.

The appeal court said that to justify an award of even £25,000 the actions of the police must be "particularly deserving of condemnation".

Mr Hsu was put in a headlock, punched and kicked and had his head prodded with a key after being thrown into the back of a police van.

He was later released from a police cell without any shoes or money and forced to make his own way home.

Setting the guidelines, the appeal court said the starting figure for malicious prosecution should be £2,000; false imprisonment for more than 24 hours was worth £3,000; and the maximum of £50,000 would have to involve an officer of at least the rank of superintendent.