Wrongful arrest of a GP (Rashid v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police) by Ian Pennock, barrister, at Parklane Plowden Chambers.
The court held that whereas reasonable grounds for suspecting someone has committed an offence sets a low evidential hurdle, the second requirement for an arrest to be lawful (for the Police to prove that there were reasonable grounds to believe the arrest was ‘necessary’) sets a comparatively high evidential hurdle and the police could not objectively evidence that the arrest was ‘necessary’ when the GP would have been prepared to voluntarily attend the police station and the reasons given by the Police for the ‘necessity’ of arresting the GP were baseless.
Rashid v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police  EWHC 2522 (QB),  All ER (D) 02 (Oct)
What are the practical implications of this case?
An arrested person who was prepared to attend the police station voluntarily may make it very difficult for the police to establish the arrest was ‘necessary’ and, if they do not do so, that arrest will be unlawful. Many of the ‘reasons’ given for claiming such an arrest was ‘necessary’ may well be negated if the claimant was prepared to co-operate and, for example, hand their mobile phone over to the police or attend a police station and answer questions voluntarily. In those circumstances, the time for the police to validly consider an arrest to be ‘necessary’ may be when the person fails to co-operate or withdraws that co-operation.
What was the background?
During an investigation into fraudulent insurance claims, a GP who had a successful and high profile medico-legal practice providing many medico-legal reports for victims of road traffic claims, was arrested. The arresting police officer was, at the time of the arrest, wrongfully holding himself out as a private detective to the Insurance Industry through a bogus company. Another police officer also claimed that the arresting officer had received £183,000 from such an insurance company around the time of the unlawful arrest of the GP. Despite the fact that the GP had never examined and produced a medico-legal report on any fraudulent claimant, the police officer decided to arrest the high profile GP on suspicion of knowingly doing so (but not any other doctor who had actually reported on known fraudulent claimants) and subsequently publicly claimed, in an online CV to attract further custom , that he was the police officer who had ‘got the scalp’ of the GP. The GP was taken to a police station, where he was interviewed under caution. He was released on bail later in the day. Three of his premises were searched, pursuant to warrants, and he was interviewed again on a number of occasions although no specific allegation of being involved in a fraudulent claim was ever put to him. No charges were ever brought against the GP. The GP brought civil proceedings for false imprisonment challenging the necessity of his arrest. The claim was dismissed and the claimant appealed.
What did the court decide?
The court decided on appeal that, contrary to Recorder Nolan QC’s judgment at first instance, there could not be any reasonable grounds for believing the arrest of the GP was ‘necessary.’
There are no time constraints on the voluntary attendance of the GP at the police station as the police had misleadingly asserted and the learned Recorder had erroneously accepted.
Nor was there any need to arrest the GP in order to seize his mobile phone when they could simply have asked the co-operative GP to voluntarily hand it over (and properly consider arrest if he refused to do so).
Equally, there could never be any need for the power to search and seize evidence (which arises upon an arrest) when the police already had search warrants for the GP’s premises.
Consequently, the learned recorder had erroneously believed there were time constraints on voluntary attendance and despite the existence of search warrants and the co-operation of the GP, the learned recorder had erroneously believed there was a need to arrest the GP in order to search him and his premises. That decision was quashed and substituted with a judgment that the GP’s arrest had been unlawful.
Ian Pennock is a barrister at Parklane Plowden Chambers.