Law report: Officer used unreasonable force at demo

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This law report has been contributed by national law firm Berrymans Lace Mawer

Minio-Paluello v Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis (2011) (Queen’s Bench Division — 
16 December 2011)
Queen's Bench Division, 16 December 2011

The claimant and her friend, Taimour Lay, were involved in a pro-Palestinian demonstration on 9 January 2009 in the vicinity of the Israeli Embassy in London.

The claimant and Lay were among a group of protestors 
on the pavement who attempted to force their way past a line 
of police officers in order to 
join cyclists protesting in the road. Lay was warned by 
the police that he would be arrested for obstructing the highway and to prevent a breach of the peace if he did not stay on the pavement.

Lay then went into the road and was lawfully arrested. The claimant tried to frustrate that arrest by holding onto Lay and, as a result, they, and the officers, fell to the ground.

An officer, PC Pelham, used force to lock the claimant’s arm behind her back. He then lifted her up and in the process she sustained a fracture to her upper arm. The police said that the force used by PC Pelham was necessary to complete the arrest of Lay (section 117 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) and to prevent a criminal offence being committed (section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967) and in any event the force used was in self defence and/or in defence of fellow officers.

Comment
The court appears to have accepted that some force would have been justified. However, the method used by the officer was dangerous and neither reasonable nor proportionate. The court was guided by both the medical evidence, which said that the force used must have been “considerable” to cause such an injury, and also the evidence of an officer responsible for safety training, who said that police are not taught to use the arm lock technique when a suspect is on the ground. Therefore, the claimant was entitled to damages for assault and general damages were awarded in the sum of £11 500.
Daniel West, BLM London

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