High Court quashes decision of police complaint appeals panel

Leonie Hirst acted for the successful claimant in a judicial review claim against West Mercia Police challenging the decision not to uphold his police conduct complaint, in a case raising  issues about the use of police powers against individuals with chronic mental illness.

The claimant has significant mental health problems, which had resulted in numerous welfare calls to the police made on his behalf by concerned family members and professionals. In September 2019 the claimant threatened to kill himself and his parents contacted West Mercia police requesting that officers check on his welfare. The claimant was arrested for a malicious communications offence and detained in a cell overnight. The claimant’s mother made a complaint on his behalf about the conduct of the police, challenging the decision to arrest him and his treatment whilst in police custody. The subsequent internal investigation showed that the intention of senior officers was to arrest and detain the claimant as a deterrent to prevent future welfare calls.

The High Court found that the appeal panel had failed to address the substance of the complaint and in particular had not addressed the strategy of using arrest and detention in a mental health case; the decision was not adequately reasoned and was irrational. The decision was quashed and remitted for reconsideration. A separate civil claim for damages has settled.

Leonie Hirst was instructed by Sebastian Del Monte at Hodge Jones & Allen.