Can I claim compensation against the police?

As a British citizen you can bring a civil action against, and seek damages from, anyone for loss or injuries, and the police are no exception. There are several main categories under which you can sue the police, including the following;

Assault and/or battery also determined as excessive force being used in the act or arresting or detaining.

False imprisonment or having your liberty unlawfully restricted. Examples of this include you being detained without valid justification or being held for too long without being charged.

Trespassing on, or searching your, property without having the proper authority

Malicious prosecution where you are charges are brought against you without good reason and you are then found innocent.

Negligence by failing to meet the required stand of care the police mush show to protect the safety of those who could be affected by their actions.

In the days when the way to sue the police was via the Police Complaints Authority many of the civil cases were successful whereas more formal complaints often failed. Now that this has been replaced by the IPCC, Independent Police Complaints Commission, the jury is still out as to whether this remains. If you are seriously considering launching a civil action against the police then the first step is to engage the services of a solicitor who specialises in this area of the law. Many solicitors will not deal with cases against the police as it is a niche area, so by finding yourself a specialist you give yourself both the best chance of success as well as being in a position to receive the largest amount of damages. There are no guarantees obviously, but by having the right person in your corner you are certainly shortening the odds in your favour.


The Court of Appeal released its guidelines back in February 1997 relating to the level of damages which could be awarded to those who successfully sued the police in a civil action. Th3 figure was set at £500 for the initial hour of false imprisonment then on a sliding scale for every hour thereafter, resulting in a maximum payout of £3000 for a full 24 hours false detention.

The court also put forward a proposal that the damages that would be awarded in a successful malicious prosecution case would total between £2000-£10,000. Exemplary damages on top of this basic amount would be between £5000-£50,000 depending on the circumstances. There is funding available through the Community Legal Service for those seeking to take action against the police but these depend on several factors including the merits of the case, your income and your capital. A usual course of action is to launch the action against the Chief Constable, who is deemed to be responsible for the actions of those officers in his force. This eliminates the need to  find out the identities of the individual officers involved, as you would if you were making an official complaint.

Those considering bringing both a civil action and a formal complaint should take heed of the legal advice of their solicitor. You could well be advised not to produce a detailed statement to support the complaint as this could prove to be detrimental to your civil action. This is due to the fact that the police will be told at the earliest stage about the case you are bringing against them. If you made the complaint first, then you must refer the investigating officer directly to your solicitor. You need to have considerable patience when it comes to a civil case against the police as these cases often take several years to reach a conclusion.