Suing the police

More and more people are choosing to bypass the complaints system and are suing the police for compensation. The two main reasons for this are;

If you are successful you receive the financial recompense you are entitled too

The best result from a complaint is an apology

If you have been the victim of any kind of police misconduct and are unsure of how to sue them then read on. Below you will find the answers you are looking regarding how to take matters further and the steps you should take to do this. Your chances greatly increase, obviously, if you have witnesses to support your claim, and as much evidence as possible to back you up. If it is just your word against yours these cases are notoriously difficult to win, and that’s if you can get a solicitor to take your case. 

What You Can Sue The Police For

The most common reason for suing the police is if someone has been assaulted by them, wrongfully arrested or found themselves being prosecuted for a crime they didn’t commit. Here are some other instances in more indepth detail. 


This is a much broader area than most people realise and covers a lot more than a smack in the mouth. The instant somebody touches you with a lawful reason for doing so, or makes you fearful that violence will take place against you, you are being assaulted. Punches, kicks, illegal body searches, the list goes on. If you have been the victim of any of these it is vital that you visit a doctor or hospital as soon as possible in order that your injuries be recorded, and photos should also be taken too. 

Unlawful Arrest

Unlawful arrest, wrongful arrest and detention are all classed as false imprisonment. The police have to justify any detention or arrest and if you believe the police have acted outside of the boundary of their powers in this area then you should seek legal advice. A false imprisonment can take place in your own home, on a public street, inside a police vehicle and, obviously, a police station. In fact, it can take place anywhere the police have the power to control your freedom.

Being Prosecuted For A Crime You Didn’t Commit

Also known as malicious prosecution, the hardest part of suing the police in this instance is proving that they didn’t have reasonable cause to try and prosecute you. In other words, they had a malicious intent or motive for doing so. To be able to sue the police for malicious prosecution you also have to have won your case, by this we mean;

Charges were dropped before the case reached court

You agreed to a bind-over in court before the case started

You were found not guilty by the jury 

Other Instances

The other situations you can sue the police for are trespass, negligence and several other civil wrongs which are somewhat of a grey area so advice is best sought. The Citizens Advice Bureau is a good place to start before you consult a solicitor as they will be up to date with what you can, and can’t, sue the police for. 

Taking Your Case To Court

If you sue the police and it reaches court it will be in an ordinary civil court. The only main difference between this and other types of civil cases is that when the claim is for malicious prosecution or false imprisonment there could be both a judge and a jury. Suing the police in order to get compensation for what you believe is wrongdoing towards you is never simple and can take years before it reaches court. While you may get the compensation you are seeking it is highly unlikely any police officers will be punished. This can only happen if you make a complaint against the officer/s via the Police Complaints Authority. Once again you should seek legal advice on this. 

Amount of Compensation You Could Win

There are no set amounts of compensation when it comes to suing the police, merely guidelines. These are all ball park figures and it is ultimately up to the jury decide how much you will get, that’s if it even reached court. You should not be put off by this however as many cases are settled out of court as the police often realise they are going to lose, or know how much the court costs can quickly mount up. Some awards are relatively small, while others run into thousands, it very much depends on what you are suing them for. 

The Costs Involved With Suing The Police

Legal Aid was always the most popular way of getting legal representation if you were on a low income, unemployed or had high levels of financial commitments. The rules of this have changed greatly recently however, and the most popular route nowadays is to try and engage the services of a solicitor on a no win no fee basis. If you can find a solicitor who specialises in cases against the police, they do exist honestly, they will more than likely offer this. They will also advise you, however, how much you are likely to get and how much you will have to pay out of it, and this enables you to make an informed decision as to whether you should continue or not. 

Time Allowed to Make a Claim

You should obviously lodge your claim as soon as possible after the incident you are suing the police for but the legal timelines are;

3 years for an assault that results in personal injury

6 years for all the others 

First Step

As soon as is humanly possible write down all the facts of the incident making sure you include as much detail as possible about the officer/s involved. See a doctor if you have suffered any injuries so they can be recorded. Take pictures of these injuries if they can be seen. Look for a solicitor who specialises in this area. If you search proves fruitless the Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to point you in the right direction.