Meek v Fleming

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date26 June 1961
Judgment citation (vLex)[1961] EWCA Civ J0626-3
CourtCourt of Appeal
Docket Number1958, M. No, 2739.
Date26 June 1961
Between:
Alan Sidney Charlss Meek
Plaintiff
and
Richard Fleming
Defendant.

[1961] EWCA Civ J0626-3

Before:

Lord Justice Holroyd Pearce,

Lord Justice Willmer and

Lord Justice Pearson.

1958, M. No, 2739.

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Revised

Mr NEVILLE FAULKS, Q.C., and Mr SEBAG SHAW (instructed by Messrs Zeffert, Heard & Morley Lawson) appeared on behalf of the Appellant (Plaintiff).

Mr VICTOR A.C. DURAND, Q, C, and Mr WILLIAM STABB (instructed by Mr J. Stewart Williams) appeared on behalf of the Respondent (Defendant).

1

LORD JUSTICE HOLRCYD PEARCA: The plaintiff appeals from the Judgment of Mr Justice Streatfeild sitting with a jury given on the 21st October 1960 after a trial lasting five days. The jury, after an absence of four hours, gave answers to certain questions on which the learned Judge dismissed the action and entered Judgment for the defendant. The plaintiff by his notice of appeal complains that the verdict was against the weight of evidence, and makes certain unsubstantial criticisms of the summing-up. These have not been stressed, and in my judgment no criticism can be made of the conduct of the Judge or the verdict of the jury on the evidence before them. The real ground of this appeal is stated in the notice of appeal as follows: "(6) That at the trial the rank and status of the defendant was by implication represented to be that of a chief inspector when in fact between the date of the matters complained of in the action and the date of the trial he had been reduced to the rank of a station sergeant by reason of misconduct and that the credit of the parties was a crucial issue at the trial". A further notice of motion for leave to give fresh evidence alleges that on the question of credit the defendant deceived or misled the court, and thereby occasioned a miscarriage of justice

2

The plaintiff was claiming damages for assault and wrongful imprisonment in respect of an incident that happened on Guy Fawkes night, 5th November 1958, There was a disorderly crowd in Trafalgar Square, and many police officers had been detailed to deal with it. They made a number of arrests that night, and removed the arrested persons in a police tender to Cannon Row police station where they charged them and then, as a rule, released them. The defendant was the chief inspector at Cannon Row police station, and was actively engaged in helping to control the disorder in Trafalgar Square. The plaintiff, a press photographer with a good record, was there with his camera for the purpose of taking photographs. At about 9.40 p.m. the defendant arrested him on a charge of obstructing the police, and took him in a tender to Cannon Row police station where he was kept in a cell until 1.30 a.m.

3

If the plaintiff's story was correct, the defendant arrested him without proper cause, used considerable violence to him which caused physical injury, and without justification locked him up for some hours instead of charging him straight away and releasing him. If the defendant's story was correct he acted with propriety; he was justified in arresting the plaintiff, and the subsequent vioonco (which was far less than the plaintiff alleged) was wholly occasioned by the plaintiff's own violence and resistance.

4

On the 17th November 1958 the plaintiff issued the writ in this action. On the 17th December he appeared at the magistrates court and was convicted of obstructing the police and fined £5. Another charge was dismissed.

5

On the 16th December 1959, while this action was pending certain ovents occurred which at the trial were unknown to the plaintiff's advisers, and which they had no reason to know or to suspect These events wore deliberately concealed at the trial by the defendant and his legal advisors. It is on this conceal ment that the plaintiff relies in this appeal. He asks for a now trial in order that these facts may be proved by fresh evidence

6

The facts have been agreed between the parties for the purpose of this appeal in the following terms: "(1) At the date when the defendant gave evidence at the trial of the action, his true rank in the Metropolitan Police Force was station sergeant. (2) The defendant was reduced from the rank of chief inspector to station sergeant on the 16th December 1959 (3) On the 16th December 1959 the defendant appeared before a disciplinary board on the following charges: (i) Acting in a manner projudicial to discipline by being a party to an arrangement with" a police constable "whereby that officer purported to have arrested a street bookmaker on 26th October 1959 when in fact you were the officer who made the arrest. (ii) Without good and sufficient cause did omit promptly and diligently to attend to a matter which was your duty as a constable, that is to say having arrested for street betting on 26th October 1959 you did not attend the hearing of the case against him at Thames metropolitan magistrates court on 27th October 1959.

7

"The defendant was reduced in rank to station sergeant on each charge, but on appeal to the Commissioner on the 30th December the punishment on the second charge was reduced to a reprimand, but there was no variation in the first punishment".

8

It is conceded that those facts were known to the defendant's legal advisers and his counsel, and that as a matter of deliberate policy they were not put before the court. A letter written by the defendant's solicitor on the 21st November 1960 pending the appeal says: "The learned Queen's Counsel instructed by me was throughout, as I believe you are aware, in full possession of all the facts relating to my client's past and present status and the reasons for Ms reduction in rank, and conducted the case in full knowledge of these facts in the manner he felt was consistant with his duty to his client and the court, and he is fully prepared to defend and justify his handling of the case at the proper time if called upon to do so".

9

It having been decided not to reveal these facts, the following things occurred at the trial. The defendant attended the trial not in uniform, but in plain clothes, whereas all the other police witnesses were in uniform. Thus there was no visible sign of the do fondant's altered status. He was constantly addressed by his counsel as "Mr", and not by his rank of sergeant. Counsel tolls us that he would so address a sergant in the normal case. When the defendant entered the witness-box, ho was not asked him name and rank in the usual manner. No suspicions were aroused since no one had any reason to suspect. The plaintiff's counsel, however, and the Judge frequently addressed the defendant, or referred to him, as "inspector" "chief inspector", and nothing was done to disabuse them.

10

The defendant started his evidence with a brief summary of his career up to the time when he was chief inspector at Cannon Row police station, but no reference was made to his reduction in rank. In cross-examination he was asked (Day 2, page 23 at C.): You are a chief inspector, and you have been in the Force, you told us, since 1938? (A) Yes, that is true". That answer was a lie. At page 40 at C; "(Q) You realise, as chief inspector, the importance of the note being accurate? (A) The importance of it conveying to me what I want to give in evidence", He was asked further (Day 2, page 44 at C.) "Let us understand this. You arc a chief inspector. How old are you? (A) I am fortysix years of ago". And at page 44 at F.: "(Q) I am not asking you whether you took part in the inquiries, but whether you as a responsible and senior adult man - never mind about your being a chief inspector - had no anxiety about this case, no concern or interest? (A) No. I can only repeat I have nothing to fear".

11

The learned Judge referred to the defendant as "inspector" or "chief inspector Fleming" many times in his summing-up to the jury. It is clear that ho reasonably considered that the defendant's rank and status wore relevant on credibility in a case Where there was oath against oath, and where there was a question of the defendant's conduct in the course of his duty. No doubt ho felt what Lord Justice Singleton expressed in Mohahir Alt v. Ellmore, (1953 volume 2 All England Law Reports, page 1044 at page 1046) when, in dealing with a matter concerning evidence, he said: "It appears to me that that evidence was irrelevant and unnecessary. The fact that a witness who is also a defendant is a superintendent of Leeds City Police shows that he is of good standing, and that he has the confidence of his superior officers"

12

Nor was the defendant's counsel prepared to forego the advantage to be derived from the status in the police force of his witnesses in general. The parties have, fortunately, in the interests of economy been able to use the reports of the case in "The Times" newspaper. These show that in his opening speech for the defence, counsel stated that the Jury had not yet had an opportunity of listening to persons against whom it was at times fashionable to make wild hysterical allegations, but who could not have reached their positions unless they had shown to thoso who controlled the Metropolitan police a substantial degree of responsibility, They were not concerned hero with some newcomer to the Force who had only just finished his course, and was out on the street full of enthusiasm to arrest the first person he could.

13

"The Times" report of the final speech of defendant's counsel shows that he said in reference to the allegations of the Plaintiff; "That was un-English, and not what the jury would expect of any police officer who had passed through the sieve, been trained and risen to any rank in the Metropolitan Police" . He then went on to contrast unfavourably the plaintiff's back ground in Floct Street where "words come out in very large letters, and the range of adjectives and description is so...

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