Rowlands v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeLord Justice Moore-Bick,Lord Justice Richards,Lord Justice Ward
Judgment Date20 December 2006
Neutral Citation[2006] EWCA Civ 1773
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Docket NumberCase No: B2/2006/0443
Date20 December 2006
Susan Rowlands
The Chief Constable of Merseyside Police

[2006] EWCA Civ 1773


Lord Justice Ward

Lord Justice Moore-Bick and

Lord Justice Richards

Case No: B2/2006/0443






Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Mr. Henry Gow (instructed by Nadim Associates) for the appellant

Mr. Graham Wells (instructed by Weightmans) for the respondent

Lord Justice Moore-Bick

In August 2002 the appellant, Mrs. Susan Rowlands, and her family were living at 90 Eastham Road, New Ferry on the Wirral peninsula. The house across the road, No. 89, was occupied by a group of people who, from Mrs. Rowlands' point of view, might be described as troublesome neighbours. On 15 th August Mrs. Rowlands and her family had returned from a holiday in Spain; the following day, 16 th August, was their first full day back at home. It seems that the people who lived at No. 89 were due to leave the house the next day and were celebrating their imminent departure with a party. According to Mrs. Rowlands, the party had gone on all day and had spilled out of the house into the front garden. There were about twenty people present and the party was rather rowdy, with a lot of loud music being played and plenty of drinking.


By about 9.00 p.m. Mrs. Rowlands and her family had had enough and she telephoned the police to complain. She was told to ring again if the noise got any worse. It did, so at about 10.00 p.m. she telephoned the police once more and a mobile patrol was sent in response. The two officers who attended the scene were P.C. Patterson and P.C. Marshall of the Merseyside police. They paid a visit to No. 89 Eastham Road and things quietened down, but as soon as they had left the noise began again and shortly afterwards the two policemen returned. Having spoken again to the occupants of No. 89, P.C. Patterson went across the road to No. 90. There followed an altercation between him and Mrs. Rowlands as a result of which she was arrested in front of her children, placed in handcuffs and taken to the police car. She said that the pain in her wrists was excruciating. P.C. Patterson got into the back of the police car with her and when she asked him to loosen the handcuffs he tugged at them, deliberately causing her further pain. She was taken to Birkenhead police station where she was detained for about an hour and a half. She was later charged with assaulting a constable in the execution of his duty and an additional offence of obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty. Some seven months later in March 2003 she was tried before the Liverpool magistrates. P.C. Patterson gave evidence for the prosecution. He said that Mrs. Rowlands and the young people who were at No. 90 Eastham Road at the time had shouted abuse and had become aggressive towards him. He had tried to calm them down, but Mrs. Rowlands had continued to shout abuse and behave in an aggressive manner. P.C. Marshall also gave evidence. However, the magistrates did not accept the police evidence and Mrs. Rowlands was acquitted of the only outstanding charge against her, namely, obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty.


As a result of these experiences Mrs. Rowlands brought proceedings in the Liverpool County Court against the Chief Constable of Merseyside police seeking damages for assault, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. In her particulars of claim she claimed damages for the injury, pain and suffering she said she had suffered in the course of her arrest. She also claimed aggravated damages in respect of the affront to her dignity and exemplary damages in respect of what she alleged were the arbitrary, oppressive and unconstitutional actions of the police.

The trial


The case came on for trial before His Honour Judge MacMillan and a jury on 23 rd February 2006. The jury were asked to answer five questions, to which they gave the following answers:

1. Have the police proved that it is more likely than not that P.C. Patterson thought that Mrs. Rowlands was likely to cause a breach of the peace? No

2. Have the police proved that it is more likely than not that the use of handcuffs by P.C. Patterson to restrain Mrs. Rowlands was reasonable? No.

3. Has Mrs Rowlands proved that it is more likely than not that she was dragged backwards by P.C. Patterson using the handcuffs? Yes.

4. Has Mrs. Rowlands proved that it is more likely than not that P.C. Patterson yanked the handcuffs in the back of the car to cause her pain? Yes.

5. Has Mrs. Rowlands proved that it is more likely than not that the account of the matter given to the Magistrates' Court by P.C. Patterson was deliberately false? Yes.

It followed from these findings that Mrs. Rowlands had made good her case in its entirety.


At that point the judge asked the jury to retire while he heard submissions on to damages. Counsel were able to agree an award of £3,000 for personal injury, pain and suffering: £1,000 for the injury to Mrs. Rowlands' wrists and £2,000 for psychiatric harm. There was then a discussion about the measure of damages to be awarded for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Mr. Gow submitted that, applying the guidance given by this court in Thompson v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [1998] Q.B. 498, in respect of the false imprisonment an award of about £600 for the first hour (after allowing for inflation) would be appropriate with an addition to reflect the fact that Mrs. Rowlands was detained for an hour and a half altogether. In respect of malicious prosecution he submitted that a sum of between £3,000 and £4,000 would be appropriate, again applying the guidelines in Thompson, to reflect the fact that Mrs. Rowlands was a lady of good character and that the charge had been hanging over her head for over six months. The Judge expressed his disagreement with that, however, and Mr. Gow moved swiftly on to the question of aggravated damages.


In relation to aggravated damages Mr. Gow submitted that the award could be up to twice the damages awarded for personal injury, pain and suffering, but he put forward no figures and left the matter there.


Finally Mr. Gow came to exemplary damages. However, before he had had a chance to make any submissions the judge intervened to indicate that in his view this was not a case in which there should be an award of exemplary damages because there was nothing extraordinary about it. At that point Mr. Gow sat down.


Mr. Wells then made his submissions. He confirmed his client's agreement to an award of £3,000 for personal injury, pain and suffering, including psychiatric harm, and put forward a figure of £850 for the false imprisonment, which does not appear to have been controversial. The following exchange then occurred in relation to damages for malicious prosecution:

Mr. Wells: These [referring to the figures suggested in Thompson] go up with inflation. So, rather than go up like Heil v Rankin personal injuries, these just go up with the inflation. The inflation factor, I think and I am afraid I have not got it with me, but from 1997, from memory, is about 1.5 or thereabouts. So it would be increased by about £2,500/£2,700.

The Judge: Well, £2,500 was the figure I have written down.

Mr. Gow: I would not argue with that, Your Honour.

Mr. Wells: Yes and that is what I would say –

The Judge: Sorry?

Mr. Gow: I would not argue that; £2,500.


At that stage the matter was left there and Mr. Wells moved on to aggravated damages.


An award of aggravated damages proved to be more controversial. Mr. Wells submitted that it would be inappropriate to award aggravated damages in a case where an award of damages had already been made in respect of psychiatric harm because that would result in the claimant's being compensated twice for the same injury.


When he came to exemplary damages Mr. Wells indicated that he would have wished to argue that it was inappropriate to make such an award against the Chief Constable, given the fact that his liability was simply vicarious. Before he got any further, however, the judge intervened to say that he was quite confident that this was not a case for exemplary damages and so Mr. Wells addressed no further argument to him on the question.


After hearing from Mr. Gow in reply the judge ruled that a separate award of aggravated damages was not appropriate in this case since the agreed award of damages for personal injury, pain and suffering would fully compensate Mrs. Rowlands for the psychiatric harm she had suffered in the form of persistent feelings of anger and injustice at how she had been treated. (As I have said, he had already ruled that it was not a case in which an award of exemplary damages could be justified.) There then followed this exchange between counsel and the judge:

The Judge: Well, gentlemen, if we agree those figures—£2,000 psychiatric; £1,000 for the pain to the wrists; £850 false imprisonment and £2,500 for the malicious prosecution – there is nothing for the jury to decide, is there?

Mr. Gow: No. Well, I obviously do not agree with Your Honour's assessment of aggravated damages.

The Judge: No, obviously not, Mr. Gow.

Mr. Gow: I think that is a matter that we will have to go to a higher court on.

The Judge: Well, I am not granting you leave, but . . .

Mr. Gow: Certainly, obviously we will have to take that with another court, but as I say, there is nothing (inaudible) but I think the jury should be informed of what the damages –

The Judge: Yes,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
14 cases
1 books & journal articles
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2015, December 2015
    • 1 December 2015
    ...Campbell v MGN Ltd[2002] EWHC 499 (upheld on appeal: [2004] 2 AC 457; [2004] UKHL 22); Rowlands v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police[2007] 1 WLR 1065; Giller v Procopets[2008] VSCA 236 and Wilson v Ferguson[2015] WASC 15. See also in particular, Richardson v Howie[2004] EWCA Civ 1127 at [......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT