Sutton v Commissioner of the Police for the Metropolis

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal
JudgeLORD JUSTICE KENNEDY,LORD JUSTICE MORRITT
Judgment Date29 Jul 1998
Judgment citation (vLex)[1998] EWCA Civ J0729-13
Docket NumberNo LTA+A 97/7094/4

[1998] EWCA Civ J0729-13

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JUDICATURE

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL AND AN EXTENSION OF TIME WITH APPEAL TO FOLLOW IF GRANTED

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London WC2

Before:

Lord Justice Kennedy

Lord Justice Morritt

No LTA+A 97/7094/4

Sutton
and
Commissioner of the Police for the Metropolis

MR JAMES WOOD (Instructed by Deighton Guedella of London) appeared on behalf of the Appellant— MR A HUDSON appeared on 29th July 1998

MR SIMON WALSH (Instructed by Solicitor to New Scotland Yard) appeared on behalf of the Respondent

1

LORD JUSTICE KENNEDY
2

1. Summary

3

At about 8.20 pm on 6th May 1991 at a road junction in south east London some police officers were trying to arrest a man named David Ball whom they suspected of having taken a motor car without the consent of the owner. In fact the suspicion was misplaced because the car belonged to David Ball's brother. The three appellants, who were in the vicinity for differing reasons, disapproved of what the police officers were doing, and gave vent to their disapproval. They were all three arrested and charged, but on 5th July 1991 they were acquitted in a Magistrates' Court, and in September 1992 they commenced a civil action against the Metropolitan Police Commissioner seeking damages for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. In September 1997 the case came on for trial at the Central London County Court before Judge Cowell and a jury. At the end of the trial each appellant obtained an award of damages, but the awards were obviously well below their hopes and expectations, and before us it has been contended by Mr James Wood for the appellants that the way in which the trial judge left the issues of false imprisonment and malicious prosecution to the jury, coupled with his directions on quantum and his refusal to leave open the possibility of exemplary damages were so flawed that there should now be a new trial.

4

2. Appellant's "offences"

5

The first appellant Sutton was arrested for an offence contrary to section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986. That section so far is material provides that a person is guilty of an offence if he "uses towards another person threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour…….with intent to cause that person to believe that immediate unlawful violence will be used against him……..". Sutton was charged with that offence at about 11.30 pm on 6th May 1991 and he was then released on bail at about 11.35 pm.

6

The second appellant, Hines, was arrested for an offence contrary to section 51(3) of the Police Act 1964 which, so far as material, provided that "anyone who resists or wilfully obstructs a constable in the execution of his duty…shall be guilty of an offence…". At about 12.05 am on 7th May 1991 he was charged with that offence, the allegation being that he obstructed P.C. Ayling in the execution of his duty, and he was then released on bail at 12.25 am. He was later charged with obstructing P.C. McCluskey contrary to section 51(3) of the 1964 Act and with an offence of using threatening and abusive behaviour with intent, contrary to section 4 of the 1986 Act.

7

The third appellant, Ms Bent, was arrested for an offence contrary to section 5(1) of the 1986 Act which, so far as material, provides that "a person is guilty of an offence if he….uses….disorderly behaviour….within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby". Miss Bent was charged with that offence at 12.25 am on 7th May 1991 on the basis of evidence from Police Sergeant Judd and she was released on bail at 12.30 am. She was later charged with obstructing that officer in the execution of his duty contrary to section 51(3) of the 1964 Act.

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3. Rival versions of offences charged

9

As can be seen from the pleadings there was a conflict, in the case of each appellant, between their version of the relevant events and that put forward on behalf of the respondent. For present purposes the contrasting positions can be summarised as follows:—

(A) Sutton

Sutton claims that he saw police officers using excessive force on David Ball and moved towards the incident to try to record their numbers. He was then unlawfully arrested, beaten and assaulted. He was further assaulted in a police van on the way to Lewisham Police Station and in a cell at the police station he was again assaulted by a police sergeant, who placed a set of handcuffs next to an onyx ring over his knuckle and rubbed it into Sutton's face saying "if you move I'll break your teeth".

The respondent contended that Sutton ran at police officers who were restraining David Ball, swearing at them, and attempting to hit them. He also tried to prevent them from putting David Ball into a police van. He refused to desist, and so eventually he was arrested and taken to the police station. He was not assaulted at any stage.

(B) Hines

Hines claims that he was simply advising the officers who were assaulting David Ball to calm down, and he was then assaulted. When he refused to leave he was arrested. He was not told why, but he was subjected to considerable violence including kicks, before being taken to the police station and locked in a cell. One particular kick caused him to bite his tongue and chipped his tooth.

The respondent contends that Hines was trying to persuade the officers to release David Ball and refused to accept that it had nothing to do with him. He was told by P.C. McCluskey that he should go home or he would be arrested, but he tried to get past that officer and another officer, and when restrained he kicked and struggled until eventually he was subdued and arrested.

(C) Ms Bent

Miss Bent says that she was not in any way connected with Sutton and Hines or with David Ball. She simply witnessed the assault on David Ball and was told by a police officer to go away and mind her own business. She was also pushed by a police officer so hard that she stumbled back and she was then arrested and taken by van to Lewisham Police Station.

According to the respondent Ms Bent ran towards the officers who were restraining and arresting David Ball, and at the same time she was shouting at them to leave him alone. She refused to go away, and tried several times to push past Police Sergeant Judd until eventually she was arrested.

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4. The Civil Trial

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The trial began on 1st September 1997 and lasted nine working days. All three plaintiffs gave evidence, and David Ball was also called as a witness. A number of police officers gave evidence for the defence. There was then some discussion with counsel as to the questions to be put to the Jury, after which the Judge made his ruling, prior to submissions and summing-up. In the light of the answers given by the jury to the thirteen questions which they were originally asked to consider two more questions were formulated and answered. The Judge then ruled in relation to exemplary damages, and directed the jury in relation to quantum, after which they made their awards.

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5. Jury questions and answers

13

The jury were questioned and answered as follows:—

A Have the Plaintiffs satisfied you on balance of probabilities that:

1)

the police officers arresting David Ball used more force than was reasonable in

circumstances

YES

B Has the Defendant satisfied you on balance of probabilities that:

2)

the First Plaintiff (Mr Sutton) used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards a police officer with the intent to cause that officer to believe that immediate unlawful violence would be used against him or another officer was likely to believe that such violence would be used or provoked

NO

3)

P.C. Ward told the First Plaintiff at the time of his arrest the reason for it

NO

If the answer to question 3 is 'No'

4) was the First Plaintiff told at the police station the reason for his arrest

YES

C Has the First Plaintiff (Mr Sutton) satisfied you on the balance of probabilities that :

5)

the police officers, when arresting the First Plaintiff, used more force that (sic) was reasonable in the circumstances

NO

6)

the police officers, when placing the First Plaintiff in the van, used more force than was reasonable in the circumstances

NO

7)

in the cell at Lewisham police station, PS Clark rubbed handcuffs across the First Plaintiff's face or threatened him

YES

D Has the Defendant satisfied you on the balance of probabilities that :

8)

the Second Plaintiff (Mr Hines), before his arrest, obstructed any of the police officers in such a way as to cause or be likely to cause a breach of the peace or was calculated to prevent the lawful arrest of David Ball

YES

9)

PC McClusky told the Second Plaintiff at the time of his arrest of the reason for it

NO

E Has the Second Plaintiff (Mr Hines) satisfied you on the balance of probabilities that :

10)

police officers, when arresting the Second Plaintiff, used more force than was reasonable in the circumstances

NO

F Has the Defendant satisfied you on the balance of probabilities that:

11)

the Third Plaintiff (Yvonne Bent) used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour

NO

If the answer to question 11 is 'Yes'

12)

PC Judd warned her to stop using such words or behaviour

N/A

13)

immediately or shortly thereafter the Third Plaintiff used any further threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour.

N/A

G Has the First Plaintiff satisfied you on a balance of probabilities that :

14)

PC Ward did not honestly believe the account he gave in the criminal proceedings about the First Plaintiff's behaviour

NO

H Has the Third Plaintiff satisfied you on a balance of probabilities that :

15)

PS Judd did not honestly believe the...

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