September 17, 2010 12:05 ET

Man Suffering From Schizophrenia Wins Compensation Claim Against Police

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Sept. 17, 2010) - A man suffering from mental health problems, who was sprayed in the face with CS gas by a police officer has won his legal action against the police.

Mr David Johnston, 39, from Kirkby has won his claim for compensation following a decision by a jury at Liverpool County Court following an incident on January 8th 2006, when he was left with burns to his skin which were caused by being sprayed three times with the gas. Previously Merseyside Police had attempted to prevent Mr Johnston from seeking compensation under the 1983 Mental Health Act.

Iain Gould, a solicitor at David Phillips & Partners Solicitors; the firm who handled Mr Johnston's case and specialise in actions against the police, commented: "This case is a stark reminder to police officers that CS gas is a potent weapon that should only be deployed when an officer is faced with violence or the threat of violence. On arrival, PC Court was told and recognised from Mr Johnston's behaviour that he was mentally ill and needed help. Unfortunately, his actions exacerbated a delicate situation and only served to harm Mr Johnston. It raises real concerns as to the actions of PC Court that night and the adequacy of training in the use of CS gas".

Mr Johnston had taken an overdose of his prescribed medication and drunk a litre of cider. He was found wandering by his friend, Robert Hardaker who took him back to his house, which he shared with Tracey O'Keefe. Mr Johnston was depressed at the prospect of his children being taken to America by his ex-wife and was clearly suffering from some form of mental breakdown.

Ms O'Keefe called 999 for an ambulance, although in accordance with standard practice in these cases, the operator also alerted the police. However, on his arrival at the scene, PC Court sprayed Mr Johnston with CS gas before detaining him and taking him to hospital.

Mr Johnston alleged that the officer used the gas like spray paint, saturating his clothes and burning his face, neck, ears, back, chest and legs even though he was holding his hands out in submission and showing he posed no threat. He suffered severe skin blistering as a result of the attack.

The jury at Liverpool County Court yesterday found that the amount of force used on Mr Johnston by the officer was unreasonable and as a result, Johnston won his case.

On Monday the 20th September, the jury will return to decide the amount of compensation that Merseyside Police should pay.

About David Phillips & Partners Solicitors:
  • Offices throughout the UK including London, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.
  • Regulated by Solicitors' Regulation Authority (SRA Ref#: 73353).
  • Founded in 1982 and has over 25 years legal experience in the following specialised areas; criminal defence, accident claims, actions against the police, property conveyancing, wills and probate, matters involving children, motoring offences and prison law matters.

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