DPP Law

DPP Law

August 02, 2012 01:00 ET

Merseyside Police Apologise and Pay GBP 12,500 Compensation After a Police Officer 'Lied' to Prosecute Innocent Woman

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Aug. 2, 2012) - Merseyside Police have today apologised and paid £12,500 compensation to a 58-year-old mother of two, following her unlawful arrest, detention and malicious prosecution.

Maureen Wolfe, a West Midlands resident who grew up in Merseyside, was visiting family and friends in Liverpool for Christmas in 2007. On Christmas Eve the family were in The Crosby Pub, in Crosby, North Liverpool. Her son Steven and nephew Michael got into a fight. Unfortunately for the family, police officers on mobile patrol engaged in 'Operation Nightsafe' came to the pub and got involved. Although Michael explained that it was just a family dispute and that they would resolve it themselves, the argument continued inside the pub a few minutes later. The police came in and immediately arrested Michael and Mrs. Wolfe's other son Anthony after he became involved trying to break the fighting cousins up.

Mrs. Wolfe tried to act as a peacemaker and spoke to the arresting officer, WPC Doran, explaining that it was just a silly family domestic argument, and asking that Anthony be released. Her request was ignored. A few minutes later WPC Doran came back into the pub, asked Mrs. Wolfe to come outside, and arrested her as well.

Mrs. Wolfe was taken to Copy Lane Police Station at about midnight. When WPC Doran accused her of assault (saying that Mrs. Wolfe had pulled her hair), and for being drunk and disorderly, Mrs. Wolfe insisted her allegations were false, and asked them to get the pub's CCTV footage to prove it.

Nevertheless, she was put in a cell, made to wear a paper suit and not allowed to call her husband or arrange for a solicitor until 8a.m. on Christmas morning. At lunchtime on Christmas Day, instead of sitting down to a family meal, Maureen was interviewed at the police station and was later released on police bail, but her Christmas was ruined.

Mrs. Wolfe re-attended the police station on 12 February 2008. She was offered, but refused, a police caution, as Mrs. Wolfe was sure she had done nothing wrong. In the circumstances, she was charged with obstructing a police officer. As legal aid was not available to her, she was warned that it would cost as much as £1,500 to pay a solicitor to defend her at court. As she had never been in trouble with the police before, and felt that she must clear her name, she accepted the risks and costs.

Mrs. Wolfe pleaded not guilty to the charge of obstruction at South Sefton Magistrates Court on 13 March 2008. Witness statements were filed, including one from WPC Doran where she again claimed that Mrs. Wolfe was abusive, drunk and disorderly, pulled her hair and obstructed her.

At the trial on 19 May 2008, it emerged that WPC Doran had given 'unreliable' evidence in a similar case which had been heard less than 3 months earlier. Even though this was known to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, they still continued with Mrs. Wolfe's prosecution, calling WPC Doran as the sole witness, even though seven other officers were involved that night.

When she gave evidence under oath, WPC Doran again repeated the allegations made in her statement. Mrs. Wolfe's solicitors successfully won a 'bad character' application against WPC Doran given the fact that she had proven 'unreliable' in the previous case, but the Judge hearing the case, District Judge Abelson, still insisted on Mrs. Wolfe giving evidence. Part way through her cross examination by the Crown, he stopped the trial and confirmed he was satisfied she was telling the truth.

The court clerk's note of evidence recorded that the 'police to be informed DJ (Abelson) made a formal finding that she (WPC Doran) was lying to the court (having heard the Defendant) I am 100% sure she was lying.'

Mrs. Wolfe was awarded her full costs and £200 for her personal expenses.

Maureen Wolfe describes the whole experience as 'a nightmare'. She became clinically depressed, withdrawn and afraid of the police. The stress of the prosecution caused her to develop psoriasis and put a strain on her marriage and family life.

Following the trial, although Maureen was happy to have been found innocent and satisfied that WPC Doran's version of events was not accepted, she was concerned that justice had not been done, and did not want anyone else to suffer as she had.

Consequently, she instructed Iain Gould, a specialist solicitor who deals with actions against the police at David Phillips & Partners Solicitors.

Iain sued Merseyside Police for damages for assault, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. They denied liability, saying that, contrary to the court clerk's note, the District Judge did not make a finding that WPC Doran was lying, and that they stood by her account.

Mr. Gould was convinced that the police were wrong, so took Maureen's case on a 'no win no fee' basis and issued court proceedings. Merseyside Police aggressively fought the case, filing a formal defence denying her case and producing witness statements in support. Mrs. Wolfe was keen to have another day in court, but with the increasing strain on her health and the desire to put this terrible episode behind her, Maureen reluctantly accepted their latest offer to settle her claim for a formal apology, £12,500, plus legal costs.

Merseyside Police's apology stated:

'Whilst Merseyside Police continually strive to maintain high standards, incidents do occasionally arise when individuals feel let down by how the police have dealt with them. We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Mrs. Wolfe. We shall ensure that the officers concerned are provided appropriate guidance and made aware of the reasons why their conduct fell below the standard required and led to Merseyside Police paying compensation to Mrs. Wolfe.'

Iain Gould commented, 'Although it initially appeared to Maureen's criminal defence solicitors that this was a straightforward case, the fact that the police denied the finding that WPC Doran was a liar and grainy CCTV footage made it more complicated. After three years Maureen instructed me. I was immediately convinced that she was telling the truth, and backed her by pursuing her claim on a 'no win no fee' basis. As a result, justice has now been done, the police have apologised and paid significant compensation, and she can move on with her life.'

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 30 years legal experience in the following specialised areas: criminal defence, accident claims, actions against the police, matters involving children, motoring offences and prison law matters.

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