Police Powers and Individual Rights

Police Powers and Individual Rights

A cornerstone of our civil liberties is the freedom to live our daily lives without unjustified interference by the police. Throughout our 25 years Doughty Street Chambers has been at the forefront in representing victims of the abuse of police powers, utilising and developing the common law, statutory protections (such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act) and latterly the Human Rights Act.

We have worked to strengthen the rights of claimants in an arena where the odds are often stacked against them, from cases shifting the burden of justifying the use of force onto the police, such as Ashley v Chief Constable of Sussex Police, to the key case establishing the proper levels of compensation for those wrongly arrested or prosecuted, Thompson & Hsu v Commissioner of Police.

Since 2000 the Human Rights Act has offered new avenues for challenging unlawful policing, in areas such as privacy rights: see for example R (T, JB & AW) v SSJ, regarding the disclosure of childhood cautions on enhanced criminal record certificates. However, developing the protections offered by the common law has been a theme of many of the cases in which Doughty Street barristers have played a part. For many years our members have fought the orthodoxy that the police do not owe a duty of care to those who suffer harm as result of negligence in the investigation and suppression of crime. This tenet is being chipped away, one case at a time, by challenges such as Brooks v Metropolitan Police Commissioner; Smith v Chief Constable of Sussex; and more recently Michael v Chief Constable of South Wales, all of which reached the Supreme Court (or House of Lords).

We have also been involved in cases focusing on groups at particular risk from police misconduct such as ZH v Metropolitan Police Commissioner, a significant victory in the area of disability discrimination; R (HC) v Secretary of State for the Home Department, which resulted in 17 year olds in police custody being treated as children, not adults, and AJA and others v Metropolitan Police Commissioner and others, in which the actions of undercover officers infiltrating an innocent protest group were exposed and scrutinised.

For more information on Doughty Street’s work in this area please see our actions against the police and public authorities team page.