Police face compensation claims

Cleveland Police is facing is facing more related compensation claims after it paid out £550,000 in damages to a leading Teesside solicitor who was wrongly imprisoned.

Police "must apologise when wrong"

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland Police has admitted it must apologise when mistakes are made.

Barry Coppinger was speaking after the Northern Echo published details of a 139-page Independent Police Complaints Commission report into events at the force.

The inquiry followed an investigation which saw Cleveland Police pay out £550,000 in compensation to lawyer James Watson for wrongful arrest.

Since details of Mr Watson's wrongful arrest pay-out emerged there has been criticism of a senior detective who he said had launched a vendetta against him.

That officer has retired, having reached 30 years service. Mr Watson said he should have been suspended.

Mr Coppinger said the force's insurance would be used to cover the cost of the settlement, and he said lessons had been learned.

"Sometimes mistakes are made, and it is up to us to apologise when we get it wrong."

"What we need to focus on is continuing to reduce crime, protect the public and serve our communities. I know through my feedback from community meetings that members of the public are supportive of their local police, and I hope that this continues."

"The decision not to suspend was taken in accordance with the policy and practices of the Force and based solely upon the information and evidence presented by the investigation team.

"Police officers' pensions can only be removed if they are convicted of a criminal offence in a court, and this is set down in legislation.

"It is a decision for the Crown Prosecution Service whether to prosecute and in this case they decided not to take the matter to court. There is no opportunity to affect police officers' pensions following misconduct."

– Barry Coppinger, Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner

Full Report: Cleveland Police facing further compensation claims

Cleveland Police is facing further compensation payouts - just days after it emerged a solicitor was awarded more than 500 thousand pounds in damages for wrongful arrest.

James Watson was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in 2009.

He was falsely imprisoned and his family detained, while their home was searched.

No charges were ever brought against him.

Our reporter Jonny Blair joined Ian and Rachel in the studio to explain more.

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Cleveland Police facing further compensation claims

Cleveland Police are facing more compensation claims after paying out £550,000 worth of damages to a lawyer from Middlesbrough for wrongful arrest last week.

James Watson won his case after what he described as a vendetta against him which saw him being arrested in 2009 and having his home searched.

It followed a high-profile kidnap and blackmail case and a defendant's subsequent acquittal, which led to officers investigating him for allegedly perverting the course of justice.

No charge was ever brought against James Watson.

It has emerged today that four more people involved in the case are to seek damages from Cleveland Police.

The force has received formal letters of claim from two people and notification from solicitors that two more individuals intend to pursue claims.

"I am aware of the interest in this issue but understand that legal proceedings have commenced therefore it is impossible to comment at this time.

"I hope that the IPCC will publish the report which will give a greater public understanding about what has happened."

– Barry Coppinger, Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner

Coppinger speaks out about solicitors false imprisonment

Police Commissioner
Barry Coppinger was elected Cleveland's Police and Crime Commissioner last year Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Cleveland's Police and CrimeCommissioner, Barry Coppinger, has spoken out for the first time since the force for which he is responsable agreed to pay more than £500,000 in damages to a solicitor who was falsely imprisoned.

In a statement Mr Coppinger said: "The financial settlement to James Watson will have raised public concerns, which I share.

"I have read the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which clearly identifies failings and weaknesses in the way Mr Watson was dealt with.

"Whilst not wanting to underestimate the seriousness re the matter which has been settled, insurance is in place regarding claims against the police.

"Changes have been made, and actions have been implemented, following the IPCC report."

"In appointing a new Chief Constable I made clear that professional integrity was of critical importance and I would hold whoever was appointed to account in this respect.

"I hope the Cleveland force can continue to serve the public to the standards they expect."

MP reacts to Cleveland Police compensation payout

James Wharton MP has called for Cleveland Police to 'move forward and regain public trust.' The Stockton South MP was speaking after it emerged the force was being made to pay over £500,000 in compensation to a Middlesbrough solicitor.

James Watson was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and detained in a police station for 29 hours in June 2009.

He was never charged with any offence and the investigation failed to find evidence against him.

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Teesside solicitor wins police compensation

James Watson was detained in a police station for 29 hours in June 2009. Credit: Evening Gazette

Cleveland Police has agreed to pay £550,000 in damages to a leading Teesside solicitor who was wrongly imprisoned.

James Watson was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and detained in a police station for 29 hours in June 2009.

He was never charged with any offence and the investigation failed to find evidence against him.

The force admits falsely imprisoning Mr Watson and his family when the lawyer was arrested.

Cleveland Police launched their investigation into Mr Watson after their case against one of his clients collapsed.

Mr Watson was suspected of being part of a conspiracy to make witnesses change their story.

An IPCC investigation report is highly critical of the way Cleveland Police investigated Mr Watson and of the conduct of the officer in charge, Chief Inspector Anthony Riordan.

IPCC statement

The body that oversees complaints made against the police has released this statement after Cleveland Police were made to pay £550,000 to a solicitor who was wrongly imprisoned.

"The IPCC managed an investigation into complaints against Cleveland Police in relation to a long running police investigation into the kidnap of a businessman. The IPCC investigation upheld some of the complaints, particularly around basic investigative failures. Recommendations were made around dealing with these failures and also around internal issues within the force, including processes around the consideration of suspension of officers. The IPCC is now managing a further investigation into new complaints made on behalf of the original complainant."

– Independent Police Complaints Commission

Cleveland Police statement

Cleveland Police's Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer made this statement after the force was told to pay £550,000 compensation to a Middlesbrough solicitor who was wrongly imprisoned.

"In 2010 Cleveland Police received 6 complaints which were subject of a managed Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation 4 of these complaints were unsubstantiated, a fifth matter was a ‘statement of fact’ involving an officer from another Force and the sixth complaint is subject of the settlement with Mr. Watson.

One of the officers under investigation retired in October 2011, some 12 months after the start of the investigation."

– Cleveland Police Chief Constable, Jacqui Cheer

"ACC White considered the suspension of this officer in October 2011 in accordance with the policy and practices of the Force and based solely upon the information and evidence presented to him by the investigation team.

Having fully considered the interim report of the IPCC investigator, and having consulted with specialist advisors as well as inviting submissions to the suspension review process from key parties ACC White decided that the conditions to justify suspension were not met."

– Cleveland Police Chief Constable, Jacqui Cheer

Having fully considered the interim report of the IPCC investigator, and having consulted with specialist advisors as well as inviting submissions to the suspension review process from key parties ACC White decided that the conditions to justify suspension were not met.The IPCC report recommends that I debrief and discuss with ACC White the process for making this decision, with the benefit of hindsight, which I have done, and I fully support him.

I have accepted the recommendations within the report and have implemented changes.

– Cleveland Police Chief Constable, Jacqui Cheer

Cleveland Police pay £500,000 in damages to solicitor

Cleveland Police have agreed to pay more than £500,000 in damages to a solicitor who was falsely imprisoned.

James Watson, a senior partner in the Middlesbrough law firm Watson Woodhouse, was wrongfully arrested in June 2009.

He was taken to Northallerton police station and held in a cell for nearly 30 hours.

Mr Watson's wife, Rita, and their two sons were held at the family home in Middlesbrough while the property was searched.

The law firm's offices were also searched, and boxes of sensitive documents seized.

Cleveland Police began the investigation after a trial involving one of Mr Watson's clients collapsed. The defence lawyer was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Watson was never charged with any offence, and the investigation into him was eventually dropped.