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Michael Barrymore damages: Essex Police win their appeal

Police have won a challenge against a decision paving the way for entertainer Michael Barrymore to receive substantial damages over the wrongful arrest he says destroyed his career.

The comedian and TV presenter, who values his claim against Essex Police at more than £2.4 million, was not present at the Court of Appeal in London to hear three judges rule in favour of the force on the level of compensation he is entitled to.

Michael Barrymore Credit: PA Wire

The force argued 66-year-old Barrymore should only get a "nominal" payout and challenged a High Court ruling made in August last year that he was entitled to "more than nominal" damages.

Sir Brian Leveson, Lady Justice Hallett and Sir Ernest Ryder allowed an appeal by the Chief Constable of Essex Police.

Announcing the decision of the court, Sir Brian declared Barrymore "is entitled to nominal damages only".

The star launched a High Court damages action after he was arrested and detained in June 2007 on suspicion of the rape and murder of 31-year-old Stuart Lubbock, who was found in the swimming pool at his home in Roydon, Essex, six years earlier.

Barrymore, who brought his legal action against the police for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment under his real name Michael Ciaran Parker, puts his compensation claim at more than £2.4 million in lost earnings.

No decision has yet been made on the sum he will eventually receive as the litigation has so far centred on the preliminary issue of whether it should be nominal or substantial.

Michael Barrymore's pool Credit: IPCC

The force argued that if Barrymore is entitled to substantial damages it would have wide-reaching implications for the police service and other organisations facing similar claims, particularly from wealthy or famous individuals.

Lord Faulks QC, for the Chief Constable, told the three judges during appeal proceedings last month that High Court judge Mr Justice Stuart-Smith had "erred" in his approach to the law.

Lord Faulks said that although the focus of the appeal was on Essex Police and Barrymore, "we should not lose sight of the fact that a young man died"

He added: "His family, as well as their distress at this young man's death, have never obtained a true explanation for it."

Essex Police admitted the arrest was unlawful as the arresting officer did not have reasonable grounds to suspect Barrymore was guilty of any offence.

At the High Court, the force submitted Barrymore could have been lawfully arrested by another officer, meaning that only an award of nominal damages should be made, rather than the "substantial" sum sought by the star.

But Mr Justice Stuart-Smith ruled the defendant, the Chief Constable, had failed to prove that if not arrested unlawfully as he was, Barrymore "could and would have been arrested lawfully".

He said there was "information available to the police that could have provided an arresting officer with reasonable grounds for a lawful arrest".

But there was only one designated arresting officer who had sufficient information and had been sufficiently briefed to enable her to arrest him lawfully, and she was not present.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Barrymore, had told the High Court judge the presenter was never charged with any offence and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) later made it "crystal clear" there was no basis for any charges.

At the Court of Appeal, Mr Tomlinson argued the High Court judge "should have held that the defendant had not established that any police officer had reasonable grounds for believing that it was necessary" to arrest Barrymore.

Mr Tomlinson told the appeal judges the "original incident" had a "devastating" effect on Barrymore's career.

Then there was a highly-publicised inquest, he said, adding: "There is no doubt that something terrible happened to this young man.

"As to what actually happened, no-one has ever been able to find out."

That was "very, very regrettable", and everyone is "wholly sympathetic to his family".

Mr Tomlinson said: "The claimant then rebuilt his career, and was rebuilding his career, and then comes this arrest, which puts him, on his case, entirely back to square one.

"He has never been able to rebuild his career since."

Mr Lubbock's body was found in the pool after a party where drugs and alcohol were consumed.

A post-mortem examination revealed he had suffered serious anal injuries.

In 2002, an open verdict was recorded at the inquest into his death.

Michael Barrymore has issued a statement:

I am pleased that this sorry saga has now finally come to an end and I am looking forward to getting on well with the rest of my life. It is now accepted by Essex police that there is and was no evidence that I was guilty of the offences for which I was wrongfully arrested. Equally, it is also clear the investigations into this matter with flawed from the very start. Although I am disappointed by the Court of Appeal‘s decision I hope Essex police reflect on the fact that the judgement makes it clear that they arrested me when at all times I was prepared to assist them in their investigations. I hope their officers now understand the correct procedure to deprive someone of their liberty and will be more careful in the future.

– Michael Barrymore

Essex Police have released a statement in which they refer to Michael Barrymore under his real name of Michael Parker:

The suspicious circumstances in which Stuart Lubbock’s body was found in Mr Parker’s swimming pool in 2001 remain unexplained and our thoughts today are with Mr Lubbock’s family who have been through so much. The investigation in to Stuart’s death has not closed. Time can change old loyalties and detectives are ready and waiting to hear from anyone with information that could progress the investigation. Please call Essex Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. This hearing has affirmed three important matters: that Essex Police detectives were right to suspect that Mr Parker was one of only three people who could have been responsible for the injuries Mr Lubbock suffered; that there were reasonable grounds to arrest Mr Parker in 2007 on suspicion of murder and rape; and that arresting Mr Parker at the same time as two other suspects might have led to a breakthrough in the case. The Court of Appeal has today confirmed that had a different procedure been followed on June 14, 2007, the arrest of Mr Parker would have been lawful and have declared that only nominal damages are paid by the force. Essex Police will be seeking from Mr Parker its legal costs, including the costs of the appeal.

– Essex Police