£5 damages for man detained by police in doorway ‘for seconds’

A man who was blocked in a doorway for questioning for a matter of seconds has been awarded £5 (€6) damages against the London police.

Alexander Walker claimed he had been unlawfully detained during the incident in Rita Road, Vauxhall, south London, in July 2008, which arose out of a complaint that he had punched his partner.

There was a fight and Walker was later charged with assault of a police officer.

But he was acquitted on the ground that his initial detention had been unlawful because the officer restricted Walker’s movements in the doorway, not for the purpose of arrest but for pursuing inquiries.

Walker’s damages action, brought two years later, for false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution failed but yesterday, the Court of Appeal said his initial detention was unlawful and amounted to false imprisonment.

Three judges said he was entitled to damages against the Metropolitan Police, earlier assessed at a nominal £5, for only the brief and “technical” imprisonment immediately before his own unlawful violence and initial arrest.

Lord Justice Tomlinson said Walker’s conduct attracted no sympathy “but that is, of course, often the way when a fundamental constitutional principle is at stake”.

“The detention was indeed trivial, but that can and should be reflected in the measure of damages and does not render lawful that which was unlawful.”

He said he sincerely hoped the court’s decision would not inhibit “sensible policing”.


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