Police Law Blog European Decisions Statutory Materials

€10,000 for excessive force during arrest (and subsequent failure to investigate this)

In Gedrimas v Lithuania [2016] ECHR 641; (2017) 64 EHRR 14, the European Court of Human Rights held that where police officers used excessive force during an arrest and there was a subsequent failure to investigate the resulting complaint, both matters amounted to a breach of Article 3, justifying damages of €10,000. The case follows the recent decision of Bouyid v Belgium [2015] ECHR 819; (2016) 62 EHRR 32, which held that any use of force by police officers which is not strictly necessary will amount to a breach of Article 3.

Police officers received an alert that there had been a robbery of a jewellery store. They arrested the applicant. Whilst doing so, they bent back his wrist, twisted his arms behind his back, handcuffed him and repeatedly kneed him in the stomach [57]. The state did not dispute the injuries [65] but contended that the police officers’ actions were as a result of the applicant’s own violent actions and that any injury took place during his apprehension rather than whilst he was fully under the police officers’ control [59].

The court accepted the applicant’s account of the incident [69]. However, it went on to hold that even if the applicant had been swearing at the officers, refusing to answer their questions and had attempted unsuccessfully to punch one of them, it was not essential for several of them to resort to the level of physical force shown in the case in order to make him more co-operative [73].

In those circumstances, the court accepted that the physical force was not strictly necessary [74]  and that applicant’s substantive Article 3 rights had been breached [75].

Secondarily, the court accepted that there had been an inadequate investigation into the applicant’s subsequent complaint against the officers [82], amounting to a breach of the procedural obligation of Article 3 [85].

The court awarded €10,000 in respect of both breaches, with no breakdown as to how it valued each separate breach [89].