Where a court finds a wrongful arrest, it is often due to inadequate grounds for belief in its necessity. However, a brief judgment in Smith v Police Service for Northern Ireland  NIQB 39 is a demonstration of where there is a lack of reasonable suspicion that the person arrested has, themselves, committed the offence. Also of interest is the sum for damages – £3,550 for the unlawful arrest and ten hours’ consequent unlawful detention.
Every police officer knows they must have a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed an offence in order to arrest them. But that is only half of what is required. The second element is that they must have a reasonable belief in the necessity for the person’s arrest. The recent decision of Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police v MR  EWHC 888 (QB) is one of a number of recent cases where appellate judgments have sought to tighten-up what the police must show in order to prove necessity.
In the instant case, a woman ‘A’ and her partner ‘MR’ had been in a relationship for fifteen months. A complained to the police about MR, who could not be traced save for a mobile telephone number. A police officer called MR on 11 January 2010, who then attended a police station for voluntary interview on 12 January 2010. Whilst at the police station and before being interviewed, MR was arrested on suspicion of harassment. He was interviewed, photographed, and had his fingerprints and DNA samples taken. After nearly seven hours, the police released him on conditional bail. He claimed that the arrest and consequent detention was unlawful and was subsequently successful in the county-court. The Comissioner appealed to the High Court.
In the case of Eiseman Renyard and Others v United Kingdom (2019) Application no. 57884/17, the European Court of Human Rights has declined to disturb the decision of the Supreme Court in R (Hicks) v Comr Metropolitan Police UKSC 9;  AC 256, concerning the arrest and detention of royal wedding protesters, for breach of the peace.
As stated in the blog post discussing the decision of the Supreme Court, the police arrested a number of individuals on 29th April 2011, which was the day of the royal wedding, took them into police custody and released them without charge once the pageant was over. The justification was that the arrests were said to be necessary to prevent an imminent breach of the peace – the violent disruption of the wedding. No-one was brought before a court as foreseen by Article 5(1)(c) of the Convention.
Many police practitioners will pause on learning that they are instructed in a case involving an arrest for breach of the peace. The reason being – that the law on when an arrest can be made is not always well understood by arresting officers. That is not to be discourteous to the police. Rather, it is a recognition of how complicated this issue can be. The Supreme Court in the case of R (Hicks) v Comr Metropolitan Police  UKSC 9 gives some assistance to the police where they seek to arrest persons in light of an imminent breach of the peace and provides a simpler statement of the law than did the Court of Appeal.
In the recent decision in Zenati v (1) Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (2) Crown Prosecution Service  EWCA Civ 80;  QB 758, the Court of Appeal held, for the first time, that the police may be liable to a suspect remanded in custody for a breach of Article 5 where they fail to provide the court with all relevant, material information when the court makes a decision to remand the suspect in custody; to act with expedition when conducting ongoing investigations or when responding to requests from the CPS whilst the suspect remains remanded in custody.