Pile v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police  EWHC 2472 (QB) concerned what many might consider to be the tail end of just another good night out. The claimant got into a taxi on 22 April 2017, in an advanced state of intoxication, and the taxi driver rang 999 to report that she had started abusing him and ‘kicking off’. She vomited all over herself and over the back of the taxi. Officers responding to this unfortunate misunderstanding found her covered in vomit, including in her hair. They arrested her for the offence of being drunk and disorderly. At the police station, Ms Pile was flailing her arms with the intention of striking the officers accompanying her. She later accepted a £60 fixed penalty notice as an alternative to being prosecuted. For many, the story would have ended there…
In Znakovas v Lithuania  ECHR 820, the European Court of Human Rights held that where police officers used a Taser to subdue an arrested person being taken in a police car to a police station and there was then a subsequent failure to investigate the force used, both matters amounted to a breach of Article 3, justifying damages of €12,000.
In Gilchrist v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police  EWHC 1233, the High Court considered officers’ use of force in the context of use of CS gas and a taser repeatedly upon a man who was autistic and mentally distressed and found that its continued use became unlawful. Whereas the initial use of CS gas and Taser were justified, once the police learned of the male’s vulnerability as an autistic man and noted that his behaviour was defensive rather than aggressive, a more cautious approach should have been adopted.
The case of McCarthy v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police  EWCA Civ 1257 provides an interesting analysis of the tort of battery, trespass ab initio and use of reasonable force relating to use of a taser in a policing context. The Court of Appeal judgments provide clear recognition of the difficulties and realities faced by police officers in the context of fast moving, violent incidents in which fine judgments are difficult and provide important guidance as to the correct factual and legal approach in such cases.
In Gedrimas v Lithuania  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  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.