14 May 2013
Lawyer receives £550k compensation after false imprisonment
A leading defence lawyer has been awarded compensation after being wrongly arrested on suspicion of perverting the court of justice.
Lawyer James Watson from Middlesbrough received £550,000 in damages - including the maximum £80,000 in exemplary damages - after a four-year legal battle with the Cleveland police force.
The force said it falsely imprisoning Mr Watson and his family when he was arrested in 2009 and admitted to trespassing and wrongfully interfering with his belongings.
Cleveland Police has also accepted they cannot defend against claims that the search warrants used to search Mr Watson's home and office were maliciously procured.
Mr Watson was arrested when Cleveland Police raided his home in June 2009 after one of his client’s was acquitted of conspiracy to kidnap in a high-profile case involving the police force.
He was suspected of being part of a conspiracy to make witnesses change their story and, despite a two-year long investigation, was never charged with any offence.
The police held Mr Watson in a police cell for almost 30 hours and questioned him on suspicion of perverting the course of justice before being released on bail. His wife Rita and their two sons were held in one room of their house for more than seven hours.
Mr Watson's house and his office were searched and documents - which included sensitive papers protected by legal privileges - were seized.
His lawyers said the new chief constable of Cleveland police Jacqui Cheer has admitted that there were no reasonable grounds to suspect him of any offence and that he was wrongly imprisoned.
Ms Cheer did not comment any further as there is an ongoing managed Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation into new complaints submitted by Mr Watson.
Commenting on the decision, Mr Watson's lawyer Fiona Murphy said: "The sum offered and accepted in this case was at the absolute maximum, there is no higher reward of exemplary damages that a court could make. And so that is the clearest recognition on the chief constable's part that the conduct of her officers was utterly indefensible."
On top of the compensation, Cleveland police has also agreed to remove any vestige of suspicion from police records.
Posted by Chris Stevenson