Actions Against The Police

The misuse and abuse of power by the police service can have devastating effects on individuals. It also diminishes the trust which we all have in those holding responsible and influential positions.

At TV Edwards we have a team dedicated to taking action against the police, other prosecuting authorities and organisations including the Prison Service, and immigration authorities. The team is headed by Felix Couchman, a highly experienced expert in this complex and challenging field. He is supported by legal specialists who offer the best advice and support in making complaints and pursuing a wide spectrum of civil claims. We get the answers and the redress that clients need, whether that is a formal apology or compensation for what went wrong.

Our Complaints & Claims Against the Police work involves:-

  • making complaints to the police and other relevant state authorities
  • judicial review, to challenge unlawful decisions
  • claims for unlawful arrest and/or detention
  • damages claims for assault or unlawful or excessive force
  • instigating proceedings where a client has been maliciously prosecuted for an offence
  • challenging the misuse of power by those performing a public role (misfeasance in a public office).
  • human rights claims.
  • “death in custody” cases
  • advising on and representing clients at HM Coroner’s inquests.

Our solicitors deliver the highest possible standard of client care and professional service. Any action against the police or similar organisation will be stressful and challenging. We recognise this, and we make sure that every client is treated individually with the support they need to get through it.

One of our team will be happy to see or speak with you about an initial enquiry. We are able to arrange home, hospital or prison visits and have access to independent interpreters in a wide range of languages.


Email us at or give us a call on 020 3440 8030

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I complain about?

Generally, complaints against the police tend to be one of the following –

  • Assault (for example, excessive force)
  • Unlawful arrest and detention
  • Misconduct (i.e. a police or prison officer wilfully misuses their power and position during the course of their work)
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Breach of data protection
  • Breach of your rights under the Equality Act 2010 (for example, disability discrimination)
  • Breach of your rights under the Human Rights Act 1998
Can I make a claim against the police if I have been arrested but did not commit a crime?

Regardless of whether you have committed a crime or not, the police should treat you fairly and lawfully.   There are strict criteria setting out the circumstances in which someone may be arrested.  If you feel that your arrest was unlawful or that you have not been treated fairly and may have a claim, then we would recommend that you seek legal advice.

Do I need to seek legal advice when making a complaint about the police?

The complaints procedure can be a lengthy and difficult process to navigate.  Demonstrating that the police acted unlawfully or unfairly towards you can be difficult - the legislation and guidance governing police conduct can often be complex. 

In addition to this, very few complaints against police forces are upheld in the first instance, when investigated by the force themselves.  These statistics improve if a complaint is then submitted to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)  however this figure is still only in the region of 40% of complaints being upheld.  Instructing solicitors to deal with the matter should not only reduce the stress and anxiety caused by having to deal with the complaints process yourself, you will also benefit from expert legal advice and your complaint is more likely to be thoroughly investigated.

Do I need to have made my complaint to the police before seeking legal advice?

In some limited circumstances, Solicitors will assist with drafting initial complaints and overseeing the complaints process.  If necessary, they can also advise in respect of submitting an appeal to the IPCC.  Alternatively, you can make the complaint yourself and ask a Solicitor to consider the outcome and see whether they are able to assist.  In the first instance we would suggest seeking legal advice prior to submitting a complaint and see what assistance your solicitor can offer you.

What remedies do I have?

In the first instance, it will usually be necessary to make a complaint to the police.  Once this has been investigated, you will have the option of appealing the outcome of the investigation to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). 

The IPCC may do the following –

  • Uphold your complaint and make recommendations to the police to address this
  • Reinforce the findings of the initial police investigation
  • Make recommendations that the police undertake further investigations into the complaint with a view to clarifying points in their initial report
  • In some circumstances, the IPCC can recommend misconduct proceedings are brought against an officer or that the Crown Prosecution Service considers whether the officer complained about ought to be prosecuted
  • You may also have the option of commencing Court proceedings against the relevant police force.
Does it matter if I have previous convictions?

It should not matter if you have previous convictions however they may be relevant to the circumstances giving rise to your complaint.  In any event, we would still recommend that you seek legal advice in respect of making a complaint and whether you have a potential claim - the police should still treat you lawfully and fairly regardless of whether you have previous convictions.

How much compensation will I get?

The nature and amount of compensation will vary from case to case.  For example, damages in an assault is usually made up of two main components; 1. Compensation for the injury you sustained, the discomfort you were in and the amount of time it took you to recover and 2. An amount to cover any fixed costs or for example, loss of any earnings arising from the incident.

How do I fund my legal case?

Legal Aid funding is available in respect of complaints and claims against the police.  Whether you would be able to benefit from Legal Aid will depend on the following-

  • your financial circumstances
  • the value of your potential claim and
  • the prospects of the claim succeeding.  

Solicitors with a Legal Aid contract in this area of law are usually limited in the number of cases they can take on.

If Legal Aid is appropriate, assistance is initially provided under the Legal Help scheme.  This will cover the initial cost of your first appointment, taking your instructions, undertaking some preliminary investigations, considering the evidence and submitting your complaint.  It would also include drafting a complaint on your behalf and submitting this to the appropriate police force.  If your complaint is not upheld in the first instance, it could also cover assistance with an appeal to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

If the matter has not been resolved by this stage, you may be able to obtain further Legal Aid funding to pursue the matter further and commence Court proceedings.

What does it cost if I can't get legal aid?

Most Solicitors will consider entering into a Conditional Fee or ‘no win no fee’ Agreement.  Alternatively, you can agree a fee to undertake the initial work on your behalf.

How long does it take to conclude the process?

It is difficult to provide an accurate estimate of timescales.  Once your complaint has been submitted to the relevant police force, it will be investigated by them.  The length of time it will take, varies.  In some instances it can take 6-12 months.   If you need to appeal to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) following this, the process is likely to take a further 3-6 months.  In the event that Court proceedings follow, it is very difficult to say how long these will take as it varies from case to case however Court cases are unlikely to take less than 12-18 months to conclude.

Are there any deadlines I need to be aware of?

Yes.  Depending on the action taken, different deadlines will typically apply – you should seek legal advice on the issue and ensure that you adhere to these deadlines as if you do not, you may be barred from pursuing bringing a claim. 

  • You will need to make your complaint within a year of the incident.  It is usually best to make your complaint as soon as you are able to do so.
  • Equality Act claims generally need to be issued at Court within 6 months minus a day of the date of the incident.
  • Human Rights Act claims generally need to be issued at Court within 1 year and a day of the day of the incident. 
  • If you wish to pursue claims for unlawful arrest, wrongful detention, Data Protection breaches or malicious prosecution you will need to issue Court proceedings within 6 years
  • If you wish to pursue a claim for assault (either physical or psychiatric injury), you will need to do this within three years. 

There are some limited circumstances in which the Court may exercise discretion to allow the limitation period to be extended.