It is possible to take the police to court.
A police officer slagged me off in writing in 2014. I sued the chief constable for libel in 2015. It has taken a while, but I have finally won a retraction of the false accusations made against me, plus some money, plus my legal costs. Suing the police involved a lot of waiting, but not a huge amount of work.
I got myself to the point of the police offering to settle my claim, without using a lawyer. That involved attending a court hearing at which I defeated the defendant’s strike-out and summary judgment application, and won my costs of their failed application, which were agreed at £450. I then brought in a solicitor, just to help me to improve on the offer the police had made.
My costs as a litigant-in-person over a period of more than two years, not counting the failed strike-out application costs of £450, were only £320, valuing my time at £19 an hour, the official rate. The solicitor’s costs, calculated at about £250 an hour for his time, for just the last part of the entire interaction with the police legal services, must have been huge.
The police have layers upon layers of complaints procedures. Their function is primarily in order to keep complaints out of court. And not necessarily in a nice way.
My local police force has its own complaints procedure. That alone took a few months to disappoint me, when I tried to get it to work. The force then has a procedure for appealing against the outcome of the first complaints procedure, or complaining about how it was done, or something along those lines. I had to issue libel proceedings in the High Court before that appeal had run its course. It no longer mattered what that appeal process decided once I was in court. I don’t even remember now if it reached a conclusion at all.
After that, there is the IPCC, to which one can make a complaint. I’ve never tried that, but I have read about it, on the IPCC website.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission is so-called, because this is what it does: First, it receives your complaint against the police. The process of receiving your complaint is completely independent of the police. (After that, admittedly, the process depends, ever so slightly, on the police.) After receiving your complaint, the IPCC commissions the police force you complained against, to investigate your complaint against them (again), reporting back to the IPCC. The IPCC then waits, independently for the investigating force to report back. Eventually, the IPCC independently receives the results of the police investigation and forwards to you, independently again, whatever the police has told it to tell you, as a result of that investigation. Or at least that is how it used to work.
The limitation period for making a libel claim in court is one year. During the appeal process, I pointed that out. I offered not to start court action before the appeal process had been completed, provided the Chief Constable agreed not to defend any libel claim on the grounds that I had started court proceedings more than a year after the libel took place. I received no reply to that email. That is why a great deal more of the tax-payers money was wasted.
Reader, please beware the following hazard. That the time limit for bringing a claim against the police in court can easily run out whilst you are waiting for the lengthy and less effective complaints procedures to deliver you justice.
One would have thought the police would have been only too delighted to waive the limitation period for bringing a claim in court, in exchange for one’s engaging with a less costly method of seeking a resolution that was more likely to get one fobbed off. Or to use a complaints procedure after a court claim had been issued and stayed, as a means of alternative dispute resolution. That is what the police would do, if only they hadn’t got hold of the idea somehow that they are the law.
The police are not the law. They are subject to the law. You can sue the police.