Civil Law

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sarah-magson

Sarah Magson
Civil Law Specialist

alistair-smith

Alistair Smith
Solicitor

claire-dunn

Claire Dunn
Solicitor

Civil Law Solicitors in Middlesbrough


Watson Woodhouse have some of the leading civil law solicitors in Middlesbrough. Civil law deals with disputes between individuals or organisations and may result in an award of compensation to the injured party.

At Watson Woodhouse we adopt an holisitic approach to providing legal advice; our civil and criminal lawyers often work together on a case meaning your issues are anaylsed by specialists with experience in multiple areas of law. This approach ensures that, not only will we achieve the best outcome for your primary case, but we can also identify, and offer advice on, any related issues that may arise.

If you are looking for civil law solicitors in Middlesbrough, we know we can offer expert advice and assistance over a wide range of subject areas. Please click on the link for the relevant area in which you are interested. We hope that this will provide you with some of the answers to your initial queries however please feel free to contact one of our dedicated team for a same day response.

Click on the relevant area below for further information.

Members of the public were recently asked for their views on the police 'stop and search' powers. The Government launched a public consultation as it wanted to know whether stop and search is being used appropriate and fairly.  

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) has criticised the use of these intrusive powers.  They found that powers were often used habitually and that a number of people were not told the reason why they were stopped, did not understand the reason given nor felt they had been treated with respect. 

Although stop and search powers have resulted in many arrests where weapons or stolen goods have been found, if this power is overused, or people are targeted arbitrarily, this can result in loss of confidence of the police.

Under the Codes of Practice of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, the reason for the stop and search must be recorded.  A Police Officer must have reasonable grounds for stopping and searching – for example to look for drugs or a weapon.  Reasonable grounds can include someone's behaviour or if they match the description of a suspect. 

The law is also however designed to protect the public from abuse of powers – a person cannot be stopped and searched just because of how they look. 

The public consultation ended on 24 September 2013. 

The Home Office said the government will respond to the HMIC report and the replies to the public consultation with specific proposals by the end of the year.

Stop and search involves an interference with a person's freedom of movement.  It may also constitute false imprisonment.  If the search involves the apprehension and/or the application of physical force, it may also amount to an assault and battery. 

If you feel you have been the victim of an abuse of these powers you may have a claim for compensation . Watson Woodhouse can advise and assist you through this process. 

BBC News - police use of stop-and-search powers criticised by HMIC -http://bbc.in/170C5mo

Taking on the police can seem a daunting prospect and an uphill struggle for an individual. You may feel that you will not be believed over the might of the police force who are supposed to protect and uphold the law.

You may be mistreated by the Police during the criminal justice process or may simply be an innocent bystander affected by the careless actions of a police officer.

Securing the services of Watson Woodhouse at the outset of your arrest means you will be guided and assisted throughout the custody process from the beginning; and should afford some protection against any attempted misconduct on the part of officers.

If, however, things do go wrong then our specialist team will take the time to listen to your complaint and discuss with you your desired outcomes. Depending upon what you seek to achieve, we can guide you through the process to accomplish that goal.

If your main concern is to see that an officer is disciplined then this is unlikely to occur through a civil claim and, instead, the complaints procedure should be utilised. Full advice and guidance can be provided on this during an initial appointment and, in some instances, we can draft your letter of complaint for you and see you through the process as your complaint is investigated by the professional standards department.

Other situations may gave rise to an obvious civil claim for compensation and as such you may choose to dispense with the complaints procedure.

It is important to bear in mind that, simply because you were released from the police station with no further action or were acquitted at Court, it does not immediately follow that you have a claim. The police have wide ranging powers available to them to detain, question and search.

It is of course imperative that these powers are not abused. Watson Woodhouse are able to share their knowledge and expertise to ensure that the police act with honesty and integrity and are held to account for their actions.

If you feel you have been wronged by the police, then Claims against the Police can be made for the following examples of misconduct;

Unlawful arrest

In order for an arrest to be lawful there are two limbs to be established. The Police must have:

1.    Reasonable suspicion of a person’s involvement or attempted involvement in the commission of a criminal offence;

AND 

2.    Reasonable grounds for believing that the person’s arrest is necessary. 
An arrest is only lawful if both criteria are met.

The police must inform the person of the fact that they are under arrest and the reasons for it at the time of arrest. A failure to do so makes the arrest unlawful.

It is important to note that, when the police wish to speak to you about an offence it is not always necessary to arrest you. Interviews under caution can be carried out on a voluntary basis by appointment. This means a person's liberty is not restricted in the same way as an arrest.

If you have been asked to attend an interview by the police and been arrested upon arrival at the police station then please contact us, as your liberty may have been restricted unnecessarily.

False Imprisonment
It often follows, if your arrest was unlawful, that your subsequent detention is also unlawful (false imprisonment).

Other examples could be-
  • If you are detained for longer than a certain timeframe your detention becomes unlawful.
  • If you are detained under a warrant which later proves to be invalid or unlawful.
  • If the various obligations of the police towards a suspect whilst in custody are not met then an, initially lawful, arrest can mean any subsequent detention becomes unlawful.
In practice the longer the period of imprisonment the larger sum of damages to be awarded if successfully claimed. However, being confined for even a short period can be serious. For example, a person wrongly arrested in a public place, even if released after a few minutes, may suffer distress and damage to his or her reputation.

False imprisonment can happen on the street, in your home, in a police vehicle and of course at the police station - in fact any place where the police control your freedom.

Our civil team are experts; not only in bringing actions against police but can also assist you in bringing claims against other officials such as store security staff, prison officers, Court security staff and any other organisation exercising police like powers that restrict your liberty.
Assault and Battery

This can occur in two types of scenario- the simple act of placing a person in handcuffs during what turns out to be an unlawful arrest will amount to a battery as there is no lawful basis for that unwanted touching.

Alternatively if more force is applied than necessary when effecting an arrest, then this will also likely amount to an assault.

This is a difficult area as accounts of the moments leading to an arrest often differ between a police officer and a suspect. If the police consider you are seeking to resist arrest they will increase the force used.

Malicious Prosecution
To make a successful claim for malicious prosecution you have to prove you suffered damage as a result of being prosecuted by the police and:
  • That prosecution concluded in your favour;
  • There was no reasonable and probable cause for your prosecution;
  • The police acted maliciously.
If you believe that you have been the victim of a malicious prosecution then you should contact us for further advice.
Trespass to Goods

The police have powers to search and seize possessions during the course of their enquiries into crime. They have a duty, however to ensure the safekeeping of those items until they are no longer required as evidence. Unless an order for forfeiture or seizure is made by the court the possessions should be returned to the owner promptly and in the same condition.

If the police have destroyed property that should rightly have been returned to you or failed to keep it in a reasonable condition then you may be able to make a claim.

Human Rights are becoming increasingly important in today's society. The Human Rights Act 1998 sets out a number of fundamental rights to be protected for all individuals.

Actions can be brought against the State or Public Bodies, holding them to account and seeking redress for any abuse or infringement on those rights.

This fast developing area of law increasingly permeates into all legal fields. Whilst cases can be brought under the Human Rights Act in their own right it is more common for such arguments to be raised as part of other cases, such as personal injury, judicial review, Actions against the police.

Watson Woodhouse are committed to defending and promoting our client's rights. We work hard to identify and provide advice where those rights are being violated throughout our other core areas of work.

Human Rights cases must be brought within 12 months of the violation. So please contact us today if you feel your rights have been breached.

Judicial Review

Judicial Review is the mechanism by which challenges are made to the Courts asking them to review the lawfulness of a decision, action or failure to act by a public body.

The main considerations are:

  • Has the decision been reached lawfully;
  • Has the decision been reached rationally;
  • Has the decision been reached fairly.

A Judge examines the process adopted by the public body to determine whether it has acted within the legal parameters of its obligations; if not, then the decision can be declared invalid and erased. In some circumstances damages can be awarded by the Court as a result of the unlawful decision.

Time is of the essence. There are strict time limits attached to making an application for Judicial Review- generally 3 months from the date of the decision. However, Courts expect applicants to act promptly and often within days or weeks rather than months.

Contact us for a free, no obligation appointment today.

Information for victims of institutional sexual and physical abuse

21/10/2014
Sexual and physical abuse of children, and particularly vulnerable children, is very much in the news at the moment.

There are the 1400 victims ruthlessly exploited by Asian gangs in Rotherham. These teenagers were sexually abused and the authorities apparently just let it happen. The victims will be mentally traumatised and are likely to require help for years to come. But they are likely to find it very hard to come forward having lost trust with those in authority.

There is the Durham Police investigation into the 20 years of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated at the Medomsley Detention Centre in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. It is estimated some 8,000 teenagers went through the reception in this period. Many, for whom Watson Woodhouse are acting, have suffered horrendously and need help and justice today. We are working to achieve this with as little distress as possible to the victim’s involved.

And Watson Woodhouse are seeing victims from Stanhope Castle in Barnard Castle. The ‘Home’ is now closed but children as young as 11 were sent there for years and suffered sexual and physical abuse.

Watson Woodhouse have a team who want to help and are available to do so. We know the issues and appreciate the trauma of the victims. We deal with all enquiries in a sensitive and confidential manner. We have both male and female solicitors who are available to provide advice and assistance on a ‘No Win, No Fee’ basis.

We offer a no obligation service and flexible appointments to suit your needs. We can assess whether you are eligible for compensation, and if so, we guarantee that Watson Woodhouse Solicitors will not deduct any success fee from your award.

If you spent time in care in Rotherham, Medomsley Detention Centre, Stanhope Castle or any other institution where you feel as though you were the victim of physical or sexual abuse, and would like to speak to one of our solicitors, then please call a member of the Civil Litigation team direct on 01642 266559.