10

Being accused of a crime you did not commit is an expensive problem. The police may kick your door in and ransack your house looking for evidence. They may deprive you of your property (phones, computers, vehicles, etc.) for months or years. You may have to pay for legal representation. You might be locked up in remand for a very long time (UK justice is extremely slow). You may lose your job.

In the event that you are eventually found innocent, what liabilities can you make claims against? Do the police have you pay to fix your front door? If they took a year to analyse a mobile phone, can you claim due to the excessive amount of time it took? What if the device is returned broken or wiped? If your legal team and expert witnesses cost you £1,000,000, can you recover some or all of that cost from the CPS? What if your job has been filled by someone else and you can't get it back?

6
  1. Do the police have to pay to fix your front door?
  2. If they took a year to analyse a mobile phone, can you claim due to the excessive amount of time it took?
  3. What if the device is returned broken, or wiped?
  4. What court costs can you recover?
  5. Can you recover loss of income?

You've asked a few questions; I'll attempt to deal with them all, and I'll refer to each item as I do so.

Damage to property

This could apply to damage to property (items 1 and 3, which are more or less the same thing). The answer? The police may pay damages.

Here's a recent example from 2008:

Police in Britain paid out more than half a million pounds last year to repair doors, ceilings and even mantelpiece ornaments smashed in raids that were based on wrong information.
...
The Home Office said that compensation policy was decided at force level but most police authorities draw tight legal lines round repayments. A spokesman for the Gwent force said: "The critical factor is simply whether forced entry is legal, proportionate and reasonable given the circumstances."

Items seized as evidence

In general, you are not entitled to compensation for an item that is seized for an extended duration of time (2).

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984) ("PACE") states:

(1) Subject to subsection (4) below, anything which has been seized by a constable or taken away by a constable following a requirement made by virtue of section 19 or 20 above may be retained so long as is necessary in all the circumstances.
(4) Nothing may be retained for either of the purposes mentioned in subsection (2)(a) above if a photograph or copy would be sufficient for that purpose.

If it's just the data on your phone they want, then they would be required by PACE to copy it and then return the device.

Legal costs

A successful defendant (4) is entitled to compensation in some cases, including costs incurred for expert witnesses.

Schedule 7, para. 3 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 inserts additional provisions to the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985:

(3)Condition A is that the accused is an individual and the order is made under—

(a)section 16(1),

(b)section 16(3), or

(c)section 16(4)(a)(ii) or (iii) or (d).

(4)Condition B is that the accused is an individual and the legal costs were incurred in proceedings in a court below which were—

(a)proceedings in a magistrates’ court, or

(b)proceedings on an appeal to the Crown Court under section 108 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (right of appeal against conviction or sentence).

(5)Condition C is that the legal costs were incurred in proceedings in the Supreme Court.

(10)In this section—

“legal costs” means fees, charges, disbursements and other amounts payable in respect of advocacy services or litigation services including, in particular, expert witness costs;

“advocacy services” means any services which it would be reasonable to expect a person who is exercising, or contemplating exercising, a right of audience in relation to any proceedings, or contemplated proceedings, to provide;

“expert witness costs” means amounts payable in respect of the services of an expert witness, including amounts payable in connection with attendance by the witness at court or elsewhere;

“litigation services” means any services which it would be reasonable to expect a person who is exercising, or contemplating exercising, a right to conduct litigation in relation to proceedings, or contemplated proceedings, to provide.”

Basically, you can include the legal costs noted above:

  • where the accused is an individual and the order is made under section 16(1), 16(3), or section 16(4)(a)(ii) or (iii) or (d) of the POA;
  • where the accused is an individual and the legal costs were incurred in proceedings in a court below, which were either proceedings in a Magistrates Court, or proceedings on appeal to the Crown Court under Section 108 of the Magistrates' Court Act 1980 (right of appeal against conviction or sentence); or
  • where the legal costs were incurred in proceedings in the Supreme Court;
  • where the accused is an individual and the legal costs were incurred in relevant Crown court proceedings, as defined in POA s6A(11), and the Director of Legal Aid Casework has made a determination of financial ineligibility in relation to the accused and those proceedings (POA s16A(5A)).

Compensation for loss of employment

Loss of a job in and of itself is not generally grounds for compensation. What if you were arrested for some highly sought-after skill - say, computer vulnerability testing - and were acquitted by means of an affirmative defense? You might end up with a job that pays more. You are not entitled to any statutory relief.

But, let's say it's something unflattering, and the police continued to broadcast your arrest and charges even though they were aware it was false. There's precedent for aggravated damages, as per Patel v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] EWCA Civ 645.

In this case, the Claimant was stopped and searched upon entry to the UK. After being denied entry, the Claimant appealed the decision... the primary judge found that the immigration officers had falsified information pertaining to the Claimant's suitability to enter. Although this was appealed, I haven't been able to find the subsequent ruling; it's possible it was settled outside of court. However, this shows that judgement can - and has - been made against a defendant who causes pecuniary loss through malicious and contumelious conduct.


I think I've covered everything, but it's hard to be sure. Consider your question into several separate questions in future :)

  • Thanks, great response. The spokesman for the Gwent force seems to imply that if they just got the wrong house but everything else was legal they wouldn't pay out. I asked about wiping data because in the Oink's Pink Palace case the police wiped the servers even though he was found innocent, destroying his work. As for legal costs, say you were up for a small motoring offence, you could spend a huge amount on defence. The magistrates court tends to side with the police so you would want experts to show their equipment was unreliable, extensive questioning etc. The costs could be astronomical. – user Sep 9 '15 at 16:56
  • You can of course always ask the court for costs. If you have been found not guilty by the jury, however, do not assume that the judge will regard you as such for this purpose. He or she is bound to release you but has absolute privilege to say what they like, as many have found when asking for 'costs'. The Judge could say for example The jury has found you not guilty and you are free to go. But for my part I think you are a rogue and a scoundrel, and have lied on oath consistently. You will receive no reimbursement of costs from this court. The case was quite properly brought. – WS2 Sep 24 '15 at 19:39

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