Police must ‘learn lessons’ after vulnerable, deaf woman was unlawfully detained

Nottingham Magistrates concluded that there had been “considerable failings” after a severely vulnerable woman had been unlawfully detained by police officers.

Following the conclusion of a trial today at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court, the three Justices took almost an hour and half to acquit our client of assaulting two police officers.

Our client was a vulnerable young woman who is both deaf and mute. She also suffers from a number of mental health conditions.

The client had been detained by the police who relied on the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1983 and was initially taken to the Queens Medical Centre where a nurse said she did not need to be admitted. The police then took the client – in hand and leg restraints – to the Bridewell Police Station but the Custody Sergeant would not authorise her detention. At that point, instead of being released or being delivered to a Mental Health Professional, the police took our client to another police station, a custody suite (where her detention was refused for a second time) and finally a mental health unit in Mansfield.

It was the Crown Prosecution Service’s case that our client kicked one officer to the leg and punched/headbutted another during her detention and transportation, causing minimal injuries.

It was our client’s case that the police had failed to comply with section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 or Code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 both before and during her detention. Both Acts contain strict criteria and requirements that the police must follow when dealing with a vulnerable person and it was our case that there had been repeated failings by police to follow the law.

The client was defended by Ben Brown, a Solicitor-Advocate based in our busy Nottingham Criminal Defence Department. Following the not guilty verdicts, Ben said: “The client was detained by police for almost 8 hours. During that time she was handcuffed, placed in leg restraints and taken to the floor on multiple occasions. She had no way of communicating with the officers once her hands were restrained and was extremely distressed and confused. The police failed to call a sign-language interpreter, a solicitor or an Appropriate Adult. She was taken to separate police stations where separate custody sergeants had refused to detain her. Notwithstanding this, she was not released. The client was frightened and emotional throughout the ordeal.

She always fully accepted assaulting the police officers – and is very sorry – but the Magistrates agreed with me that as her detention was unlawful, the officers could not have been “acting in the exercise of their functions” and therefore the offence of Assaulting an Emergency Worker was not made out.

There had been a catalogue of failures and this sad series of events should have never happened. I am pleased that the Magistrates’ recognised that.”  

This case highlights the importance of instructing a specialist criminal defence team at an early stage of any investigation or prosecution. Our lawyers are available 24/7 to provide advice and representation.

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