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Grandmother wins damages for injury inflicted by police in aftermath of London riots

A 51-year-old grandmother from Hayes in Middlesex has been awarded £27,000 in damages after she sustained a permanent shoulder injury as a result of heavy-handed policing following the London riots in 2011.

The woman, who works as a legal assistant, had a slipped a disc. She suffered excruciating pain when her arm was twisted behind her back by officers who ignored her cries for help, made racist remarks and went on to deny her medical attention.

On 13 August 2011 following the riots, police raided the woman’s son’s house in Hayes, searching for stolen goods. Her son, who was later cleared of any wrongdoing, called his mother to let her know and ask that she pick up her two grandchildren as soon as possible so that they would not have to witness the search.

On arrival at his house five minutes later, she was greeted with a hostile reception by the police officers conducting the raid. They were in the process of arresting her son’s girlfriend (who later successfully sued the police) and his cousin, and told her the children were no longer there. As she stood by, she was told that she was in the way, was asked to move and was pushed by an officer. On objecting that she was doing nothing and was not obstructing them, she was grabbed by a male officer who twisted her arm up behind her back and handcuffed her so tightly the handcuffs cut into her wrists. She screamed in pain and explained that she had a slipped disc in her back but was told to “shut up”.

She was unable to stand because of the pain she was in and despite screaming “my arm, my arm”, was ignored as police searched her, making jokes and taunting her. She was then dragged up by her injured arm and thrown into the police van while officers made derogatory and racist remarks, implying she was acting up because she was a “typical, loud black woman”.

Throughout the drive to the police station and whilst she was being booked into custody she continued to cry in pain, feeling nauseous and sweating because of the agony she was in. After being accused of a public order offence and of “lashing out” at an officer, she was finally able to see a Forensic Medical Examiner (FME) who refused to examine her because as a result of her pain she had wrongly stated she had a C5/C6 prolapsed disc, rather than a C6/C7, which the FME believed would prevent her from standing up. Paramedics were eventually called and she was taken to Hillingdon Hospital for treatment.

The woman was ultimately never interviewed by police and, after she refused to pay a penalty ticket issued by the police, no criminal proceedings were pursued against her. She has now been left with a permanent injury to her shoulder which causes her pain and prevents full use of her arm.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, says: “I was shocked at the behaviour of the police. I was at my son’s house to take care of the children but was immediately treated as if I had committed a crime. I was arrested despite doing nothing wrong and left in agony. I couldn’t even stand because of the pain I was in, yet officers did nothing to help and instead insulted me and implied I was putting it on. I have now been left with permanent shoulder problems as a result.”

Natalie Sedacca, a solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, the civil liberties law firm that specialises in actions against state organisations, brought the claim against the Metropolitan Police Service for assault. She says: “My client did nothing wrong and was trying to help out family members who, though innocent of any crime, were being targeted by police in the aftermath of the London riots.

“She was subject to abusive and racist remarks and physical mistreatment that has left her with a permanent injury. It was clear from her protests and her demeanour that she was in agony and required medical attention but police ignored her pleas and taunted her. Whilst we welcome settlement in this case, it is frustrating that it has taken so long to gain redress. It is also concerning that the complaints against the officers were not upheld, meaning that no disciplinary or criminal action has been taken against any officer as a result of this incident.”

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Notes to editors:

Hodge Jones & Allen LLP was founded in 1977 in Camden and has 200 staff based in Euston NW1. The firm practices personal injury, clinical negligence, civil liberties, family law, wills and probate, housing, dispute resolution, criminal defence and serious fraud.

The Civil Liberties team at Hodge Jones & Allen is one of the UK’s foremost teams in bringing actions against the police and state authorities. The team has a track record of holding authorities to account, including police forces, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Prison Service, Coroners, the Ministry of Defence, the Crown Prosecution Service, immigration detention centres and healthcare providers.