There's is no such thing as a 'cast iron' case in any area of law and bringing compensation claims against the police is no different but there are ways to make sure your case is a strong as it can be.
First and foremost is evidence gathering. Anyone who has pursued a legal case in their life can probably tell you that it often doesn't matter what you know to be the correct account if events, legal cases come down to a question of what you can prove. If it's your word against that of half a dozen police officers, chances are (without any independent evidence to back you up) you are going to lose. Is it therefore essential that in all cases, witnesses are traced and spoken to, CCTV is seised or preserved and injuries are assessed by a medical expert (GP or accident and emergency doctor for instance). Other paperwork that may be with the police or criminal defence solicitors (if a criminal prosecution took place) are sources of evidence that will come a little later. This is not an exhaustive list and every case is different; other areas of evidence may present themselves.
It's crucial that you take legal advice as soon as possible. Local authorites usually only keep CCTV from street cameras for twenty-eight days. Shops and buinesses perhaps for no more than seven days if you are lucky. We have seen many clients over the years where we have got on the telephone during the initial consultation to speak to local authorities to preserve CCTV from a certain street at the time/date in question. CCTV, in particular, can make or break a case by it's presence/abscence. Don't lose it.
Outside of evidence gathering can be a variety of tactical considerations from whether or not to make a complaint about one or more officers conduct; how to resolve any complaints that you may make; to when to send a letter of claim threatening legal action and how that letter is drafted. This article can only offer the softest of gestures in that direction as, once again, all cases are different and what is a good tactic for one may ruin another.
So the short answer is 'act'. See your doctor if you are injured and grab names and addresses of witnesses (you'll be surprised how often people move or even leave the country) - these are steps you can take to help yourself. Beyond that you need to see a lawyer to help you with the rest. Do that as soon as you can or critical evidence may be lost.
Andrew Guile, Solicitor/Director
Posted on Friday, 8th June 2012