Exclusive analysis by Byline Times uncovers the staggering amounts being paid by forces for public and employer liability claims
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UK police forces paid out £105 million in compensation claims over five years, Byline Times can reveal.
The compensation covers public and employer liability claims – and damages associated with incidents such as traffic accidents, on-duty officer injuries and ‘malfeasance’ – from January 2018 to December 2022. It includes both public claims and those brought internally by police officers and staff.
The staggering statistic – obtained using Freedom of Information requests and collected from 41 forces in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – also include individual pay-outs, some exceeding £50,000, for claims related to property damage, wrongful arrest, on-duty personal injury, negligence, assault, post-arrest personal injury, data protection breaches, and financial losses.
The highest pay-out year was 2021, with a total of £29.3 million, while 2022 stands at £22.5 million (with some forces providing partial data for the 2022/23 fiscal year).
While not all police forces differentiated between public and employer claims, the analysis of those that did indicates that at least £19.4 million was paid out at employment tribunals or through employer liability, and £30.75 million was allocated for public liability and malfeasance claims against officers and forces.
The total sum relates to a minimum of 15,611 individual cases during the relevant period, considering gaps in information provided by individual forces. Of these cases, public liability – including various misconduct, negligence, wrongful arrest, or personal injury claims – comprises 31%, with traffic accidents accounting for an additional 18%.
The 10 forces with the highest pay-outs were:
• The Metropolitan Police: £36,023,782
• Police Scotland: £22,727,317
• Northern Ireland: £11,179,600
• Greater Manchester: £5,057,204
• Merseyside: £3,082,639
• Devon & Cornwall: £3,066,764
• Avon & Somerset: £2,617,959
• The Ministry of Defence Police: £2,152,083
• Hertfordshire: £1,385,286
• Humberside: £1,347,430
The Metropolitan Police, the UK’s largest police force, paid the most – accounting for more than 34% of the total figure. This includes £12.6 million spent on 737 malfeasance claims, with 25 payments exceeding £50,000 each.
In recent months, the Met has been required to pay damages related to several high-profile incidents. Last December, it apologised two years after a botched stop and search involving insurance underwriter Tariq Stanley, who was handcuffed, strip-searched and detained by officers searching for cannabis. No drugs were found, and Stanley received £22,500 in damages. In 2022, the Met paid £30,000 to Zac Sharif-Ali after an unlawful stop and search left him struggling to breate when an officer held him in a chokehold on Chiswick Common in 2012.
The Met’s public liability was listed separately, with approximately 1,750 claims since 2018. However, the majority of claims against the force stemmed from a different source. Vehicle-related claims involving the force amounted to £14.6 million, linked to around 2,600 road traffic accidents.
Police Scotland are ranked second, paying out more than £22 million in compensation for about 3,000 claims. The force reportedly had to double the number of pay-outs in the last six years. From 2018 to 2020, the force spent £7.9 million on settling compensation claims – a figure that jumped to £14.8 million in the past two years.
More than £8.7 million came from just 25 individual claims, including motor accidents, personal injury, negligence, wrongful arrest and detention and alleged assault by police officers, with one victim receiving £50,415. The highest amount paid by Scotland was £1.4 million in an employment tribunal.
Last year, former officer Rhona Malone was awarded nearly £1 million in damages and compensation from Police Scotland for victimisation due to “horrific” sexism within a ‘boys club’ culture in Edinburgh’s firearms unit. The force was also ordered to pay more than £1 million to Lamara Bell’s family after admitting failures in its call handling system that “materially contributed” to her death. Ms Bell died after being stranded by the side of the M9 following a crash in 2015.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Compensation payments are dealt with on a case-by-case basis with a view to securing best value for the public purse. A significant proportion of the increase in compensation payments this year can be attributed to a few cases relating to incidents from previous years.”
Avon & Somerset Police, which paid out £2.6 million in combined employer and public liability claims, compensated ‘Kill the Bill’ protestors in November with undisclosed damages for alleged assault during the event. It also paid ‘substantial damages‘ to people supporting the Colston 4 protestors in 2021, who were wrongfully arrested and fined for expressing solidarity with those charged with toppling the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston. Speaking to the Bristol Cable, the activists said the police “wanted to arrest us. Like they wanted to make a point of it, almost as a warning to other people who were there”.
While most police forces withheld details about individual cases or claims worth more than £50,000, some information is available. Surrey had eight claims of this value, while Merseyside had four such claims – three for personal injury and one for negligence – at a combined worth nearly £590,000.
Police in South Wales, Thames Valley, Warwickshire, Sussex, Kent, and North Yorkshire either refused or did not respond to Byline Times’ Freedom of Information request.
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