Can I Take Legal Action Against the Police?

Take Action Against the Police

Taking legal action against the police is not an everyday occurrence for most, but knowing how to navigate this complex area of law is essential for those who need to. 

In the UK, citizens have the right to challenge police behaviour that crosses the line. Whether it’s an unjust arrest or a violation of privacy through improper data handling, the law in the UK supports you in addressing these issues.

If you’re looking for expert legal advice on how to proceed with an action against the police, we have got you covered. Read on to understand your rights and the procedures you need to follow to secure justice. Let’s get started!

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Common Grounds for Taking Legal Action Against the Police

Here are some of the common grounds to take action against the police.

Unjust Detention

An unjust detention is when someone is held without adequate reason or lawful order. It is not only a disruption but a serious violation of someone’s personal freedom and rights. If you’ve undergone such detention by the police, you have the right to hold them accountable for such actions. 

False Imprisonment

Closely related to wrongful arrest, false imprisonment happens when you are held against your will without legal justification. This can occur in a police station or another place of detention.

Detention Beyond Legal Duration

The law defines maximum durations for detention without charge. Detention beyond the duration permitted by law is not just a procedural error; it’s a fundamental injustice that can lead to a compensation claim for the time unlawfully taken from an individual’s life.

Assault and Injury

Being assaulted or injured while in contact with the police can deeply deteriorate one’s trust in public institutions. If you have sustained physical injuries due to the conduct of a police officer, there are provisions in place to make a complaint or pursue compensation for such misconduct.

Data Protection Breaches

In an age where personal data is a valuable commodity, breaches by those in authority are particularly concerning. If your data has been mishandled or improperly disclosed, a specialist in this area of law can assist you in holding the police accountable.


Encountering discrimination from law enforcement personnel, whether based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or other intrinsic attributes, is against the principle of equitable treatment. The legal system provides mechanisms to address such prejudice, allowing victims to pursue disciplinary measures and potential compensation through a formal complaint.

Human Rights Breaches

The Human Rights Act is the protection against the violation of essential freedoms. Infringements of human rights law, such as breaches of privacy or the obstruction of fair legal process by the police are strictly prohibited and can be used as grounds to complain against the police. 

Police Negligence

Should a police officer’s carelessness of duty lead to injury or loss, it may be categorised as negligence. Victims can take legal action against the police if they feel harmed by their negligence.

Unlawful Searches and Trespass

An unlawful search of your property or person or trespass without adequate authority are grounds for a complaint and potentially a compensation claim. Such acts can lead to legal claims and are often taken seriously.

Flawed Investigations

When police investigations are not conducted properly, the consequences can be severe and far-reaching. If you’ve been a victim of a flawed investigation, you may be eligible to bring a claim against the police for any damage suffered.

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct by a police officer is a grave abuse of power and trust. It’s an act that the legal system condemns unequivocally, providing those affected with the grounds to seek justice through legal channels. Victims of such disgraceful acts can and should seek justice.

Who Deals with Complaints About the Police in the UK?

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is the organisation that oversees and sets standards for the police forces on how to deal with complaints. They also investigate the most serious complaints against the police. These often involve cases that include severe injury, death, or other significant allegations of misconduct. 

It is vital to note that not all complaints escalate to the IPCC. Most complaints are managed locally by the Professional Standards Department within each police force. This department is responsible for investigating the conduct of officers and ensuring adherence to professional standards.

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What Action Can You Take Against Police?

When faced with an instance of police misconduct, there are primarily two options for individuals seeking accountability and redress. These include filing a civil claim, and lodging a formal complaint. 


Filing a complaint against police personnel offers a comparatively swift and straightforward approach compared to making a claim. It’s a suitable course of action in situations where evidence may be too light for a claim, or when the misbehaviour (although not grave enough for legal proceedings) still demands recognition and a response from law enforcement.

Complaints can address a range of issues, from minor misconduct, such as disrespect or lack of professional behaviour, to more significant concerns. Complaints are typically assessed and managed by the Professional Standards Department of the police force in question. 

Resolutions resulting from complaints can include formal apologies, revisions in police procedures, or disciplinary measures for the officers implicated.

Civil Claim

A civil claim is a legal process through which an individual can sue for compensation if they have been a victim of police misconduct, such as an assault, wrongful arrest, or malicious prosecution. The civil claim serves as a crucial check on police powers, providing a route to hold them accountable for their wrongdoing.

The process of making a claim generally includes these steps:

  1. Initial Consultation – The first step involves a discussion with a legal team to assess the viability of your claim. This conversation is critical for understanding the details of your case and for the legal team to provide guidance on the likelihood of success.
  2. Case Preparation – Should the claim be justified, solicitors will gather pertinent evidence, including medical documentation, eyewitness accounts, and any relevant proof. In injury-related cases, expert medical assessments may be pivotal to substantiate the claim.
  3. Filing A Complaint – Often, a claim against the police begins with a formal complaint to the corresponding police body. This procedure can be a prerequisite for legal proceedings.
  4. Settlement Negotiations – With all the evidence in hand, your legal team can attempt to settle your claim. Reaching a settlement could acceptably resolve the matter without the need to go to court, as this is typically a quicker and less stressful solution.
  5. Court Proceedings – If a settlement cannot be reached or agreed, your legal team will represent you throughout the trial in court.

Time Limits for Making a Claim

Legal claims against the police have a strict time limit. Usually:

  • For wrongful arrest or false imprisonment, claimants have six years from the date of the incident to bring forward a claim.
  • For personal injury, a claim must be filed within three years.
  • Complaints against the police should be filed within one year.

There are, however, certain exceptions. For instance, if the claim is on behalf of a child or someone who lacks the mental capacity to make their own claim, different time limits may apply.

Judicial Review in Actions Against Police

Judicial review is a type of legal proceeding where a court reviews the legality of a judgement or action taken by a public body, such as a police force or a police complaints authority. It is particularly relevant when other complaint mechanisms or internal investigations into police conduct have not resolved the issue satisfactorily.

Judicial review is an option to consider when the usual routes of redress have failed to acknowledge or rectify an abuse of power or a procedural error. It is a viable option in several circumstances concerning police actions, specifically when:

  1. Procedural Unfairness – If the police have failed to follow the correct legal process or have acted in a manner that is deemed unfair, for instance, by not providing an individual with a fair hearing.
  2. Irrationality – Also known as “Wednesbury unreasonableness”, this is where a decision is so absurd that no appropriate authority would ever consider imposing it.
  3. Breach of Human Rights – If the police action or decision has violated the individual’s human rights, as enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights.
  4. Legitimate Expectation – When an individual has a reasonable expectation that a public body will act in a certain way based on past conduct or explicit promises and that expectation is not met.

It is important to file judicial reviews in a prompt manner and in no event later than three months after the grounds for the claim initially surfaced. 

Need Legal Assistance to Take Action Against Police?

If you’ve encountered unfair treatment by the police, it can be an overwhelming and confusing situation. At Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, we stand prepared to offer guidance and support through these difficult times.

Recognised by the Legal 500 for our expertise and commitment to justice, we have decades of experience in handling complex legal challenges across a broad spectrum of the law. Whether you wish to file a complaint, pursue a civil claim, or seek a judicial review, we are here to help you make your case with confidence.

Don’t let the complexity of legal proceedings deter you from seeking justice. Contact us by filling out the online form or call us at +44 20 7269 9590, and let’s discuss how we can support your claim and uphold your rights.


A solicitor who specialises in actions against the police can provide legal advice, support you through the process, and help you claim compensation if you have suffered due to police misconduct.

Yes, if you have suffered a serious injury or harm due to police misconduct, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. Contact us for more information.

The compensation for police mistreatment varies per case and depends on the nature of the police action, the severity of your suffering, and any financial losses you’ve endured. Our lawyers may provide an estimate during your initial consultation. 

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At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

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