We all believe justice is an automatic right, and so perhaps it should be. The truth is very different. My own view is that rarely does justice come knocking on our door. The problem is when injustice knocks, what should we do.
I deal with a multitude of claims against the police. The fact is that in many situations, there is in truth no remedy. Let me give you an example or two.
A chap is arrested for something he has not done but it is serious. He is accused of murder of a friend and he was definitely in the same house at the time the murder was committed. He is taken into the police station and, though he denies the allegation, he is charged. He pleads not guilty and 12 months later, he stands trial, having been in custody at the prison nearby for the full twelve months. It was a nasty murder and he was therefore potentially a dangerous man.
At trial, the jury, after a three week hearing, acquits him and he walks free. Hoorah!
The fact is that by this time his life has been destroyed, his self-esteem is in a total tangle and he is suffering from depression. He is understandably and justifiably livid. I certainly would be.
The fact is that the onus would be on him to prove either that there was malice on the part of the prosecution in bringing and pursuing a prosecution against him, or that perhaps he was falsely arrested and imprisoned. But that would depend upon whether the police could establish that they genuinely believed that there was a reasonable suspicion that he had committed a criminal offence. The threshold is very low, and as I say regularly to my clients, the police cannot be judge and jury.
So the fact remains that where we think there must be a legal remedy and a right to compensation, this is not necessarily the case, and often isn't.
This is further clarified by recent cases confirming the rule that in general terms the police has a very limited duty in negligence. They fail to investigate, do we have a claim for example? Very unlikely is the answer.
The outcome is that we must tread carefully before embarking upon these exercises which be costly both in money and in time.