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Police who handcuffed barrister in RCJ offer £100,000 and apology

14 October 2010

The barrister awarded £100,000 in police compensation after being led away from the Royal Courts of Justice in handcuffs says the cost to the taxpayer could be three times that amount.

Lamb Chambers’ Colin Challenger, who has donated the cash to charity, mounted civil and criminal cases against the Metropolitan Police after his wrongful arrest in court last year.

“Legal costs are likely to exceed the damages by some three times,” said Challenger, adding: “The loser is not the police force but the taxpayer and me.

“I could not ever be compensated for the indignities that I suffered – even had I kept the damages rather than given them away.”

Challenger, who described his views of the ordeal as “unprintable”, was escorted out of the RCJ in handcuffs after a scuffle broke out among court protestors in July 2009. He fell into a diabetic coma while in custody after police officers confiscated his insulin and had to be whisked from Belgravia Police Station to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for treatment.

During bankruptcy proceedings, critics of Challenger’s client lashed out, accusing the experienced barrister of delay tactics.

The four court protestors were evicted from court by Registrar Barber for causing a disturbance, after which it was claimed Challenger had shoved one of them out of a door before locking it. Challenger was arrested for common assault despite protestations from a throng of bystanders that the barrister was in fact the victim of a physical attack.

Challenger explained: “[Police] arrested and handcuffed me. It took police almost six months to decide that they had no evidence.

“They then declined to consider any civil claim until after consideration of protocol letter and service of particulars of claim drafted by [Matrix Chambers’] Hugh Tomlinson QC.”

Challenger, who was photographed by The Telegraph being bundled into the back of a police van outside the RCJ, also instructed Kingsley Napley for a criminal claim and Thomas Cooper for a civil claim against the Metropolitan Police.

The police have now settled the claim after Challenger’s solicitors “prized the grudging apology and ‘undisclosed damages’ from the commissioner”, with costs yet to be decided.

The 57-year-old barrister has previously represented the Metropolitan Police in several high-profile cases. He said: “Regarding Sir Paul Stephenson’s idea that police should have a level of immunity – once upon a time I was in favour of this.

“At that time I was well aware of some unmeritorious claims by villains who would sometimes sue on the back of a miscarriage of justice in a criminal court which had led to an undeserved acquittal or two.

“As a result of my experience I have revised my view. If people like the officers involved were to achieve some form of immunity, behaviour of police, which sometimes is not beyond reproach, will deteriorate still further.”

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: “We can confirm that the Metropolitan Police Service has reached a settlement and offered a full apology to Mr Challenger.”

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