The High Court handed down judgment today (1 December 2014) in the case of James Browne v Metropolitan Police Commissioner, finding that Mr Browne had suffered assault and battery by way of the use of excessive and unlawful force in an incident that occurred on 4 April 2010 on Kentish Town Road, North London. Mr Browne was awarded damages, having suffered a very badly broken leg from which he has not recovered and being unable to return to his work as a close protection provider for a number of celebrities.
In the judgment, HHJ Coe QC explained that Mr Browne was with “the comedian and television celebrity Noel Fielding” at the time of the incident when the pair were stopped by police.
Press coverage during the trial can be found here:-
The judge found that a police officer had wrongly given evidence that Mr Browne appeared to be under the influence of drugs. She found that the officer had followed Mr Browne into a local shop and used excessive force to bring him to the ground, breaking his leg, causing a complex fracture, in the process. The judge rejected the officer’s account that he had warned Mr Browne that he was being detained for a drugs search, making the use of force unlawful in any event. She rejected the officer’s account that he had seen Mr Browne with a drugs “wrap” in his hand, and also rejected the officer’s evidence that Mr Browne had struggled violently and that his injury had been caused by the necessity to bring him to the ground. Finally, the judge found that the officer’s evidence that he had returned to the ambulance after taking Mr Fielding to the police station, and heard Mr Browne making admissions about drugs offences was “a case of deliberate dishonesty”.
In the course of her judgment, the judge said of Mr Fielding that “I considered Mr Fielding to be an honest and straightforward witness. I accept his evidence.” She rejected the police version of events that Mr Fielding appeared to be under the influence of drugs saying
“He was of course dressed in a somewhat outlandish manner but I do not accept the evidence of the police that he was stumbling and obviously “high”. He can be seen sitting passively on the pavement for quite some time waiting for the van. He was entirely cooperative with the police at the police station. He cooperated with the strip search. No drugs or any drug-related material was found on him. He was not the subject of any charge. There is no evidence to suggest he was under the influence of drugs other than the account of the police officers and that evidence is entirely inconsistent with what can be seen on the CCTV… it seems to me that… Mr Fielding was unnecessarily restrained and handcuffed”.
Mr Browne said
“It’s been a long four years since the incident, but I am delighted that justice has been done. I am now permanently disabled as a result of the actions of the police, and I am very disappointed that the Commissioner chose to fight this case to the end, defending his officers who have been found not to have told the truth about what happened. I am very grateful for the support that Noel has given me in this case. I would also like to thank my family and friends for all the help and support they have given me and also thank Hughmans Solicitors and Mr Cragg QC for their belief and support.”
Mr Browne was represented by Anthony Nelson of Hughmans solicitors 020 7246 6560, and his barrister was Stephen Cragg QC of Doughty Street Chambers