WALID YOUSIF v COMMISSIONER OF POLICE OF THE METROPOLIS (2016)

The judge below had been correct to conclude that the appellant’s treatment while in police custody did not give rise to a breach of ECHR art.3 or art.8. The strip search and cell move (while unclothed) to which he had been subjected had resulted from his own failure to engage with officers at the police station and their legitimate concern that he might harm himself.
The appellant appealed against a decision rejecting his claim that he had been assaulted by police officers following his arrest and dismissing his claims against the police under ECHR art.3 and art.8.

The appellant had various disabilities. Among other things, he suffered from a personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and paranoia. He had been arrested after assaulting a motorist. He was taken to a police station, where he remained for some 12 hours. He was subjected to a strip search shortly after his arrival at the station. The judge below found that the search was justified, given that the appellant had said yes when asked whether he had tried to commit suicide in the past and that he had refused to respond when asked whether he was feeling suicidal. The judge noted that the search was necessary not only because the appellant might have a weapon, tablet or other contraband that he might use to harm himself but also because he could use an item of clothing for that purpose. The appellant then began a “campaign of misbehaviour” involving shouting, screaming, kicking and spitting. Throughout he was monitored by CCTV and actual visits. After several hours, a decision was taken, given the commotion he was causing, to move him from his existing cell to one further away from the reception desk. The judge concluded that his disruptive behaviour affected the ability of those in reception to work and was highly likely to trigger disruptive behaviour from other prisoners arriving in the custody suite. The move was undertaken without the police providing clothing or a blanket to the appellant. However, the judge found that he was moved in “a markedly restrained way”, with “the absolute minimum of force” and with officers providing “a protective human curtain” for him. The appellant, who by then had calmed down, was provided with clothing and a blanket in his new cell. However, some time later he was seen to be fashioning a noose with the blanket and it had to be removed. The appellant was released after being interviewed, although his release was delayed after he failed to provide an accurate address.

HELD: (1) The judge had been correct to reject the appellant’s claim that he had been assaulted when moved between cells. He had been entitled to conclude that only the absolute minimum of force required to achieve the move was used and that, given the appellant’s behaviour up to that point, such force was necessary (see para.72 of judgment).

(2) The judge had also been correct to conclude that there had been no breach of ECHR art.3. The strip search and the cell move without clothing involved some humiliation. However, everything that happened to the appellant was a consequence of his own failure to engage with the police and their legitimate and good-faith concern to ensure that he was safe while in custody. All the police’s actions were “strictly necessary”, Bouyid v Belgium considered (paras 66, 69-70).

(3) As to art.8, there could, on the facts of the case and the justified findings of the judge, be no doubt that the police could justify what was undeniably an invasion of the appellant’s privacy by reference to the necessity in a democratic society for them as custodians of a person lawfully arrested to take all necessary steps to protect his safety (para.71).

Appeal dismissed
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