Skip to main content

Court gives protection to officers acting in good faith on defective injunction

An officer who believed that a court injunction was lawful and that someone was in breach of it, was acting in the execution of her duty.

Ahmed v Crown Prosecution Service [2017] EWHC 1272

Queen’s Bench Division (Wyn Williams J)

 4 May 2017 

Executive summary
An officer who genuinely and reasonably believed that a court injunction was lawful and that someone was in breach of it was acting in the execution of her duty in carrying out an arrest pursuant to it. The injunction was incorrectly issued because it referred to legislation that had been repealed. The officer was however acting in the execution of her duty and the individual involved could be convicted for assaulting her in the execution of that duty. 

Background
On 23 February 2016 an injunction was issued against the claimant by the Shoreditch County Court. Amongst other things it prohibited him from congregating in a group of two or more people within Tower Hamlets LBC. The injunction was personally served by PC Pugh. 

On 8 April 2016 PC Pugh saw the appellant with two other men. She believed he had been drinking and challenged him. When he became angry and walked away, the officer took hold of his arm. The appellant pushed her and continued to walk away at which point she decided to arrest him for breach of the injunction. The alleged assault took place immediately after the arrest. 

The original judge had fallen into error in issuing the injunction with a power of arrest attached because he referred to sections in an Act which had been repealed. Similar, but not identical, replacement sections did give a power to issue an injunction with a power of arrest. The claimant argued that the injunction was therefore a nullity and that the officer had no legal authority to exercise the power of arrest. She was not as a result acting in the execution of her duty.

Decision
The question before the court was whether the officer ceased to act within the execution of her duty because the court had conferred the power of arrest erroneously.

Wyn Williams J ruled that the test was whether the officer genuinely and reasonably believed she was authorised to arrest the appellant for breach of the injunction and whether she genuinely and reasonably believed that the claimant was in breach of it. In the judge’s view, the officer held such genuine and reasonable belief and was acting in the course of her duty. To hold otherwise would be to place officers in an impossible position. An officer could hardly be expected to check the validity of an apparently lawful order of the court and it would be unfortunate if an officer was found to be acting outside the scope of his or her duty because of an error of the court.

Comment
This is a welcome decision which recognises the practicalities of policing. It would plainly be unfair if officers acting in good faith were not seen as acting in the execution of their duty.