Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED June 27, 2003

Detention officers who made statements implicating the claimants in a riot at a detention centre acted honestly and not maliciously and the claimants' action for malicious prosecution therefore failed.Action for damages for malicious prosecution. The claimants ('Q', 'N' and 'T') were detainees at a designated immigration detention centre managed by the defendant ('Group 4') contracted to the Home Department. In August 1997, there was a riot at Campsfield during which fires were started, considerable damage was done and attempts were made to break out of the centre. A number of detainees, including Q, N and T, were charged with riot and violent disorder. They were acquitted on the order of the trial judge after the prosecution announced that the jury could not be asked to rely on the evidence of the detention officers employed by Group 4. Q, N and T then commenced proceedings for malicious prosecution, claiming that they were prosecuted on the basis of false statements provided to the police by detention officers for whose actions Group 4 was vicariously liable. Group 4's case was that the statements were made honestly and that the officers did not act maliciously.HELD: (1) The relevant parts of the statements made by the three detention officers were made honestly and not maliciously. They had reasonable and probable cause for making them. In accordance with Martin v Watson (1996) AC 74 there was no basis for suggesting that the officers were to be treated as prosecutors. (2) Q failed to establish on the balance of probabilities that the statements to the police by a detention officer about what happened at Gate 2 of the detention centre were not honestly made. The detention officer was not a wholly satisfactory witness but there was nothing to show that he was lying rather than muddled or mistaken. Q lied in interview to conceal the fact that he had been involved in the violent struggle at the gate. That made it more probable that B saw him there involved in the struggle. (3) The detention officer in N's case acted honestly in naming N as the person who had struck and injured him. (4) The detention officer in T's case acted honestly in identifying T as the man who had thrown a dumbbell at the gate.Claims dismissed.

[2003] EWHC 1504 (QB)