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R (Sisangia): woman wins legal aid to pursue Metropolitan Police false imprisonment claim

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A woman has won a significant case giving her legal aid to pursue an allegation of false imprisonment against the London Metropolitan Police – despite a claim by lawyers that legal aid was barred by the Coalition Government’s draconian LASPO legislation [Note: see however Court of Appeal reversal at end of this piece].

The case of R (Sunita Sisangia) v Director of Legal Aid Casework means legal aid will not be restricted to tort claims in which police are accused of dishonesty in detaining people unlawfully. Legal aid will be available for a wider set of claims: when police detain someone deliberately (whether or not dishonestly) knowing harm might come to the detainee as a result of the detention.

Sisangia had been arrested just after at 4am one morning in January 2011 after a neighbour reported alleged harassment two weeks earlier. She was held for more than 11 hours. “Ms Sisangia says that she was not provided with permission to take her medication until she saw a doctor at 0810 hours, and was not provided with food or water until 0953 hours. Ms Sisangia alleges she was not provided with any further food apart from water and a cup of tea, was released from custody at 1545 hours.” Police decided there was no criminal case against her.

Sisangia’s claim for being wrongly detained is in part based on the police being aware of the history of her dispute with the neighbour during which she had been allegedly threatened and as a result of which she had been given a panic alarm by the police. She considers it was unnecessary to have arrested her in a “dawn raid”.

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