The police do a tough job in tough conditions but their conduct is expected to meet very high standards. In one case that proves the point, an autistic man who was badly bitten by an out-of-control police dog has won substantial compensation.
The German Shepherd dog, which was trained to bite, was not on its lead as officers dealt with a disturbance on the street in which the man was involved. The dog sank its teeth into his leg and only let go when one of his shoes was given to it to play with. His lawyers argued that the dog was effectively a loaded weapon, ready to go off, and that it had not been kept under proper control.
Following a trial, a jury rejected claims that the dog had justifiably been let loose after the man ran off in the direction of a group of onlookers. The judge found that he had suffered a reckless assault and that the dog handler had taken an unwarranted risk in taking the unrestrained and potentially dangerous animal into a volatile situation. Once that risk was created, the bite was entirely foreseeable.
The jury found that the man had been abusive when spoken to by the dog handler and rejected claims that he had been unlawfully arrested and maliciously prosecuted for a public order offence. The police force concerned was nevertheless ordered to pay him £45,000 in damages and the lion's share of the legal costs of the case, which were estimated to be in excess of £200,000.