9:00am Thursday 29th May 2014
By Ben Wilkinson
COMPENSATION paid out to victims of police blunders in Oxfordshire more than tripled last year.
Thames Valley Police has paid out at least £69,000 since January 2012 after members of the public won 70 cases against the force.
But last night the police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld defended the cost, saying the complex nature of policing meant accidents happen.
Figures reveal cash has been given to eight people wrongly arrested, one person bitten by a police dog, and another who was kicked by one of the force’s horses.
Nearly £42,000 was paid out last year in 35 cases against the force – up on the £12,000 paid out in 2012. And up until last month this year at least £15,777.59 has been paid in 13 cases.
But the force has refused to say how much it paid last month to an innocent man after it released his photograph in a press release about a rapist.
The image of Daniel Rodriguez-Lay, 33, was wrongly released in October after Kidlington man Daniel Rodriguez, 38, admitted firearms crimes and rape.
But the force said it would breach privacy rules if it revealed how much the victim was paid.
Solicitor Kevin Donoghue, who represented Mr Rodriguez-Lay, said all the compensation claims represent a serious failing by the force.
He said: “The police do a difficult job but the cases that do succeed and settle will be cases where there has been wrong-doing or failings.
“Police are not in the business of just settling cases willy-nilly.”
He said innocent people can suffer “psychological injury” from being arrested by officers who did not have enough grounds to do so, adding: “Being locked in a cell, searched and stripped of all your belongings – it is a particularly horrific ordeal.”
Dia Chakravarty, political director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Authorities must take better care to keep these unnecessary costs down.”
The highest payouts were those of £14,000 and £12,500 given out in October last year after two arrests.
But Thames Valley Police spokesman Chris Kearney said all the force’s compensation payouts were covered by the force’s liability insurance.
And he said the force would have to pay if a door was damaged when officers were searching a home and no criminal conviction was secured, or if property was damaged when officers were searching for someone they did not find in a fear for welfare case.
The force has also paid compensation to its own officers. Three officers got compensation for dog bites, one got money after suffering cuts and a PCSO was paid after dislocating their shoulder.
But the force would not reveal how much had been paid out in those cases.
Police 999 call handler Keith Tilbury was shot in the chest during a firearms awareness course in Kidlington in 2007 and received hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation from the force in 2010.
And Cecil Reid won a £25,000 police payout after he was assaulted when arrested for carrying a machete in Blackbird Leys in 2005. Officers restrained him using CS spray and his shoulder was injured in the arrest.
Police and crime commissioner Mr Stansfeld said: “The complex nature of policing can mean that incidents happen that may result in compensation claims.
"In some cases this could be as a result of checking on the welfare of vulnerable people, which is of course an important part of policing.”
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