Pub landlord Nigel Marsh wins £25,000 compensation after Cambs police throw in the towel on eve of wrongful arrest claim court hearing
- Credit: Archant
Pub landlord Nigel Marsh has won £25,000 compensation from Cambridgeshire Police after an incident four years ago in which he was sprayed with CS gas, handcuffed and removed from his pub.
On the eve of a scheduled trial at Cambridge County Court – in a civil case brought by Mr Marsh alleging false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution-- police lawyers threw in the towel.
Police will now pick up a bill for legal costs estimated at over £125,000.
Mr Marsh’s own lawyers said that “as a result of the incident, he suffered injuries to his neck, lower back, chest, arms and wrists, left hand and wrist, irritation to his eyes, ears, nose and throat as well as psychological upset.”
The 51 year-old businessman said his faith in the police had been shaken.
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“I could not believe their heavy-handed actions,” he said. “They behaved as private thugs for hire.”
His solicitor Iain Gould said that, quite simply, police had wrongly taken sides in a business dispute and the heavily publicised arrest of Mr Marsh and the events that followed “were entirely avoidable”.
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The dispute centres on the take over of Georges by Mr Marsh in 2011 after he became managing director and sole shareholder of a company set up to run the town. His company entered into a lease with the pub freeholders to refurbish and run it.
Mr Marsh said he arranged for Stephen and Marion Smith to join the company as directors, obtain the alcohol licence, and run the pub, while he concentrated on overall management and other business interests. The company took possession of the pub on March 1, 2011 and began trading that day.
However the directors fell out shortly afterwards – and so began a battle for control with Mr Marsh closing the pub, temporarily, and submitting a fresh licensing application in the company’s name to run the pub.
Police decided the Smiths were entitled to run the pub but on April 8 Mr Marsh, confident he had the legal right to run it, went back in.
Five police officers – all named in court documents and including Sergeant Martin Monger- insisted that Mr Marsh leave,
Fenland Council licensing officer Mike Gipp, himself a former senior police officer, was also present. Coincidentally he had previously been a chief superintendent for Cambridgeshire Police and one time line manager for both Sgt Monger and Inspector Andy Sullivan, who was also in attendance at the pub. Mr Gipp told Mr Marsh he was not entitled to trade and ordered him to leave.
“He didn’t give me any reasons and then Sgt Monger told me: ‘We have come to evict you. You have two minutes to get out’.”
Mr Marsh said he left but returned later, confident he was entitled to be there and to run the pub.
“As I headed towards the bar, I was rugby tackled and pushed to the floor by two or more officers. I fell near a round table. One police officer said she was going to spray me. I said: ‘You’re kidding. Spray me, why?’ She replied: ‘I am spraying you now’ and from a distance of no more than one foot delivered a blast of pepper spray to me eyes. I was then handcuffed.”
He was taken to March Police Station and charged with assaulting a police officer and for a breach of the police and nearly eight hours later released on bail.
At a later court appearance he denied both charges and after a two day trial before magistrates was acquitted after a judge ruled there was no case to answer. Mr Marsh got back his pub and has run it since.
Mr Gould said: “If the police had taken the time to properly consider the position they would have realised that the council’s licensing officers were wrong in trying to secure Nigel’s eviction.
“They should not have allowed themselves to be used. To compound matters, the police then sought a criminal conviction against my client to cover up the unlawful eviction, arrest, assault, and prosecution.
“They then robustly defended his civil case, which settled just days before a scheduled four-day trial. All this was entirely avoidable.” Mr Marsh said among the court documents was a statement from Sgt Monger that put much of the blame for what happened on the council’s licensing department.
“I don’t find myself often in agreement with Sgt Monger but in this instance I most certainly do,” said Mr Marsh. .
In 2012 Cambridgeshire Police told Mr Marsh his complaint against named officers alleging wrongful arrest had been dismissed following an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.