Couple falsely arrested by armed police receive apology and £200,000 police payout

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A couple arrested when armed police stormed their home and held them for 36 hours over the Gatwick Airport drone chaos have received £200,000 in compensation and an apology.

Paul and Elaine Gait have settled their claims for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment against Sussex Police, their legal team announced on Sunday.

Drone sightings near the runways over a three-day period in December 2018 caused chaos, with the airport being repeatedly forced to close.

Travellers excited for Christmas-time getaways were horrified as flights were cancelled in droves as police investigated the sightings.

No-one has ever been charged over the incident and police have said that some reported drone sightings may have been Sussex Police’s own craft.

Drones close Gatwick airport
Passengers at Gatwick airport waiting for their flights following the delays and cancellations brought on by drone sightings near the airfield (Isabel Infantes/PA)

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Mr and Mrs Gait were arrested when 12 armed police officers swooped on their home just before Christmas 2018.

They were then held for 36 hours before being released without charge.

This was despite the fact they did not possess any drones and had been at work during the reported sightings.

Their legal team announced on 14 June, that Sussex Police has agreed to an out-of-court settlement package of £200,000 in compensation and legal costs.

The couple said in a statement: “We are delighted to have finally received vindication, it has been a very long fight for justice.

“The sums being paid by Sussex Police and letter received from the Assistant Chief Constable are confirmation of our innocence and wrongful treatment.

“It has taken lengthy legal proceedings to obtain resolution from the police and to finally have closure on this distressing time. We look forward to moving on and putting this terrible episode behind us.”

They say despite the apology they still have “no explanation” for why they were held “incommunicado” for 36 hours.

Mark Stephens, partner at Howard Kennedy, who has represented the couple since Boxing Day 2018 said: “It was plain as a pikestaff from day one that Mr and Ms Gait experienced a gross miscarriage of justice and I am delighted that this miscarriage has finally been marked by the police.”

Drones close Gatwick airport
An EasyJet plane on its final approach before landing at Gatwick airport, which was after drones were spotted over the airfield (John Stillwell/PA)

In a letter to the couple shared by their legal team, Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable David Miller said: “I am deeply sorry that you both experienced the unpleasantness of arrest and detention incommunicado for approximately 36 hours.

“I acknowledge that this would have been a traumatic time for you both.

“Unfortunately, when the police carry out their functions on behalf of the public, sometimes innocent people are arrested as part of necessary police investigations in the public interest.

“I understand that you believe that you were unlawfully arrested and detained by Sussex Police Officers.

“This is an issue which can only be resolved by a court.

“However, we recognise that things could have been done differently and, as a result, Sussex Police have agreed to pay you compensation and legal costs.”

Miller also confirmed the force commissioned a “thorough independent review” of the drone incident.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Did he actually say words to the effect that sometimes it necessary to arrest innocent people in the public interest !! FFS !

      I know someone who was arrested and charged even though he proved he wasn’t even in the country at the time, guess what? He was found not guilty !! Well actually the judge dismissed the case !!

    2. Why was the press statement given by the Assistant head of department? Such a blatant act of depoliticisation reveals a calculating PR management process. I want the Chief or Katy Bourne to have to account for the £200,000 that will be folded into the increase of next years tax bill. I’m sure that many other people want to know who also live in my area, who will pay the cost for this. It should also figure into her political capital next time she is up for election – but this will brush it under the rug if she doesn’t even have to publicly acknowledge it.

      Also, what does “arrest and detention incommunicado” mean? Without access to a lawyer? Deliberately verbose and vague to obscure the outrage of what actually happened?

      “I understand that you BELIEVE that you were unlawfully arrested and detained”!!!
      This police cell is a figment of your imagination and they are not the warrant officers you are looking for. Are you kidding me?

      The final boot to the wronged party and residents that will end up footing the bill is “This is an issue which can only be resolved by a court.” This is patently untrue. They were obviously on the offensive or they would have tried some sort of arbitration. This would increase the costs. How much more went into the legal fees (for both sides).

      don’t know if it is still current, but they were at one point the force with the most complaints outside of the MET. Conduct and behaviour like this is why. When did anyone last do nothing wrong and still have to pay £200k? Presumably a small amount was for deprivation of liberty and the vast majority for weaponising the media after. Who said we don’t need Leveson 2?

    3. Yet again an example of incompetent police getting off scot-free after devastating people lives. They should have been sacked but instead probably pay rises. I would have been sacked for giving a patient an aspirin instead of the prescribed paracetamol but they get away with murder in UKania. Why is this ?

    4. As a side note, I’ve only just thought of the relevance of another drone use. I was at the BLM event in Brighton on saturday and there was a drone flying low over the crowd. Thousands were relaxing on a hot day after a long march on The Level (a large green space with a skate park). We were listening to speeches and the samba band. It was so peaceful and chilled. There was no need for the use of the drone. Information gathering in this context is not reasonable. I concluded that it was the police one, because to pilot a civilian drone in these conditions (proximity to people, traffic and low flying height) would be highly illegal. There were several officers around to make an arrest if needed. Are they seriously going to charge people for marching for equality. This is an abuse of resources.

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