Belfast Telegraph

Judge limits damages paid to armed robber for unlawful police search

A convicted armed robber is to receive just £1,250 compensation for an unlawful attempt by police to search his home for drugs, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Gillen limited the damages awarded to Thomas Crossey due to his own "outrageous behaviour" at the flat in Belfast.

Officers were right to spray him with CS gas amid fears they were about to be attacked with a raised saddle board, he held.

Crossey sued over the incident at the Henderson Avenue apartment in the early hours of September 20, 2006.

Police arrived at the scene following a domestic incident involving Crossey and his girlfriend.

The court heard he made allegations about cocaine abuse in the flat where a child had also been staying.

Crossey claimed officers forced their way in without a warrant and sprayed him in the face with CS gas.

According to his account he was then arrested and beaten repeatedly.

At one stage he alleged that an officer said to him: "If you make a move big lad I'll shoot you in the chest."

Crossey has convictions for threats to kill and an armed robbery committed more than 20 years ago, the court was told.

He sought damages for unlawful entry, wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery.

Defending the action, the PSNI disputed his version of events and claimed officers quoted the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to him as they tried to get into the flat.

Two officers who used CS spray against him testified that they had no option as he advanced towards them brandishing a plank of wood the size of a cricket bat.

Citing the need for a court warrant to search a property for drugs, Mr Justice Gillen held that police had no authority to go into the flat.

However, the unlawful entry finding was the only one made in Crossey's favour.

The judge described his evidence as being "punctuated with implausible assertions and self-evident lies".

He backed medical evidence that injuries Crossey sustained were consistent with him struggling with police.

Ruling the deployment of CS spray to have been proportionate, Mr Justice Gillen said: "I have no doubt that these officers were confronted by Crossey with a raised saddle board and that they were justified in concluding that they were in danger of being struck and injured."

Dismissing Crossey's other claims against police, the judge added: "Hence, although their entry was unlawful I find the outrageous behaviour of the plaintiff was such that there is no basis for aggravated or exemplary damages.

"I award him £1,250 as compensation for the unlawful entry."

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