Belfast Telegraph

Barrymore damages 'more than nominal' for unlawful arrest

By Cathy Gordon, PA

Entertainer Michael Barrymore is entitled to "more than nominal" damages against Essex Police over the wrongful arrest which he says destroyed his career, a High Court judge has ruled.

The comedian and TV presenter was arrested and detained in June 2007 on suspicion of the rape and murder of 31-year-old Stuart Lubbock, who was found in the swimming pool at his Roydon home six years earlier.

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, sitting in London yesterday, ruled against the force, which had argued that Mr Barrymore should only receive a nominal payout.

Mr Barrymore (65), who was not present for the decision, values his claim at more than £2.4m.

The judge did not decide on the sum to be awarded, as his ruling dealt only with the preliminary issue of the level of damages to be awarded to Mr Barrymore, who brought the action in his real name, Michael Ciaran Parker.

Essex Police had admitted the arrest was unlawful, as the arresting officer did not have reasonable grounds to suspect that Mr Barrymore was guilty.

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith ruled that the defendant - the Chief Constable of Essex Police - "has failed to prove that, if not arrested unlawfully as he was, Mr Parker could and would have been arrested lawfully".

He added: "Mr Parker is entitled to recover more than nominal damages."

Essex Police argued that Mr Barrymore could have been lawfully arrested by another officer, meaning that only an award of nominal damages should be made, rather than the "substantial" sum sought by the star.

The judge ruled that there was "information available to the police that could have provided an arresting officer with reasonable grounds for a lawful arrest".

But he added that "there was only one designated arresting officer who had sufficient information and had been sufficiently briefed to enable her to arrest Mr Parker lawfully".

That officer was not present at the time of the unlawful arrest. Essex Police said the officer was stuck in traffic at the time. The judge added: "If Mr Parker had not been unlawfully arrested as and when he was, he would have been unlawfully arrested by one of a number of other police officers who were at the scene."

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said that arrest would also have been unlawful "because none of the police officers at the scene had sufficient information or had been sufficiently briefed to enable them to arrest Mr Parker lawfully".

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