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Remus2004, Barrister
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 71031
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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a dispute with a client who refused to pay an outstanding bill

Customer Question

a dispute with a client who refused to pay an outstanding bill for goods/services despite our offer in good faith to rectify any and all existing faults/problems, resulted in a visit to the clients property, an invitation to enter by a family member and the removal by ourselves of said goods, whereupon the client contacted the police who arrested the owner of our company and after imprisoning him for six hours forced him to return said goods to the client.
question : were the police exceeding their legal duties in what appears to be a civil matter.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  Remus2004 replied 4 years ago.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this. In order to give you an answer tailored to your circumstances, I will just need to ask you some preliminary questions so that I can consider your position from all angles.Did you retain title to the goods?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

the goods were a factor in an unpaid bill and as such we retain title to same

Expert:  Remus2004 replied 4 years ago.

What was he actually arrested for? What was the allegation? Its not really clear from what you said. I suppose he wasn't interviewed if he was only held for 6 hours
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

the police alleged trespass took place (which is denied) they then took our keys to premises where the goods were stored and returned them without our agreement to the client,w e were not present when these events took place and were informed only after the act by the officer at the front desk in the police station where we were being detained. we complained heatedly that they (the police)had no right to do this when we were told - after the event!

Expert:  Remus2004 replied 4 years ago.

Trespass is not a criminal offence so the reason for the arrest cannot be trespass.

From what you've said I suppose the allegation could be of theft. They will be saying that you removed these goods. Whether you were free to do that depends on the nature of type of them. In truth though, I would never have suggested doing this. This is a civil debt which should be enforced at the small claims court. Taking direct action is almost always a bad idea. Liens are all very well if you actually have the item already but when you have to confiscate it you are vulnerable to allegations of theft.

They only need reasonable suspicion to make an arrest. If they received an allegation then that is reasonable suspicion. If the allegation was that the goods were stolen then they are entitled to return them to their true owner. That happens with thefts all the time.

I suppose you could complain to the IPCC and the Chief Constable about this loss but a better option is just to enforce at the small claims court.

In terms of whether they exceeded their powers, in truth I am afraid that I suspect they did not. On your own account you removed these goods. I realise that you say that they were subject to a lien but the officers at scene might have formed the suspicion that it amounted to a theft which is all they need.

In respect of returning the goods, they shouldn't do that where there is genuine dispute but you accept that these goods were at their property. This is your strongest point really as there was dispute over ownership. I suspect they would say its not for them to adjudicate over that as its a civil matter though.

I'm very sorry but I have to give you truthful information.

Can I clarify anything for you?