A FORMER Alton resident, convicted ten years ago of a Section 5 Public Order Offence and cleared three months later, has now been awarded damages, with Hampshire Constabulary picking up costs equivalent, he claims, to two officer salaries.
Writer, Paul Dunwell, 63, who now lives in Bedfordshire, protested his innocence from the outset after being found guilty, in September 2009, of causing harassment, alarm and distress by using threatening, abusive and insulting behaviour towards a Post Office worker.
The alleged incident happened on June 9 that year at Alton Post Office depot when Mr Dunwell went to collect a special delivery package he had not been at home to receive. A dispute arose over the officer’s apparent unwillingness to accept Mr Dunwell’s ID, resulting in the parcel being retained.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) got involved and Mr Dunwell found himself up before Alton Magistrates Court where he was found guilty and left with a fine and costs totalling £1,015.
Three months later, however, an appeal hearing at Winchester Crown Court cleared his name.
After his victory Mr Dunwell told the Herald that, despite repeated requests, “there was no determined attempt by police to view or seize the CCTV video evidence, on which I had relied from the outset to clear my name.”
Furthermore, he claimed that, during that time, the postal worker concerned had been left in charge of the video, which was ultimately certified as “damaged beyond repair.”
Believing himself to be victimised due to previous run-ins with the police over other matters, since the appeal Mr Dunwell has been working to secure further justice.
Annoyed that Hampshire Constabulary refused to refer itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after the case fell apart, Mr Dunwell says he would have let it rest had it not been for the fact that “the police overplayed their hand.”
He told the Herald: “They refused to destroy records including DNA and fingerprints” – records that he was told “should revert to a state that not only showed him to be entirely innocent but as if he had never even been accused let alone put on trial.”
When he took the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office, according to Mr Dunwell, “it took a considerable time for a ruling that Hampshire Constabulary was in breach of legislation and, therefore, obliged to compensate me.”
After the police still refused to destroy the data Mr Dunwell engaged Widnes-based data-protection solicitors, Hayes Connor, on a no-win-no-fee basis.
As a result, Hampshire Constabulary found themselves facing a hearing that, Mr Dunwell believes, “could have had far more serious implications had they not settled out of court” – paying him £8,500 damages and picking up the tabs for what are likely to be over £50,000 in costs for both parties.