�13k compensation for restaurateur injured by police in Holloway

A RESTAURATEUR who had to be cut free from his handcuffs by the fire brigade after police arrested him in a case of mistaken identity has won �13,000 compensation for his ordeal.

Innocent Andrew Okoro, 43, dislocated his wrist when officers cuffed him after stopping his Mercedes in Hornsey Road, Holloway, and arresting him on suspicion of identity fraud.

Mr Okoro, from Shoreditch, was held for nearly four hours before his release close to midnight on October 18, 2007, High Court Judge Richard Seymour QC told the court.

During his unlawful detention at Islington and Limehouse police stations, his right knee was also injured in a “fracas” with officers.

He remained composed for much of his detention, said the judge, only becoming irate when he complained about pain during “unsuccessful attempts to remove his right handcuff” by officers.

Police were finally forced to abandon attempts to unlock the “stuck” cuff when the key failed to open it, calling in firefighters who severed it with boltcutters, the court heard.

Mr Okoro was awarded �9,000 for permanent “loss of function” to his dislocated left wrist - caused by the initial application of the handcuffs - and �2,000 for the injuries to his right knee.

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The judge also allocated �2,000 “for the arrest, the false imprisonment and the assault which the application of the handcuffs amounted to”.

Mr Okoro’s arrest was unjustified, as was the decision to place him in handcuffs, the judge found. He was an “entirely innocent man”, who officers arrested after running a check on the Police National Computer database which suggested he was “wanted” for identity fraud.

He was released four hours later when “it was established he had been the victim of mistaken identity”.

During his ordeal, Mr Okoro said he felt as if he was “treated like an animal”, although the judge said that some of his complaints of ill-treatment were “inaccurate”.

But he rejected officers’ complaints about alleged aggression from the prisoner, ruling that this issue had been “exaggerated quite unacceptably”.

Close analysis of the custody suite DVD revealed that the allegation of aggression was “not justified”, he said.

“The only point at which Mr Okoro behaved in a way which could properly be described as in any way violent was at about 7.40pm when he pulled his left arm from the grip of a constable’s and shouted out.

“However, his behaviour was in response to his protestations about being hurt during the unsuccessful attempts to remove the right handcuff being ignored.

“Apart from that episode, which I think was understandable, the most that could be said was that Mr Okoro declined to sit when he was asked to do so, and spoke firmly - but not rudely - to police officers, for example about his desire to visit the lavatory.”

Mr Okoro sued the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, who was also ordered to pay the heavy legal costs of the hearing - to be assessed at a later date.

He was without legal representation during the trial, but assisted by George Mentu, who said after the hearing: “The case wasn’t about money, he just wanted them to say sorry.

“If that had happened earlier on I don’t think we would have ended up here,” he added.

Mr Okoro said he felt relieved at the outcome, insisting that he still “loves and respects the police”.