UK: Better than Poirot...

Last Updated: 29 October 2010
Article by Tom Walshaw

Ollivierre & Others v The Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police (2010) was a Central London County Court Decision from His Honour Judge Collender QC.

A recent case examines the threshold for arrest and the requirement of objective reasonable grounds for suspicion.


On 7 May 2005, Mary-Ann Leneghan and her friend, referred to throughout as "M", were victims of one of the most disturbing crimes that Thames Valley Police have seen in recent years. In a botched revenge attack, the girls, aged 16 and 18 respectively, were kidnapped and taken to a hotel in Reading.  There, they were raped, tortured and forced to take drugs. The girls were then driven to a park, where Mary-Ann was stabbed over 40 times and M was shot in the head. Mary-Ann died but, miraculously, her friend survived.

A massive investigation was implemented by Thames Valley Police, as they raced to preserve vital forensic evidence before it was contaminated, lost or the offenders escaped.  Six men were ultimately convicted in Reading Crown Court in 2007 and sentenced to between 23 and 27 years imprisonment each. As part of the investigation, three wholly innocent members of the public were also arrested, as it was believed at the time that they could have been involved. They each brought a claim against Thames Valley Police for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment, although one of these claims was dropped shortly before trial.

The Claimants' Case

The claimants asserted that, on the basis of the investigation, no reasonable grounds for their arrest existed. Both the first and second claimants were arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender. They contended that the police needed to have reasonable grounds to suspect that the claimants had done an act to assist an offender, as opposed to reasonable grounds to suspect that they may have done an act to assist. There was no evidence to show that the claimants had done any such act, they argued, and therefore the threshold for arrest had not been met.

The claimants also asserted that, even if there were reasonable grounds for arrest, those grounds were not communicated to the arresting officers and, therefore, the arrests were still unlawful.

The Defendant's Case

The Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police argued that her officers had had overwhelming grounds on which to arrest the claimants on suspicion of assisting an offender. The suspects could have done any of a number of acts to assist, including providing a safe-house for an offender, washing clothes for an offender, or helping them to flee the country. 

This case necessarily involved a detailed analysis of the evidence and whether it objectively constituted reasonable grounds for arrest. That question is a matter solely for the judge.

The Judgment

On hearing the evidence, the judge concluded that the following information had been available to, and was reviewed by, Thames Valley Police at the time of the arrests:

  1. When being interviewed, the surviving victim, when questioned as to who had been involved in the attack on her and Mary-Ann, had given the name "Redz" to the police. Intelligence identified "Redz" as a person known to the police, Adrian Thomas. A detailed review of Thomas' mobile telephone records led to another mobile number, which had been "topped up" at a Shell garage in Reading on the night of the murder.
  2. CCTV images captured at the Shell Garage allowed the police to identify the Nissan Almera that had been used by the offenders when topping up the phone. The same car was also caught by a speed camera on the London-bound M4, which showed the vehicle to be heavily laden with passengers.
  3. DVLA records showed the first claimant to be the registered keeper of the vehicle at her registered voter address. It was later revealed that she had, in fact, sold her car to one of the offenders days earlier, but the DVLA records had not been updated and, therefore, she remained as the registered keeper.
  4. The vehicle was found parked very close to the first claimant's address and a "walk-by" revealed that it was in a suspiciously clean state.
  5. There was huge national interest in the crime and any individual at that address would have heard about it on the news.

The judge held that the suspicion that the occupants of the premises at which the car was registered had done an act to assist an offender was inevitable and the police would have been in dereliction of their duty had they not arrested the claimants. Although the circumstances did not prove that either of the claimants assisted an offender, they did objectively give rise to reasonable grounds for arrest. 

The investigating was co-ordinated by senior officers, and it is important that the chief constable proves that those officers passed relevant evidence down to the officers actually carrying out the arrest, the well known "O Hara" point. Here, the knowledge transfer was conveyed through a briefing, prior to the dawn raid during which the suspects were detained.

On the evidence, the judge was satisfied that the briefing given to the arresting officers by the senior investigating team was sufficient to allow them to form the requisite reasonable grounds for arrest in their own minds.  On any view, the briefing was substantial, lasting between 25 and 45 minutes, and provided the arresting officers with knowledge of the car and the address, and sufficient suspicion of the crime.

The claims were accordingly dismissed.


This is a welcome decision for the police.  There was concern that the decision in Raissi v Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis (2008) had begun to erode police powers of arrest. In that case, it was held that the brother of a suspected terrorist could not be arrested on suspicion of terrorism, despite the fact that the brothers lived in close proximity and had access to each other's houses.

The threshold for reasonable suspicion remains low. In a large-scale operation such as this, the police need to act quickly: the longer it takes to arrest suspected offenders, the greater the opportunity for evidence to be destroyed. To require the police to investigate all avenues before making an arrest would put them in an intolerable position and endanger the public.

The courts' watchword should be Lord Woolf in Castorina v The Chief Constable of Surrey (1988), where he said " is an inherent, but regrettable, risk of the police diligently performing their duties that sometimes innocent members of the public are arrested".

Tom Walshaw acted on behalf of the successful defendant.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.