Police pay damages to foie gras protesters

Hampshire police have paid 'substantial damages' to protesters were wrongly arrested for campaigning against the sale of foie gras.

Five protesters were carrying out a peaceful protest outside Truffles restaurant in Portsmouth, on February 6, 2007, when after about 20 minutes handing out leaflets, an officer arrived in a police van.

All were arrested and 'were treated rudely and aggressively from the moment that the police officer arrived', say their solicitors.

They were bailed in the early hours of the following morning but later received a letter dated that same day, saying no further action would be taken against them.

Three of the five protesters launched civil proceedings for false imprisonment, aggravated by the violation of their rights of freedom of expression and assembly.

One of the protesters is said to have received injuries from handcuffs.

Before proceedings were even issued, Hampshire Constabulary said liability would not be contested, and agreed to compensate them for their ordeal, including basic and aggravated damages and their legal costs.

The terms of settlement were agreed on Friday but has not been revealed, although the damages are said to be 'substantial'.

Kate Maynard, from Hickman & Rose solicitors, said: 'Police officers cannot abuse their powers and stifle lawful protest because it is annoying or they don't agree with the political views expressed.

'The protesters were motivated by compassion and had every legal and moral right to protest, yet were subjected to a traumatic and frustrating ordeal, initiated by the officer who arrived and arrested them and sustained by his colleagues.

'My clients are pleased that they have been vindicated by the early admission of liability and settlement of their claims.

'They trust that lessons have been learned by the police, and that the relevant officers have been given appropriate re-training. They thank the Legal Services Commission for supporting their fight for justice.'

Foie Gras - French for fatty liver - is the grossly enlarged liver of a duck or goose.

The birds are force-fed enormous quantities of food through a long metal pipe three times a day.