‘Most wanted’ man wins damages from Essex Police over appeal
- Credit: PA NEWS
An ex-banker from Clacton who said his reputation was destroyed when Essex Police listed him as an alleged rapist has won £67,750 in damages.
Anthony Crook, 37, was working in Dubai when his image was released by police as one of their ten most wanted in 2010.
The picture quickly spread around the world – as far as India – via the internet.
No prosecution followed the allegations which Mr Crook said were “malicious”.
The court heard Mr Crook had been warned by a friend that a complaint might be made against him and he contacted Essex Police, but was told by officers no allegation had been made.
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He only found out about the appeal, alleging he was wanted and at large after an alleged rape in Clacton, through his family.
It included his address from his City days and a photo of him as a dreadlocked teenager.
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He sued the force for breach of confidence in publishing the photo, for breaches of the Data Protection Act and a violation of his human right to privacy.
Judge Deborah Taylor at the High Court yesterday awarded him £5,000 for psychiatric problems, £57,750 for loss of earnings, £2,000 basic damages and £3,000 aggravated damages.
She rejected claims the appeal directly led to him losing two jobs, but said it had adversely affected his ability to get another.
Essex Police, which had contested the claims, was also ordered to pay Mr Crook’s legal costs – well in excess of £100,000.
Judge Taylor said more consideration should have been given to whether it was truly necessary before his photo and allegation details were release, and more could have been done to locate him first.
Mr Crook said there was no need to publicise the allegation as he had already offered to speak to police to clear it up.
Essex Police claimed the publication was in the public interest, but the judge said it was not “reasonable, necessary and proportionate”.
Judge Taylor said: “Whilst the press release was to local media, no consideration was given to the realities of modern technology – firstly, the potential for information to spread across the internet, and secondly the difficulty once spread in eradicating that.
“The police lost control of the data.”
The appeal left him “unemployed and unemployable”, Mr Crook’s lawyers told the High Court.
He added: “There was a level of shock and embarrassment.
“I was financially in a very good place and that’s completely wiped out overnight.
“It’s an allegation of a sexual assault. There’s a stigma attached to that which stays with you forever.
“The fact they didn’t remove these things for such a long period of time made it impossible to get back into work and rebuild my life.”
The stress led to him drinking heavily and having suicidal thoughts, he added.
Speaking outside court Mr Crook said: “I am extremely happy that I have been vindicated and the police have finally been held to account.
“I now feel my name has been cleared and there has been an acknowledgement that the police had done wrong.
“Had they held their hands up in the first place and given me some kind of apology, we wouldn’t have ended up in the High Court.”
A force spokesman said: “Essex Police is aware of the decision and is considering the possibility of an appeal pending receipt of the full written judgement.
“The force will also be examining the judgement in detail to see if it can better inform its policies and procedures around the release of information on wanted people.”