back to article Couple wrongly arrested over Gatwick Airport drone debacle score £200k payout from cops

A couple arrested by bungling local police who wrongly blamed them for the Gatwick drone fiasco have been handed £200,000 in compensation. Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk were arrested and held in cells for 36 hours after their Crawley home was stormed by a dozen police gunmen in December 2018. The payout, negotiated by lawyers …

  1. davenewman

    They should have asked as part of their compensation for the Chief Constable to be locked up in police cells for 36 hours (under an alias).

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Trollface

      I agree but the lawyers would never have it, it would reduce their cut of the compensation!

      1. Dvon of Edzore

        Alright, lock the lawyers up too. Everyone happy now?

        1. ratfox Silver badge

          The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. — Henry VI, part 2, act 4, scene 2.

  2. Teiwaz Silver badge
    Alien

    Cue X-Files music....

    It seems unlikely, two years later, that the full truth will ever be known.

    Don't know whether to cue the music from the X-Files.... or the Keystone Cops.

    icon: The Truth is out there....but it was easier to try to fit up an innocent couple.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Cue X-Files music....

      The Truth is out there....but it was easier to try to fit up an innocent couple.

      And it did it's intended job, allowed the airport to be opened through the police pretending they had caught the culprits, had removed the threat to flights, even though they had not.

      They needed a fall-guy to get themselves out of the mess they'd got themselves in and, as is often the case, any innocent victim will do.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Cue X-Files music....

        "it did it's intended job" - Oh the shame. And the edit window has long closed. Theirs nothing left to do but to go stand in that they're corner.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Coat

    Bozo's in charge

    Seems you must graduate from Clown College to get one of these jobs where you can screw up royally, and still not be prosecuted for ignorance... doo doot dooty...

    No clown icon, must be in this coat somewhere...

  4. kvothe
    Coat

    Drones ...

    This story just drones on and on ...

  5. iron Silver badge

    So that's a nice round million quid wasted on this nonsense. They should make the chiefd constable pay some of it.

    1. logicalextreme Bronze badge

      I think there's an option for that in /etc/chiefd.conf

  6. Stork Silver badge

    The legal beagles scored almost 75%?

    Or does that include court charges?

    You could feel envious at the lawyers, but I knew one who changed to IT: he was fed up with everyone always being so upset in his old profession.

    1. BenDwire Bronze badge
      Joke

      Re: The legal beagles scored almost 75%?

      And do you honestly think that helped his image?

    2. RM Myers Bronze badge
      Flame

      ...lawyers, but I knew one who changed to IT

      From the frying pan into the fire!

  7. Woodnag

    Not an admission of a problem though

    "We recognise that things could have been done differently and, as a result, Sussex Police have agreed to pay you compensation and legal costs."

    should, not could, and a mention of procedural changes to avoid recurrence?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Not an admission of a problem though

      > a mention of procedural changes to avoid recurrence?

      Yes next time the police will make sure they arrest somebody a bit darker, call them terrorists and hold them for 28days with a bit of "enhanced questioning" until they confess.

  8. lglethal Silver badge
    Go

    I have to admit...

    I'm still flabbergasted that drone footage from those flights hasnt emerged on youtube or some Toerag hasnt fessed up on 4chan (or wherever) with a "hrhrh it was me!".

    People are crap at keeping secrets as a rule. Especially 2 years down the track when it keeps popping up in the news. That whoever was behind it hasnt let slip in the pub that "yeah ok it was me." is a big surprise.

    Either the person has a lot more willpower than the vast majority of people or they got one hell of a scare from the amount of publicity it got. Still if its the second one, then eventually it will come out. Fear only keeps people quiet for so long...

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: I have to admit...

      Or it wasn't actually a drone. I know there's been plastic grocery bags IDed as drones.

      https://i.imgur.com/7lx3aJD.jpg

      1. ICL1900-G3

        Re: I have to admit...

        I thought iDed was a new Apple product, then I realised what you'd done.

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: I have to admit...

      The certain knowledge that their life would be absolutely destroyed by the police and criminal justice system as an example to other people is obviously enough to put off even the stupid.

      And that before allowing for the fact that even if you accept that the scary sort of lunatics make up maybe one in ten thousand people when you shut down an airport then you've probably got a large enough sample size that those people might take to throwing bricks through your windows, sticking nails in your car tyres etc.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: I have to admit...

        Considering the screams & calls for this couple to be strung up by the neck & other unpleasantries by the mob rule of FaecesBook & also IIRC suffered vandalism to their property, while they were in custody & while the drone operators hunt was still on-going.

        I'd follow one of my ex-bosses Golden Rule of keeping a ultra low profile too (Shame he didn't adhere to it himself BTW).

      2. Dr Dan Holdsworth

        Re: I have to admit...

        There are people out there stupid enough to speed in their cars hugely in excess of the published speed limit, film this while they are doing it, and post it on Facebook publicly, where it then forms the basis of a criminal case against them.

        There is truly no limit to human stupidity, and anyone who'd been behind these drone sightings would undoubtedly have made at least some noise about it. And yet, not a squeak has been heard.

        After the drone flap started, you had an airport thronged with press photographers with the best photographic equipment money can buy, with huge amounts of motivation to photograph the drone that was causing the problems, together with tens of thousands of twerps with mobile phones all of whom had similar levels of motivation.

        One of them should surely have got a photo of the drone, had there been a drone.

        There never was a drone being flown over that airport.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I have to admit...

          but they didnt even photograph the police drones and mistakenly claim they were the drone they were after, and we know there were police drones chasing other police drones because the chief constable confirmed it, so how do you explain that ?

        2. hoola Bronze badge

          Re: I have to admit...

          For whatever reason, driving at excessive speeds is considered okay and worse, acceptable to brag about it. Speed cameras are seen as a tax on the motorist and the penalties are not really a sufficient deterrent. A smart legal-eagle can easily bamboozle a magistrate (as the boss of a small business I worked for managed to do).

          Where I live we have a 30mph limit and speed surveys taken by the county council give an average of 43mph. There are regularly cars in a field or hedge on a double bend however as nobody has been killed, nothing is done. We had one of those community speed guns for a while but the people who ran it got so much abuse they gave up.

          1. ICL1900-G3

            Re: I have to admit...

            As you say, it's considered acceptable, the way drinking and driving was once. A knowledge of mechanics would help them understand the huge increase in energy that a few mph extra gives you. We are a self-centred species.

    3. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: I have to admit...

      Or, and I might be going on a limb here, there was no drone to begin with, only the ones the police sent later...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I have to admit...

        Possibly if there was just one reported sighting.

        But all those people who saw the story on twitter or facebook and then decided to call 999 to let the police know - even the ones who were nowhere near the airport? A million idiots can't all be wrong !

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I have to admit...

          No to be that wrong needs over 17 million

        2. genghis_uk Bronze badge

          Re: I have to admit...

          Sort of of topic but relevant - my friend's mum phoned him a couple of weeks ago to say there was a man attacking people in the local OneStop... As his house is 100yards away from the shop and his teenage daughter was home he thought it wise to get back to his house. On the way past the shop there was nothing - no-one in the shop, no cars in the car park (we are on lockdown after all), nothing. He called his mum to say all is well but she just wouldn't believe him because 'everyone on facebook' says it's true!!

          He was there but his eye witness evidence was incorret because facebook says so - you cant argue with stupid

    4. Marty McFly
      Black Helicopters

      Re: I have to admit...

      Right unless it was the government doing the drone flights all along. Test the public's reaction. Test law enforcement's reaction. Test the media's reaction. See how much panic can be caused. See how the media can be manipulated to fan the flames of hysteria.

      Sort of a test. A limited dry-run. Figure out how to control the masses. And then go big on the next one, with something like a global pandemic.

      I'm probably just being paranoid though. That would never happen.

  9. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Remarkable. One assumes it has been paid - unlike compensation to, say the Windrush victims which is still being dragged out in the courts - or the blood transfusion scandal in the UK (where they rely on the victims dying before they have to pay). I don't have any skin in the game, other than being disgusted by the whole rotten lot of them!

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      They're starting to offer payments to the Windrush claimants - they're just an order of magnitude lower for a much more severe claim.

      1. Snowy
        Flame

        Boris could alway level up the payments to the Windrush claimants!

  10. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    I think if I were in government, I'd be strongly urging that a certain chief constable be given a P45 right now.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      I don't think that's in the government's power. The elected police commissioner gets to do that (except they won't as they're probably old pals).

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        "… probably old pals …"

        Sometimes, but not always. In my own area…

        Back in 2012, for the first elections for the new position of Police Commissioner, a retired cop offered himself to the Conservative Party. The party decided he was too close to the police, and chose someone else. The ex-cop stood as an Independent.

        The Conservative won the most of the first preference votes, but not an outright majority. After the second and third preferences were counted, the Independent ex-cop was declared the winner. But four years later, 2016, a Conservative was voted in.

        Now the Conservatives have ditched their own man, who will be re-standing as an Independent, and have chosen a lawyer. Politics is a rough game.

        The election was to have been this year, but will now be in 2021.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Shouldn't it be a big red (with hammer and sickle) flag that anybody standing as police commissionaire should announce a political allegiance?

    2. BenDwire Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      You're assuming that someone in the gubbermint knows what incompetence looks like. Pot, Kettle, and all that.

      1. ICL1900-G3

        The most incompetent government in my memory, and you get a downvote! Wow, Conservative Central Office must be on here today.

  11. David Neil

    What's the chances

    This poor sod gets pulled over a few times for random traffic issues over the next couple of years.

    In my experience the police don't like it when you embarrass them publicly

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's the chances

      Ditto my experience, local plod treat me as a pariah for daring to file a formal complaint over them failing to arrest someone who had spent months harassing my disabled wife (despite that alone being a crime) along with threats of violence, racist statements "go xxxxxxx home" etc etc, brass sided with me because it was so unignorable, local plod still carry on as they were 10 years ago though, close ranks etc.

  12. dave 81

    Payout, but no justice.

    I bet they are going to get charged room and board by the corrupt system for the time spent in jail. And I bet not a single person in the police or CPS is going to pay for the violation of their rights. Because we are all equal, but some people are more equal than others. Until the police and CPS no longer investigate themselves, and qualified immunity is seriously limited, we are all just sheep grinding in the system.

    1. Cynical Pie

      Re: Payout, but no justice.

      Well given they were released without charge I doubt the CPS ever got involved so not quite sure how they have any culpability in this.

      This is 100% a balls up by the Rozzers in Sussex, no one else

  13. Duffaboy
    Holmes

    I thought at the time this is just kids,

    At the time this story broke i felt that it was some child playing with their birthday pressie not realising the chaos they were causing. The keystone cops should have a root and branch review into their lack of common sense and understanding of the tech

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pictures or it didn't happen

    The fact that no-one who 'saw' the drone actually had a decent camera, just like everyone ever who saw a ghost, Nessie or got kidnapped by aliens, makes me think it never happened. And before anyone quotes resolution of Iphone whatevers, this was an airport, with half the world's press, surrounded by plane spotters, and all the technology the state could rustle up - presumably things like police helicopters with cameras and whatever the secret squirrels have tucked away. I know from personal experience that the human mind is really really good at seeing what it's told it's going to see. That's how magicians earn a living. If you are looking for drones then the lights on a crane, Venus, that plane 10 miles away or whatever are much more likely to be misinterpreted.

    1. Dom 3

      Re: Pictures or it didn't happen

      https://xkcd.com/1235/

  15. Marc 13

    £145,000 on legal fees...

    145000 / £300* per hour = 480 hrs, ~96 working days on a 5 hour day (they are lawyers after all)

    How did they clock up just shy of half a working year of legal effort from 36 hours and no charges? Even allowing for a couple of opinions at £2000 a pop, that's still a lot of effort (er, cost) to negotiate a £55k settlement!

    M

    * https://www.unbiased.co.uk/life/get-smart/how-much-does-a-solicitor-cost - London based, 8+ years litigation

    1. CountCadaver Bronze badge

      Probably as it involved more than one lawyer (I'm guessing 2 or 3 minimum to contest a case vs plod), several paralegals, several more admin staff, document request fees, court filing charges etc.... all adds up and rapidly so...

    2. Ian Mason

      They probably ran up all those hours because the police's legal team dragged it out as much as they could, generated as much of a smokescreen as possible, put forward all sorts of facile defences that still have to be refuted and so on - basically just weaselled as much as they could to avoid putting their hands up and saying "Sorry, we got it wrong". Rule one of being a copper if you're done something unlawful - lie, bluster and obfuscate until the problem (i.e. the truth) goes away.

      What would be instructive would be to know what the police's legal costs were (including internal costs). I'll bet that adds another cool £200,000 to the bill that the public is having to foot. FOI request anyone?

      1. X5-332960073452
        Stop

        "lie, bluster and obfuscate until the problem (i.e. the truth) goes away."

        I thought that was the Dominic Cummings modus operandi.

    3. Shady

      £300 per hour, rounded up to the nearest hour.

      5-10 minutes of work per day.....

  16. Andy1

    Before drones were a thing if a Tescos bag drifted past the cockpit of an airliner but not recognised as such by the crew they would have put it down as a UFO and not report it because of the derision it would have brought or worse. Now because there are drones anything that can't be directly identified is automatically a drone so it can be reported without stigma.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    score £200k payout

    well, they didn't score 200K but just over 50K, did they :(

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    score £200k payout

    from public funds, i.e. you, you and you. And me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: score £200k payout

      > from public funds, i.e. you, you and you. And me.

      If some or all of this amount came from the police pension fund, regular officers might hold their bosses and colleagues to account rather more.

  19. Andy1

    The tabloid press (Daily Mail) chose to ignore that £145,000 of the £200,000 was for legal costs and sensationalised the story by making the 200k the headline figure and not explaining anywhere in the article that this wasn't the whole truth. This of course sent some into a tail-spin about how much the couple were getting and the other half about how much the Sussex Police had wasted. They could have settled without months of lawyer time but they tried to minimise the damage only to end up wasting eye-watering amounts of public money and together with the amount they spent on their fruitless investigation it all came to around a cool Mil.

  20. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Facial recognition

    Tonight's episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is about abuse of facial recognition software. It won't surprise anyone here but it's worth recommending to kith and kin.

    Off topic I guess , but what do you think happens to the footage from police drones?

    1. james 68

      Re: Facial recognition

      It gets shared around the station for them to masturbate over. Whereas common folk cannot fly near houses or over crowded parks and beaches, plod can and do. In the process their drones seem to spend a lot of time loitering in areas with the prettiest/most skimpily dressed females for some reason...

      1. not.known@this.address Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Facial recognition

        Could be worse - imagine if West Sux Police had signed up to Project THOR instead of buying drones. You could'a had Malcom McDowell and Roy Scheider duking it out overhead instead!

        (Black helicopter cos there ain't no blue one)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The full truth is already obvious.

    It was a mass social delusion.

    No-one can ever be seen to be negligent with the safety of airliners. Once an initial report "was that a drone?" was in place, all the motivation led to a massive response, with angry, frustrated, concerned people -- airport staff and travellers -- staring at the skies and generating more groundless reports in the same way the cold war fear of fifty years ago created UFOs.

    I think this is what's called hysteria, but that always seems unkind to wombs. It was people sparking each other in a situation where doubt had zero or negative payoff. The variability, the inconsistency (especially with radar) the ability to return as it all seems to be dying away, are all mass hysteria. If you care to Google "Spring-heel Jack" you can see that he was busy at Gatwick in those days.

    Obviously there were people there -- police and airport authorities -- who had the duty to balance risk and scepticism. Those people failed, and I expect they knew they failed very shortly after the incident evaporated. So there'll never be any answers, and the authoritarian fuckwits at the top of Sussex police will continue to hide behind the idea that they acted reasonably by arresting and holding random people, setting compensation at a level appropriate for hurt feelings rather than victimisation through massive and disgraceful corporate failure.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A years pay for 36 hours in clink?

    Well, speaking as a pensioner, even half the residual £45k sounds like a good rate of pay ~£625 an hour, over £1M p.a. Or from a different perspective, more than a year of a 40 hour week on statutory minimum (before tax)... Or more than double a year of UK "new state pension".

  23. Fursty Ferret

    Police chasing their own drones

    I was told from a fairly reputable source that after the initial sighting the police launched their own drone (or drones) to see if they could find the perps responsible - or indeed the empty carrier bag that may have been the "drone").

    Unfortunately they forgot to tell Gatwick airport this, whose staff kept seeing drones in the airport vicinity and reporting them to the police while holding air traffic indefinitely.

    My guess is that the arrest of these two people was to distract from the monumental fuck-up by the police and it's quite rightly been dismissed in Court with compensation offered. I also think it's pretty appalling of the police to have fought this so hard and run up an enormous legal bill that will be settled at the public's expense.

  24. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
    Pint

    Yeah, sure.

    I seem to recall (perhaps badly) but wasn't the military involved at some stage with their 'secret technology' and they couldn't find a drone either.

    Some sort of shoulder mounted doo-dad pointed at the clouds.

    Or it might have been some special police unit - too relaxed to look for citation.

    It was all very strange, as many commentards have mentioned - so many cameras of varying quality around yet nobody caught anything.

    Strange.

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, sure.

      That shoulder-mounted doodad is a cheap drone-stopper. Basically a focussed radio blast that swamps the drone's ability to detect the control signal. The tube is the aerial -- cf. Pringles can. Requires line of sight plus accuracy. Result on all modern drones to losing control signal is to sink to ground (allowing physical seizure), or, for some expensive models, to return to launch point. And yes, the poor "gunner" has to hold the target/aim for the entire duration or they're back to square one.

      Demonstration videos available on YouTube.

      Originally a US Police Force gadget. The long-standing British military anti-drone devices --eg as used in Afghanistan-- are large semi-autonomous installations using high-power radar (no good round civilian airports) and high-speed projectile/kinetic weapons (missiles and/or cannon+machine guns -- again, not viewed with equanimity around civilian air traffic, especially where autonomously triggered).

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh goody, another 50/200K to be paid by the good burghers of West Sussex

    Either West Sussex' Council Tax is about to take another 200K uplift or West Sussex Police are about to lose another beat officer or two. Or Three. Or maybe a car, or something else that costs about the same.

    However they do it, it's a pretty safe bet that the people to blame won't be affected as much as everyone else in West Sussex. Another great day for British justice!

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