Friend of comedian Noel Fielding wins £108,000 payout from police over violent Kentish Town arrest

Noel Fielding arriving at the European Premiere of The Rum Diary, Odeon Cinema, Kensington High St,

Noel Fielding arriving at the European Premiere of The Rum Diary, Odeon Cinema, Kensington High St, London. - Credit: Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment

A friend of Mighty Boosh comedian Noel Fielding, whose leg was badly broken when he was arrested as he walked home from an all-night party with the star, has won £108,491 damages from the Metropolitan Police.

James Browne, 54, who has worked as a bodyguard for celebrities including Amy Winehouse, was in hospital for a month and needed several operations after the April 2010 incident in Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town.

The court was told he was previously a very fit man whose hobbies included fencing, skydiving and running, but he now cannot work and has been left with depression and a deformed right leg which means he sometimes has to use a wheelchair.

The injury happened after two police officers recognised Mr Fielding, who had yellow blonde-dyed hair at the time and was still wearing his stage outfit of dungarees, gold boots and a ladies’ checked jacket, and believed that he and Mr Browne were showing signs of drug use, said Judge Rosalind Coe at the High Court.

The two men had been to a party and had not slept, after Mr Fielding performed a gig at the 100 Club and met up with Mr Browne at the Hawley Arms pub.

Having been “almost the last man standing” at the party, Mr Browne was asked to clear up some wraps and drug paraphernalia as he left, and he put them in his pocket, intending to put them in a public bin.

At a convenience store, where Mr Fielding had gone to buy bread and milk and Mr Browne some cigarettes, Mr Browne was forcibly removed, restrained and handcuffed, with a search revealing the wraps – which contained a trace of cocaine, resulting in no further action.

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After he was arrested, an ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital.

Mr Fielding was also handcuffed before being taken to the police station where he was strip searched. No drugs were found and he was released without charge.

Ruling on Mr Browne’s action for assault and battery, the judge said she did not accept the police evidence that Mr Fielding was stumbling and obviously “high”.

The comedian was an honest and straightforward witness, she said, who acknowledged frankly that he was very tired and had been drinking.

He said he was aware of a struggle between Mr Browne, who was on the ground, and the officers, but he did not see any violence, said the judge.

She did not find that the police officer deliberately kicked Mr Browne, causing him injury but, because he believed he was being deliberately ignored, the constable used force to restrain him so as to search for drugs.

She accepted Mr Browne’s evidence that, from his point of view, he was set upon without warning and unreasonable force was used to bring him to the floor, causing him to momentarily lose consciousness because of the pain.

The judge said that the officer was clearly convinced that Mr Browne would have drugs on him if he were searched.

He did not have any cause for that conviction other than Mr Fielding’s celebrity status, the time and location, and possibly the fact that it was apparent the men had been up all night, the judge added.

She did not find that Mr Browne was trying to dispose of the drugs, destroy evidence or try to swallow them, and said the use of force was not therefore justified.

Mr Browne had not obeyed the police command to stop because he did not appreciate it was being directed at him but, even if he should have, the police response was so excessive as to negate any contributory negligence on his part, the judge said.

The officer did not make adequate attempts before going straight to “excessive physical restraint” to alert Mr Browne to his presence and wish to search him, she said.

Mr Browne’s damages includes sums for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life together with loss of earnings and care.