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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Fayed loses police damages claim
Mohamed Al Fayed
Mr Al Fayed claimed he was wrongly arrested
Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed has lost his High Court damages action against the Metropolitan Police for false imprisonment.

Mr Al Fayed, along with John Macnamara, Paul Handley-Greaves, Colin Dalman and John Allen, claimed they were wrongly arrested in March 1998 when emeralds and other precious stones worth more than 1m went missing from the late Tiny Rowlands' security box kept at the London store.

The men were later released and, in July 1998, an investigation by the Metropolitan Police's Organised Crime Group ended without any charges being brought.

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and four named officers denied liability.

There was an abundance of evidence that led my client to suspect Mr Al Fayed

Graham Small, solicitor
They said the five men were lawfully arrested with reasonable cause.

In his judgement Mr Justice Cresswell said that several matters before the arresting officer were "highly suspicious".

He added: "I find that a reasonable man would have been of the opinion that, having regard to the information which was in the mind of the arresting officer, there were reasonable grounds for suspecting Mr Al Fayed to be guilty of theft and criminal damage jointly with others."

Mr Al Fayed was not in court for the ruling but described the decision as a "travesty of justice".

'Unauthorised openings'

He said: "I have instructed my lawyers to launch an immediate appeal because the ruling strikes at the heart of civil liberties and undermines the fundamental principles of freedom which the law is supposed to uphold."

After the judgement Graham Small, the solicitor acting for Jeffrey Rees, the now retired detective chief superintendent who led the investigation, said they were "delighted but not surprised by the judgment".

He said: "This has been a difficult time for Mr Rees but he was pleased that he was given the opportunity to explain what happened.

"We have always been confident of success in this case."

Court costs

The judge made the same finding over claims brought by Mr Mcnamara, Mr Handley-Greaves, Mr Dalman and John Allen.

In each of their cases he emphasised the distinction between reasonable suspicion and prima facie proof.

The judge ruled: "The decisions in each case to arrest were not perverse.

"The arresting officers exercised their discretion in each case. They did not fail to take account of the relevant. They did not take account of the irrelevant."

Bitter rivals

The issue of costs resulting from the action was adjourned until October.

Mr Fayed, whose son Dodi died in the Paris car crash that also killed Princess Diana in 1997, is no stranger to the court system.

He has waged a long but unsuccessful battle to obtain a British passport, taking his case to the Court of Appeal after the government's refusal to grant him one.

But in 1999 he emerged victorious from one of Britain's longest High Court battles when former Conservative minister Neil Hamilton sued him for libel.

The jury in that case ruled that Mr Fayed had not libelled Mr Hamilton by saying that the former minister accepted cash payments in return for asking questions in parliament.

Mr Al Fayed and Mr Rowlands had been bitter business rivals.

Two years ago Mr Fayed agreed to pay 1.65m to Tiny Rowlands' widow in recognition that the jewels had disappeared while being stored at Harrods. But he said the payment in no way implied he was involved in the theft.

The BBC's Andy Tighe
"A police investigation ended without any charges being taken against Mr Al Fayed"

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See also:

07 Aug 02 | Europe
31 May 02 | Scotland
23 Apr 02 | Scotland
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