Mum gets £3k payout over wrongful arrest after name mix-up

Police are appealing for help to trace the family of a man who died last week. Photo: Library

Police are appealing for help to trace the family of a man who died last week. Photo: Library

A mum has told of her son's battle with separation anxiety after she was falsely arrested for a crime she didn't commit - in a place she had never even visited.

Laura Linauskaite, from Gorleston, has been awarded £3,000 in compensation and received an apology from Norfolk Constabulary after mix-up over her name saw police officers turn up on her doorstep on June 22 last year.

Ms Linauskaite, who works at Vauxhall Holiday Park, was watching television with her then nine-year-old son Kevin when a knock came at her door on Trafalgar Road West.

Trafalgar Road West where fire crews were delayed by inconsiderate parking. Warning stickers were pl

Trafalgar Road West in Gorleston Picture; Liz Coates - Credit: Archant

And she was shocked when she learned her unexpected visitors were from Norfolk Constabulary, placing her under arrest for failing to appear at court in Bristol - in 2003.

However, the mum-of-two has never actually been to Bristol and did not even more to Norfolk from her native Lithuania until more than a year after "her" court date.

Despite her protestations of innocence, officers took her into custody, with Ms Linauskaite having to call her mother to look after Kevin while she was taken away. 

It was quickly ascertained that she was not, in fact, wanted for failing to appear in court in Bristol in 2003 and officers were apologetic.

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However, the damage had been done for the 40-year-old, who also has an 18-year-old son.

She said: "Sorry just wasn't enough. Kevin is now terrified to leave my side as he's worried that the police will come and get mummy. It has really destroyed any trust he had in the police.

"I know the officers that day were just trying to do their job, but you do lose faith. Now whenever I am out and about and see police officers I get scared it will happen again.

"The police are there to make you feel safe, but I just don't feel that way any more. The trust just isn't there."

To this day, she is unsure how the misunderstanding occurred or who the police were actually looking for.

However, it is understood the mix-up happened due to her having the same first name and date of birth as the actual absconder, who also had a very similar, but not identical last names.

She added: "I tried to explain to them when they arrested me that I had no idea what was happening, but it was so hard for me.

"They showed me a picture of the person they were looking for and it clearly wasn't me. 

"I don't know if I'm going to be able to ever put this behind me."

Ms Linauskaite enlisted the help solicitors Irvings Law, which issued a letter of claim for compensation for the police's legal team to consider.

And the force has responded to her claim by agreeing to settle her case to the tune of £3,000, plus the legal costs of her claim.

Ian Kyle, of Irvings Law

Ian Kyle, of Irvings Law - Credit: Irvings Law

Ian Kyle, who represented her, said: "It goes without saying that my client has the right to expect integrity in the police service e and should have confidence in officers to act in a professional manner.

"Unfortunately, there has been a definite shortfall in the service she has received from Norfolk Constabulary in this incident and there are grave concerns over how it has been dealt with as a whole.

"Although this should never have occurred in the first place, I welcome Norfolk Constabulary’s decision to settle my client’s claim swiftly so as to prevent an unnecessary waste of significant legal costs at the public’s expense."

A spokesman for Norfolk Constabulary said: “This was a case of mistaken identity in which the arrested person’s first name and date of birth matched those on the arrest warrant but the surname, whilst similar, was different.

"We accept that we made a mistake on this occasion.  We have apologised to the arrested person for any distress caused to her.  

"We recognise that it is important to learn from this mistake and accordingly we have issued guidance to officers to try to ensure this does not happen again.”