In Pile v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police [2020] EWHC 2472 (QB) Mr Justice Turner dismissed the claimant’s appeal.  The claimant complained that police officers had removed her outer clothing and provided her with dry clothing at a time when she was intoxicated.


Several people (in fact a lot more than several people) have already nominated this for the “opening line of a judgment” award for this year.

  1. Cheryl Pile brings this appeal to establish the liberty of inebriated English subjects to be allowed to lie undisturbed overnight in their own vomit soaked clothing. Of course, such a right, although perhaps of dubious practical utility, will generally extend to all adults of sound mind who are intoxicated at home. Ms Pile, however, was not at home. She was at a police station in Liverpool having been arrested for the offence of being drunk and disorderly. She had emptied the contents of her stomach all over herself and was too insensible with drink to have much idea of either where she was or what she was doing there. Rather than leave the vulnerable claimant to marinade overnight in her own bodily fluids, four female police officers removed her outer clothing and provided her with a clean dry outfit to wear. The claimant was so drunk that she later had no recollection of these events.
  2. It is against this colourful background that she brought a claim against the police in trespass to the person and assault alleging that they should have left her squalidly and unhygienically soaking in vomit. Fortunately, because this appeal will be dismissed, the challenge of assessing damages for this lost opportunity will remain unmet.
  3. She also alleges that the circumstances in which these events took place amounted to an unlawful invasion of her right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  4. Her claims came before Recorder Hudson in Chester last November. The hearing lasted three days at the conclusion of which the Recorder found for the defendant Chief Constable on all issues.
  5. Ms Pile now appeals against the Recorder’s decision to this Court with the permission of the single judge. For ease and continuity of reference, I will refer to her henceforth in this judgment as the claimant.


The judge dismissed the claimant’s attempt to challenge the findings of fact.

    1. Before turning to the legal arguments arising on this appeal, I make it clear that there is no basis in my view upon which the Recorder’s detailed findings of fact can properly be challenged. As the Court of Appeal recently observed in Kalma v African Minerals [2020] EWCA Civ 144:
“The Supreme Court has regularly explained that, unless a critical finding of fact has no basis in the evidence, or is based on a demonstrable misunderstanding of relevant evidence, or a failure to consider such evidence, an appellate court will interfere with the findings of fact made by a trial judge only if it is satisfied that his decision cannot reasonably be explained or justified… This applies equally to findings of primary fact and any inferences to be drawn from them…”
  1. In this case, I am entirely satisfied that the Recorder’s findings both of primary fact and the inferences to be drawn from them are unassailable and I will proceed on that basis. In this respect, ground three of the appeal was always doomed to failure because it sought to challenge the Recorder’s clear finding that it was necessary for the purposes of hygiene to remove the claimant’s clothing. The complaint that the officers should have “monitored the [claimant] until such time as the [claimant] could safely remove her own clothes” is risible.


The judge also rejected the claimant’s attempts to raise new points on appeal.

During the course of oral argument, Mr Gow on behalf of the claimant made several good-humoured attempts to smuggle into the appeal a number of points which had either not made below or had not been included in his grounds of appeal or skeleton argument. It is to his credit that he rapidly abandoned these points when challenged by the Court but less so that they he had made them in the first place.”



The judge held that there was normally an element of implied consent when someone, who lacked the ability to articulate themselves, had  clothing  covered with vomit removed and replaced with clean clothing.

  1. Where someone is so intoxicated that she is unable to make an informed choice then circumstances will arise in which a police officer can readily assume that consent to the removal of clothing can be implied. Normally, someone in custody who has vomited all over themselves, but lacks the ability to articulate their preference, may be safely taken to have given implied consent to the removal of their outer clothing and its replacement by clean clothing so long as all reasonable considerations of safety and the preservation of dignity have been taken into account.
  2. I note, although it forms no part of my reasoning, that some members of the public may well have found it to have been a grotesque result if a woman who: has rendered herself insensible through drink; abused an innocent taxi driver; behaved aggressively to police officers trying to do their job and vomited all over herself should then be found to be entitled to compensation because those same officers, as an act of decency, had then changed her into clean and dry clothing at a time when she was too drunk to know or care.