Met Police has spent at least £138m on legal battles since 2016

Metropolitan Police officers walking a beat on patrol in Fulham, London
The force spent at least £87.8 million on legal fees, sparking accusations it deliberately resists settlement

Reports Mirren Gidda for Liberty Investigates and Fiona Hamilton for the Times. Edited by Eleanor Rose, Liberty Investigates editor.


The Metropolitan Police has spent at least £138 million in seven years on legal matters including civil claims, inquests, community policing and employment disputes, Liberty Investigates can reveal.

From 2016 to 2022, the force paid out £50.3 million in settlement payments to members of the public and its own staff – an average of £7.2 million a year.

Meanwhile at least £87.8 million was spent on legal fees, of which at least £49.4 million was spent paying its lawyers and £38.4 million recompensing successful opponents for their legal costs.

The total spend may be higher, however. In response to reporters’ FOI requests, the Met didn’t say how much it spends on in-house legal fees, instead supplying the number of hours its lawyers have billed.

Liberty Investigates multiplied this by the average hourly pay of the force’s most junior paralegal to estimate a minimum spend – though some of the work will have been done by higher fee-earners.

The largest portion of the Met’s legal spend was made up of the costs of fighting civil claims brought by members of the public against the force for matters including neglect, wrongdoing, use of force and property damage.

Across the seven years, the Met spent at least £87.3 million defending such cases, of which £48.3 million was spent paying lawyers.

Last year, the average settlement payment for claimants in civil matters was just over £5,471, or £5.6 million in total. By comparison, the Met spent close to £7.2 million on legal bills.

At least £87.8 million was spent by the Met on legal fees from 2016 to 2022, £37.5 million more than it paid in settlements

Andrew Frederick, lawyer at Scott-Moncrieff & Associates dealing with actions against the police, said that in his view the force’s litigation strategy was flawed. Despite promises of greater transparency, he said the Met still resists settling cases where its officers are clearly at fault, preferring instead to persist in the hope claimants will abandon the case.

“All that stuff about them being more accountable, that’s just coming out of the press office,” Frederick said. “Their strategy seems to be, when they receive cases, to ignore them, to do as little as possible responding, and then to deny liability as long as they can.

“If they admitted liability to the things they knew they did wrong, they could save so much money… I believe that they’re fighting these cases because they think, and they’re probably right, that some people will either lose [legal aid] funding or won’t be able to [afford to] go all the way to trial… and then the Met can say, ‘well that person wasn’t successful with their claim against us.’”

In 2021, Koshka Duff, who had brought a civil claim against the Met over a 2013 strip search, finally received a settlement and an apology. She said the years-long legal battle was traumatic and prolonged the psychological impact of the violent search.

Duff first went through the Met’s internal complaints process. She claims she asked the force for the CCTV footage relating to her search, but the Met never provided it and found in its own favour.

Duff claimed she was dropped by her law firm because they didn’t believe she could win a claim. She was forced to find another lawyer and crowdfund £7,560 for insurance to continue fighting. Without this, if she’d lost, Duff could have been liable to repay the Met tens of thousands in legal fees.

“At various points, it seemed like it wouldn’t be possible to continue,” Duff said. “Also, it was a huge amount of really distressing work that extended the trauma of the incident for an extra decade.”

Duff said the Met fought her every step of the way, despite being in possession of CCTV evidence proving officers acted wrongfully in relation to the search.

“The police would repeatedly disregard deadlines and take months or even years to respond to reasonable requests,” she said. “Right up until the moment when they turned around and apologised, they were saying, I got a letter from their lawyers saying… ‘the claimant has been the author of her own misfortune.’”

Duff’s settlement payout from the Met was just £6,000, a figure that could have been higher, she estimates, had she spent several thousand pounds obtaining a psychiatric assessment and agreed to open her medical records to the force. By comparison, she said the legal costs settlement for her case was £127,000.

“Their strategy seems to be, when they receive cases, to ignore them, to do as little as possible responding, and then to deny liability as long as they can."

Andrew Frederick, actions against the police lawyer at Scott-Moncrieff & Associates

Frederick said in his experience, providing a claimant can get funding and maintain it up to or during trial, they usually – like Duff – succeed, either in court or through a settlement. Last year alone, the Met made 1,086 settlement payments for legal matters.

“The cases I have, where I have got funding, I’ve got around a 90 per cent success rate,” said Frederick. “[This] means there are just hundreds and thousands of cases out there, which people can’t bring because they can’t get funding.”

A spokesperson for the Met said: “The Met has a duty to ensure that public funds are used responsibly and appropriately and our lawyers will maintain objectivity and take a realistic merits based approach to claims.

“Where liability is conceded we will seek to settle. We will recommend defending actions where there are important points of principle at stake and we have a good prospect of winning.

“The amount spent on legal services account for around 0.5% of our overall budget. We constantly look for ways to reduce our legal spend and one of the ways is to introduce the National Legal Services Framework which offers excellent value for money with a competitive fee structure.”

This investigation was published in partnership with the Times.