Gus Silverman

Gus Silverman

Background

Gus is a solicitor and heads our Bristol Actions Against the Police team.

He represents clients who have been harmed by the unlawful actions of the police and other state agencies, including the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service, as well as by companies delivering services within the criminal justice system.

Many of Gus’ cases concern complaints and civil actions against the police. These include seeking accountability for clients who have been:

  • Unlawfully arrested or otherwise detained,
  • Subjected to unlawful force,
  • Maliciously prosecuted,
  • Discriminated against e.g., on the grounds of race or disability,
  • The victims of serious sexual and violent crimes which are then inadequately investigated and/or prosecuted,
  • Prevented from exercising their right to peaceful protest,
  • Subjected to treatment that breaches their other legal rights, including under the Human Rights Act and the Data Protection Act.

Gus also acts for the families of loved ones who die in police or prison custody, following contact with the police or as the result of failings by state agencies, including mental health services, or private bodies.

Gus is a previous winner of the Lawyer of the Year award from the Bristol Law Society. He is a ‘Rising Star’ in the Legal 500 directory and a ‘Star Associate’ in the Chambers & Partners directory. He is a regular speaker on the Legal Action Group’s annual Advanced Actions Against the Police course.

 

Notable Cases

Civil actions (including actions against the police)

Protest cases

Acted for peaceful protestors forcibly disbursed from College Green in Bristol during the ‘Kill the Bill’ demonstrations in March 2021.  Avon and Somerset Constabulary paid substantial damages in response to claims that its officers had breached the protestors’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.  Covered by The Guardian in November 2022.

Acted for peaceful protestors arrested outside of Bristol Magistrates’ Court whilst demonstrating in support of the ‘Colston 4’. Avon and Somerset Constabulary admitted that it had unlawfully arrested the protestors and breached their human rights. This is thought to be the first time a police force has admitted unlawfully arresting protestors under Coronavirus Regulations. Covered by The Guardian and Channel 4, April 2021.

Acted for a protestor in a successful claim for damages arising from their arrest by Thames Valley Police following a peaceful demonstration.  As well as paying damages, the police agreed to rescind a Fixed Penalty Notice issued under Coronavirus Regulations.

Successful claims against the Chief Constable of Sussex Police brought on behalf of peaceful protesters who were arrested during an anti-austerity demonstration in Brighton. The claimants received remedies including damages, a letter of apology, the destruction of their personal information retained by the police and an admission that officers acted unlawfully.

 

Other civil actions

A successful claim for damages against the University of Bristol on behalf of the estate of Natasha Abrahart, one of 12 students at the University of Bristol to take their own lives between October 2016 and May 2019. In May 2022 a court found that Natasha’s death had been caused by breaches of the Equality Act by the University amounting to disability discrimination.  This is thought to be the first time that breaches of the Equality Act have been found to have caused a person’s death.  Covered by The Guardian, The Times, Channel 4 News and elsewhere.

A successful claim for damages against South Yorkshire Police on behalf of a young Black man who was stopped and searched, arrested, and charged before being found not guilty.  Damages were paid in respect of claims for false imprisonment, assault and battery, malicious prosecution, and race discrimination.

Acted for an elderly couple and their son in a successful claim for damages against the Chief Constable of West Mercia after they were restrained and arrested in their home by armed police officers. Covered by The Daily Mail in 2018.

Acted for the mother of a neurodiverse child in an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (now the Independent Office for Police Conduct). Sussex Police arrested and restrained the 11-year-old child on multiple occasions.  She was detained in police stations for a cumulative total of over 60 hours without access to her mother.  Substantial damages and an apology were subsequently agreed. Covered by The Guardian in 2016.

A successful claim against the Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police on behalf of an army veteran who was Tasered by police officers during a mental health crisis.  The Claimant received £50,000 in compensation, which was reported to be one of the largest ever awards made to a Taser victim. Covered by The Guardian in 2016.

A successful claim for damages against Sussex Police after a client was arrested after sending legal correspondence to a police officer.

A successful claim against the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis after a client’s house was searched by officers who failed to confirm whether the intended target of their search still lived at the property.

A successful claim against the Chief Constable of Essex Police on behalf of a client who was arrested after officers disseminated inaccurate information about him.

A successful claim against the Court Service after a magistrate issued a defective search warrant resulting in the claimant’s house being unlawfully searched.

A successful claim against the Home Office on behalf of a client who was unlawfully detained under immigration powers for one month whilst he was a child.

A successful challenge to a police caution issued to a mentally vulnerable detainee after he was interviewed in the absence of an appropriate adult. The caution was overturned.

Numerous successful police complaints and appeals to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

 

Inquests

Acted for the family of Anthony Clacher, who took his own life in HMP Guys Marsh.  Anthony was left unobserved in his cell for several hours after having been found under the influence of Spice, despite a history of serious self-harm.  The jury concluded that Anthony’s death was contributed to by neglect. Covered by The Guardian in 2021.

Acted for the family of Alex Turner, who took his own life whilst a voluntary inpatient under the care of the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.  Alex had repeatedly threatened to take his own life but was allowed to leave the hospital unescorted.  The Coroner concluded that Alex’s death was contributed to by neglect.  Covered by the Manchester Evening News in October 2021.

Acted for the family of Douglas Oak, who died following restraint by Dorset Police officers. An inquest heard that Douglas was restrained by police officers for 56 minutes before an ambulance arrived, during which time he suffered a cardiac arrest. The Senior Coroner for Dorset expressed “significant concerns” connected with the death and damages were paid to Douglas’ family by Dorset Police. Covered by The Guardian in 2019.

Acted for the family of Ceara Thacker, a 19-year-old University of Liverpool student who took her own life in halls of residence. An inquest found there was an “unacceptable delay” in Ceara being able to access university mental health services. Covered by The Guardian in 2019.

Acted for the family of Natasha Abrahart, one of 12 students at the University of Bristol to take their own lives between October 2016 and May 2019. The Coroner found that Natasha’s death was contributed to by neglect on the part of mental health services. This case was covered in the BBC documentary ‘Dying for a Degree’ in 2019.

Acted for the family of Deidre Harvey in an inquest concerning her death in the Royal Glamorgan Hospital. The jury heard that the Cwm Taf University Health Board failed to remove the ligature point used by Deidre despite it having been identified months earlier.  The inquest found that Deidre’s death was contributed to by neglect. Covered by The Guardian 2018.

Acted for the family of Callum Smith in an inquest concerning his death in HMP Bristol. An inquest jury concluded that Callum’s death had been caused by a long list of failings on behalf of the police, prison service and healthcare providers. Covered by the BBC in 2017.

Acted for the family of 19-year-old Ondrej Suha in an inquest concerning his death in HMYOI Brinsford. An inquest jury concluded that Ondrej’s death was caused by being told that he could be deported to Slovakia, where he had not lived since he was four years’ old, just before being locked away for the night. Covered by The Guardian in 2017.

Acted for the family of Abbi McAllister in an inquest concerning her death whilst detained under the Mental Health Act. Inquest proceedings concluded that neglect contributed to Abbi’s death. Covered by The Guardian in 2016.