Couple wrongfully arrested over Gatwick drone chaos get £200k and apology from police

14 June 2020, 20:58

In December 2018, armed police stormed the home of Paul and Elaine Gait
In December 2018, armed police stormed the home of Paul and Elaine Gait. Picture: ITV News
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

A couple who were wrongfully arrested and held for 36 hours over the Gatwick Airport drone chaos have received a £200,000 settlement and an apology.

In December 2018, armed police stormed the home of Paul and Elaine Gait, who have now settled their claims for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.

Drone sightings near the runways over a three-day period in December 2018 caused repeated shutdowns of the airport and cancellations of hundreds of flights.

The couple’s legal team announced on Sunday that Sussex Police has agreed to the out-of-court settlement, which covers compensation and legal costs.

Mr and Mrs Gait, from Crawley, said in a statement: "We are delighted to have finally received vindication, it has been a very long fight for justice.

"The sums being paid by Sussex Police and letter received from the Assistant Chief Constable are confirmation of our innocence and wrongful treatment.

"It has taken lengthy legal proceedings to obtain resolution from the police and to finally have closure on this distressing time. We look forward to moving on and putting this terrible episode behind us."

Thousands of Christmas-time travellers were left furious and stranded at Gatwick as their getaway plans were ruined, prompting aggressive headlines from newspapers featuring the couple when they were arrested.

No one has ever been charged over the incident and police have said that some reported drone sightings may have been Sussex Police's own craft.

Passengers at Gatwick airport waiting for their flights following the chaos
Passengers at Gatwick airport waiting for their flights following the chaos. Picture: PA

In a letter to the couple shared by their legal team, Sussex Police assistant chief constable David Miller said: "I am deeply sorry that you both experienced the unpleasantness of arrest and detention incommunicado for approximately 36 hours.

"I acknowledge that this would have been a traumatic time for you both.

"Unfortunately, when the police carry out their functions on behalf of the public, sometimes innocent people are arrested as part of necessary police investigations in the public interest.

"I understand that you believe that you were unlawfully arrested and detained by Sussex Police Officers.

"This is an issue which can only be resolved by a court.

"However, we recognise that things could have been done differently and, as a result, Sussex Police have agreed to pay you compensation and legal costs."

The pair said that despite the apology they still have "no explanation" for why they were held "incommunicado" for 36 hours.

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