SUSSEX Police has paid out almost £220,000 in damages to innocent victims of bungled arrests and heavy-handed policing in the past three years.

The force paid compensation on more than 50 claims of unlawful arrest and false imprisonment between 2013 and 2015 with the top payouts reaching £20,000.

A total of 126 claims were made in the same three year period with 35, some dating back to early 2013, still to be resolved.

Solicitors specialising in the field claimed there were almost certainly many more people who had not made claims about mistreatment because they simply did not know how to follow up a complaint.

Sussex Police said claims often arose from officers acting on incorrect advice such as outdated warrants or when other courses of action other than arrest may have been more appropriate.

The force paid out £110,000 on 28 successful claims in 2013, more than £92,000 on 18 claims made in 2014 and £17,300 on 10 claims made last year.

Susie Labinjoh, partner in the civil liberties team at Hodge Jones and Allen, said: “Absolutely there are a lot more people who could claim but don’t.

“There are many who probably feel that something is not quite right but don’t know where to go for advice and so they just try and put it behind them.

“And the police certainly don’t have a duty to tell them how to make a complaint.”

Kevin Donaghue of compensation specialists Donaghue Solicitors said: “I think there is a misconception these cases are worth a lot of money but the rates are £830 for the first hour in custody rising to just over £5,000 for 24 hours.

“£20,000 is at the far end of the scale and would usually involve a long-time in custody, psychological traumas and conduct from officers that would be pretty brutal.”

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “Officers, acting in good faith, can sometimes make mistakes when applying the rules of arrest.

“Officers may be acting on incorrect information such as the Police National Computer not being updated to show recent court appearances and therefore believing that a claimant has breached a warrant when it has in fact been discharged or may not fully consider alternatives to arrest, such as voluntary attendance for interview, when faced with difficult and often fast moving situations.

“Only a very small percentage of arrests by Sussex Police are considered unlawful, but where we do get it wrong we work hard to ensure that a swift and satisfactory conclusion follows.

“Every claim is fully investigated objectively and a decision made as to our liability at the conclusion of that investigation, taking into account any legal issues that may arise.

“Where liability exists we take a pragmatic and financial approach to settle before formal proceedings are issued to save high legal costs and to bring the matter to a swift conclusion for the claimant.”