Gatwick drone arrests: Sussex Police pays out £200,000

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Paul and Elaine Gait said at the time they felt 'violated' by Sussex Police
Image caption,
Paul and Elaine Gait said at the time they felt "violated" by Sussex Police

A police force has paid out £200,000 over the arrest of a couple falsely accused of causing chaos at Gatwick Airport with a drone.

Armed officers stormed the home of Paul and Elaine Gait in December 2018, and held them for 36 hours after drones caused the airport to close repeatedly.

The couple were released without charge, and sued Sussex Police for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.

The Gait's legal team said the force had agreed an out-of-court settlement.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Airport chiefs said 120,000 people due to arrive or fly had not been able to travel

Sussex Police confirmed it has paid the couple the £55,000 owed in damages, and law firm Howard Kennedy said it has billed the force an additional £145,000 in legal costs.

Flights were cancelled in droves over a three-day period, as police investigated multiple reported drone sightings.

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

Twelve armed officers swooped on Mr and Mrs Gait's home, even though they did not possess any drones and had been at work during the reported sightings.

In a statement released by their legal team on Sunday, the couple said: "We are delighted to have finally received vindication, it has been a very long fight for justice.

"It has taken lengthy legal proceedings to obtain resolution from the police and to finally have closure on this distressing time."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Anti-drone equipment was used at Gatwick Airport after the drone stopped flights intermittently for days

In a letter to the couple, Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable David Miller said he was "deeply sorry" for the "unpleasantness" the couple experienced, and acknowledged it would have been "traumatic".

He added: "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.

"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 force commissioned a "thorough independent review" of the drone incident last year.

It revealed 96 people "of interest" were identified, researched and ruled out during the investigation and the cost of the operation and subsequent investigation was £790,000.

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