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Former Parish Councillor Complains of Wrongful Arrest by Surrey Police

Published on: 15 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 18 Apr, 2022

James Nicholls

By Chris Dick

An Effingham resident has launched a series of complaints against Surrey Police for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, an illegal search of premises and loss of personal property.

On December 18, 2021 James Nicholls was arrested on suspicion of having sent a photograph of a naked man’s lower body – showing genitalia and legs.

The image had been sent via social media to a 13-year-old boy by someone calling themselves “James”. The message included an invitation to meet at the local playing fields.

Police told Mr Nicholls that the 13-year old’s mother had telephoned the police and told them that the sender had to be James Nicholls. Her deduction was apparently based on the fact that his name was James and that he lived near the playing fields.

According to Nicholls, before police could attend, the mother came to his home accompanied by an unknown male, pushed her way in and demanded he hand over his mobile phone. Nicholls immediately rang the police and the woman and man left.

Continuing his account, Nicholls said that four police officers arrived soon after and arrested him, taking no account of the lack of any supporting evidence. They also seized his flip-top 3G phone and business laptop.

Nicholls recalled the arresting officer’s words; “We are taking you in Mr Nicholls because [the victim’s mother] made the allegation first.” Nicholls believes that if it had not been for the mother’s “rant” before the police arrived he would have had no idea why he was being arrested. No reason was given by the officers.

Later in the waiting room at the police station, Nicholls asked the arresting officer what he was supposed to have done and when.  The officer replied, “It was tonight,” and added words to the effect that, “It was an offence to do with a minor.”

Nicholls explained for a second time that he did not have a smartphone, did not have access to social media and did not even know how to send a text message. He showed the detectives his prosthetic leg to prove that the image sent was not of him.

The morning after Nicholls had been arrested, and while still in police custody, the investigating officer, Detective Constable Lorna Emery, interviewed Nicholls for a second time.

He told her: “All that I can tell you is the truth.  I don’t know anything about this. I’ve been interviewed and did not in any way, shape or form hide anything from Paul Knive [the first interviewing officer] during his interview with me. All I can say to you Lorna is that I told the truth.”

DC Emery is alleged to have replied: “Yeah, but we are used to people like you lying to us,” and, according to Nicholls, went on to explain that he fitted the profile of a paedophile in that he was of a certain age and lived alone.

In fact, James Nicholls a former Effingham parish councillor who served for over 20 years and a former member of the local police authority for some 16 years, currently lives with his fiance – whom he is due to marry later this year.

Despite the evidence in support of Nicholls’ account, the police continued the investigation and bailed him over the Christmas and New Year period with stringent conditions to avoid any contact with persons under 18. These conditions prevented him from attending church and meeting his family over Christmas.

When the first bail period expired an unnamed police superintendent reviewed the case and extended the bail conditions for a total of about three months.

At the end of the three months, the police wrote to Nicholls and said: “At this time the investigation into the incident is being closed, the evidence obtained shows that you had no role in any offences relating to sexual communication with a child.”

They returned his phone and his laptop but with the power lead and spare hard drive missing.

Comparing his case to those of Paul Gambaccini and Cliff Richard, Nicholls told The Guildford Dragon: “This happened to a real person, in a real case, to someone who was totally innocent. Me.”

A spokesperson for Surrey Police said that they could not comment until the end of the complaint process.

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