Bici and Bici v Ministry of Defence: QBD 7 Apr 2004

Claimants sought damages for personal injuries incurred when, in Pristina, Kosovo and during a riot, British soldiers on a UN peacekeeping expedition fired on a car.
Held: The incidents occurred in the course of peace-keeping duties. It was not argued that they occurred in combat, and it was established that in cases of riot, soldiers would be liable in tort. In civil law a belief that a defendant was under threat had to be reasonable to avoid liability. Even so, soldiers were in a particularly difficult position. Soldiers owe the same duties as ordinary citizens, and the latter clearly owe a duty of care in the circumstances. No contributory negligence could be supported. The court applied English law when giving the judgment. Elias J: ‘In trespass, any unlawful interference with the bodily integrity of the claimant will not be unlawful if it is justified and it will be justified if the defendant can establish that the claimant’s conduct was such that the defendant reasonably apprehended that he would be imminently attacked and used reasonable force to protect himself.’


Mr Justice Elias


[2004] EWHC 786(QB), Times 11-Jun-2004




England and Wales


CitedPalmer v The Queen PC 23-Nov-1970
It is a defence in criminal law to a charge of assault if the defendant had an honest belief that he was going to be attacked and reacted with proportionate force: ‘If there has been an attack so that defence is reasonably necessary, it should be . .
CitedIn re H and R (Minors) (Child Sexual Abuse: Standard of Proof) HL 14-Dec-1995
Evidence allowed – Care Application after Abuse
Children had made allegations of serious sexual abuse against their step-father. He was acquitted at trial, but the local authority went ahead with care proceedings. The parents appealed against a finding that a likely risk to the children had still . .
CitedAttorney General for Northern Ireland’s Reference no 1 of 1975 HL 1975
Often a soldier has to act intuitively, and, in assessing his conduct and judging the action of the reasonable soldier, it is important to recognise that his action ‘is not undertaken in the calm analytical atmosphere of the court room after counsel . .
CitedJames v Campbell 1832
The defendant was involved in a fight at a parish dinner and it was suggested that he had hit the claimant by mistake, giving him two black eyes. The jury were that even on that premise he would be liable. . .
CitedBall v Axten 1866
A defendant who was aiming to hit a farmer’s dog and by mistake hit the farmer’s wife who was trying to protect it was liable in assault. . .
CitedPage v Smith HL 12-May-1995
The plaintiff was driving his car when the defendant turned into his path. Both cars suffered considerable damage but the drivers escaped physical injury. The Plaintiff had a pre-existing chronic fatigue syndrome, which manifested itself from time . .
CitedLivingstone v Ministry of Defence CANI 1984
The plaintiff was injured when a soldier fired a baton round after some soldiers were attacked by rioters. The round had been deliberately fired, but not to strike the plaintiff. The claim was in negligence and assault and battery. The trial judge . .
CitedF v West Berkshire Health Authority HL 17-Jul-1990
The parties considered the propriety of a sterilisation of a woman who was, through mental incapacity, unable to give her consent.
Held: The appeal succeeded, and the operation would be lawful if the doctor considered it to be in the best . .
CitedLetang v Cooper CA 15-Jun-1964
The plaintiff, injured in an accident, pleaded trespass to the person, which was not a breach of duty within the proviso to the section, in order to achieve the advantages of a six-year limitation period.
Held: Trespass is strictly speaking . .
CitedRegina v Burstow, Regina v Ireland HL 24-Jul-1997
The defendant was accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm when he had made silent phone calls which were taken as threatening.
Held: An assault might consist of the making of a silent telephone call in circumstances where it causes . .
No part in current lawWilkinson v Downton 8-May-1997
Thomas Wilkinson, the landlord of a public house, went off by train, leaving his wife Lavinia behind the bar. A customer of the pub, Downton played a practical joke on her. He told her, falsely, that her husband had been involved in an accident and . .
CitedRegina v Savage; Director of Public Prosecutions v Parmenter HL 7-Nov-1991
The first defendant had been convicted of wounding. She had intended to throw beer over her victim, but her glass slipped from her hand, and cut the victim. The second defendant threw his three year old child in the air and caught him, not realising . .
CitedEntick v Carrington KBD 1765
The Property of Every Man is Sacred
The King’s Messengers entered the plaintiff’s house and seized his papers under a warrant issued by the Secretary of State, a government minister.
Held: The common law does not recognise interests of state as a justification for allowing what . .
CitedMulcahy v Ministry of Defence CA 21-Feb-1996
A soldier in the Artillery Regiment was serving in Saudi Arabia in the course of the Gulf war. He was injured when he was part of a team managing a Howitzer, which was firing live rounds into Iraq, and he was standing in front of the gun when it was . .
CitedNissan v The Attorney General HL 11-Feb-1969
The plaintiff was a British subject with a hotel in Cyprus taken over by British troops on a peace-keeping mission. At first the men were there by agreement of the governments of Cyprus and the United Kingdom. Later they became part of a United . .
CitedBurmah Oil Company (Burma Trading) Limited v Lord Advocate HL 21-Apr-1964
The General Officer Commanding during the war of 1939 to 1945 ordered the appellants oil installations near Rangoon to be destroyed. The Japanese were advancing and the Government wished to deny them the resources. It was done on the day before the . .
CitedShaw Savill and Albion Company Ltd v The Commonwealth 1940
(High Court of Australia) The plaintiff owned a ship ‘The Coptic’ which was in a collision with His Majesties Australian Ship ‘Adelaide’. The plaintiff alleged that the collision resulted from the negligence of the defendant’s officers, saying the . .
CitedHughes v National Union of Mineworkers QBD 1991
The court struck out as disclosing no cause of action a claim by a police officer who was injured while policing the miners’ strike and who alleged that the police officer in charge had deployed his men negligently.
Held: The officer in charge . .
CitedBell, Multiple claimants v Ministry of Defence (1) and (2) QBD 21-May-2003
The claimants sought damages for psychiatric injury for stress and anxiety in being engaged on the behalf of the respondent in the course of combat.
Held: The defendant had no duty to maintain a safe system of work for military personnel . .

Cited by:

CitedAl-Jedda v Secretary of State for Defence CA 29-Mar-2006
The applicant had dual Iraqi and British nationality. He was detained by British Forces in Iraq under suspicion of terrorism, and interned.
Held: His appeal failed. The UN resolution took priority over the European Convention on Human Rights . .
CitedAshley and Another v Sussex Police CA 27-Jul-2006
The deceased was shot by police officers raiding his flat in 1998. The claimants sought damages for his estate. They had succeeded in claiming damages for false imprisonment, but now appealed dismissal of their claim for damages for assault and . .
CitedSmith, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Defence and Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner (Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening) SC 30-Jun-2010
The deceased soldier died of heat exhaustion whilst on active service in Iraq. It was said that he was owed a duty under human rights laws, and that any coroner’s inquest should be a fuller one to satisfy the state’s duty under Article 2.
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Armed Forces

Updated: 27 October 2022; Ref: scu.195488