The claimant was with Stephen Lawrence when they were both attacked and Mr Lawrence killed. He claimed damages for the negligent way the police had dealt with his case, and particularly said that they had failed to assess him as a victim of crime, had failed to provide him with reasonable assistance and support, and had not given proper weight to his account. He said that the deficiencies in the way that they dealt with him exacerbated the post-drama stress disorder that he was suffering from. He himself was a surviving victim of the same attack.
Held: The duties pleaded were not ones which could arguably be placed on the police. Though some smaller changes would now be made to the case of Hill, in substance it remained unchallenged and correct. A prosecutor is under a professional and ethical duty to take care in preparing and presenting the case against a defendant whom he is prosecuting.
The discharge by the police of their public duties cannot be constrained or limited by the fear that in carrying out those duties police officers may be found to be liable to suspected criminals, victims or bystanders, because that will impede the discharge of those duties. If it were otherwise, policing would become unduly defensive and therefore inefficient, and, as a consequence, members of the community would be put at risk. Lord Steyn said: ‘Whilst focusing on investigating crime, and the arrest of suspects, police officers would in practice be required to ensure that in every contact with a potential witness or a potential victim time and resources were deployed to avoid the risk of causing harm or offence. Such legal duties would tend to inhibit a robust approach in assessing a person as a possible suspect, witness or victim.’ and ‘But the core principle of Hill’s case has remained unchallenged in our domestic jurisprudence and in European jurisprudence for many years. If a case such as the Yorkshire Ripper case, which was before the House in Hill’s case, arose for decision today I have no doubt that it would be decided in the same way. It is, of course, desirable that police officers should treat victims and witnesses properly and with respect. But to convert that ethical value into general legal duties of care on the police towards victims and witnesses would be going too far. The prime function of the police is the preservation of the Queen’s peace. The police must concentrate on preventing the commission of crime, protecting life and property’.
Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Steyn, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood
 1 WLR 1495,  UKHL 24, Times 26-Apr-2005,  2 All ER 489,  Po LR 157
England and Wales
Cited – Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire HL 28-Apr-1987
No General ty of Care Owed by Police
The mother of a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper claimed in negligence against the police alleging that they had failed to satisfy their duty to exercise all reasonable care and skill to apprehend the perpetrator of the murders and to protect members . .
Cited – Waters v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis HL 27-Jul-2000
A policewoman, having made a complaint of serious sexual assault against a fellow officer complained again that the Commissioner had failed to protect her against retaliatory assaults. Her claim was struck out, but restored on appeal.
Held: . .
Cited – JD v East Berkshire Community Health NHS Trust and others HL 21-Apr-2005
Parents of children had falsely and negligently been accused of abusing their children. The children sought damages for negligence against the doctors or social workers who had made the statements supporting the actions taken. The House was asked if . .
Appeal from – Brooks v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and others CA 26-Mar-2002
The claimant was with Stephen Lawrence when he was murdered by a gang of white youths. He said that the police treatment of him exacerbated the post traumatic stress he suffered.
Held: His claim failed. The allegations against the police might . .
Cited – Z And Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 10-May-2001
Four children complained that, for years before they were taken into care by the local authority, its social services department was well aware that they were living in filthy conditions and suffering ‘appalling’ neglect in the home of their . .
Cited – Caparo Industries Plc v Dickman and others HL 8-Feb-1990
Limitation of Loss from Negligent Mis-statement
The plaintiffs sought damages from accountants for negligence. They had acquired shares in a target company and, relying upon the published and audited accounts which overstated the company’s earnings, they purchased further shares.
Held: The . .
Cited – Hedley Byrne and Co Ltd v Heller and Partners Ltd HL 28-May-1963
Banker’s Liability for Negligent Reference
The appellants were advertising agents. They were liable themselves for advertising space taken for a client, and had sought a financial reference from the defendant bankers to the client. The reference was negligent, but the bankers denied any . .
Cited – Cowan and Another v The Chief Constable for Avon and Somerset Constabulary CA 14-Nov-2001
Where police had been called to an incident where a member of the public had been threatened with violence if he did not leave premises, did not have a duty to take action under the Act toward the applicant. It is only if a particular responsibility . .
Cited – Elguzouli-Daf v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and Another CA 16-Nov-1994
The Court upheld decisions striking out actions for negligence brought by claimants who had been arrested and held in custody during criminal investigations which were later discontinued. The Crown Prosecution Service owes no general duty of care to . .
Cited – Ancell and Another v McDermott and Others CA 17-Mar-1993
Police are under no duty to warn road users of a hazard on road. The police have no general liability in negligence for reasons of public policy. . .
Cited – Alexandrou v Oxford (Chief Constable of the Merseyside Police) CA 16-Feb-1990
A shop was burgled. The shop-owner blamed the police for their negligent investigation.
Held: The police were not liable in negligence. . .
Cited – Regina v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Ex parte Blackburn CA 1968
Answerability of Chief Constables
The constitutional status of the Commissioner had never been defined, either by statute or by the courts. By common law police officers owe to the general public a duty to enforce the criminal law. The court considered the extent to which a court . .
Cited – Calveley v Chief Constable of the Merseyside Police HL 1989
Police officers brought an action in negligence against a Chief Constable on the ground that disciplinary proceedings against them had been negligently conducted. They claimed that the investigating officers had negligently failed to conduct the . .
Cited – Kumar v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis CA 31-Jan-1995
The claimant complained that in instituting and continuing a patently hopeless prosecution for rape, based only on the evidence of a woman who had made repeated false allegations of rape, the police had acted in breach of a duty of care to him.
Cited – Stott (Procurator Fiscal, Dunfermline) and Another v Brown PC 5-Dec-2000
The system under which the registered keeper of a vehicle was obliged to identify herself as the driver, and such admission was to be used subsequently as evidence against her on a charge of driving with excess alcohol, was not a breach of her right . .
Cited – Van Colle v Hertfordshire Police QBD 10-Mar-2006
The claimants claimed for the estate of their murdered son. He had been waiting to give evidence in a criminal trial, and had asked the police for support having received threats. Other witnesses had also suffered intimidation including acts of . .
Cited – HM Customs and Excise v Barclays Bank Plc HL 21-Jun-2006
The claimant had served an asset freezing order on the bank in respect of one of its customers. The bank paid out on a cheque inadvertently as to the order. The Commissioners claimed against the bank in negligence. The bank denied any duty of care. . .
Cited – Van Colle and Another v Chief Constable of the Hertfordshire Police CA 24-Apr-2007
The deceased had acted as a witness in an intended prosecution. He had sought protection after being threatened. No effective protection was provided, and he was murdered. The chief constable appealed a finding of liability.
Held: The . .
Cited – Vicario v the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis CA 21-Dec-2007
The claimant said that the police in deciding not to prosecute the person she said had abused her as a child, had breached a duty of care to her. A prosecution would have allowed her to come to terms with her distress.
Held: The defendant’s . .
Cited – Hertfordshire Police v Van Colle; Smith v Chief Constable of Sussex Police HL 30-Jul-2008
Police Obligations to Witnesses is Limited
A prosecution witness was murdered by the accused shortly before his trial. The parents of the deceased alleged that the failure of the police to protect their son was a breach of article 2.
Held: The House was asked ‘If the police are alerted . .
Cited – Trent Strategic Health Authority v Jain and Another HL 21-Jan-2009
The claimants’ nursing home business had been effectively destroyed by the actions of the Authority which had applied to revoke their licence without them being given notice and opportunity to reply. They succeeded on appeal, but the business was by . .
Cited – Desmond v The Chief Constable Of Nottinghamshhire Police QBD 1-Oct-2009
The claimant appealed against the striking out of parts of his claim alleging negligence and misfeasance. He had been arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, but then was fully cleared by a third officer. When he later applied for an enhanced CRB . .
Cited – An Informer v A Chief Constable CA 29-Feb-2012
The claimant appealed against dismissal of his claim for damages against the police. He had provided them with information, but he said that they had acted negligently and in breach of contract causing him financial loss. The officer handling his . .
Cited – Michael and Others v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police and Another SC 28-Jan-2015
The claimants asserted negligence in the defendant in failing to provide an adequate response to an emergency call, leading, they said to the death of their daughter at the hands of her violent partner. They claimed also under the 1998 Act. The . .
Cited – Roberts, Regina (on the application of) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and another SC 17-Dec-2015
The Court considered the validity of suspicionless stop and search activities under s 60 of the 1994 Act, by police officers.
Held: The claimant’s appeal failed. The safeguards attending the use of the s 60 power, and in particular the . .
Cited – Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis v DSD and Another SC 21-Feb-2018
Two claimants had each been sexually assaulted by a later notorious, multiple rapist. Each had made complaints to police about their assaults but said that no effective steps had been taken to investigate the serious complaints.
Held: The . .
Cited – SXH v The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) SC 11-Apr-2017
The Court was asked: ‘Does a decision by a public prosecutor to bring criminal proceedings against a person fall potentially within the scope of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in circumstances where a) the prosecutor has . .
Cited – Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police SC 8-Feb-2018
Limits to Police Exemption from Liability
The claimant, an elderly lady was bowled over and injured when police were chasing a suspect through the streets. As they arrested him they fell over on top of her. She appealed against refusal of her claim in negligence.
Held: Her appeal . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 25 March 2022; Ref: scu.224321