Chief Constable of Northumbria v Costello: CA 3 Dec 1998

A woman police officer was attacked by a prisoner in a cell. She sought damages for the failure of a senior officer nearby not to come to her aid, and from the chief constable under his vicarious liability.
Held: The chief constable’s appeal was dismissed. One police officer has a duty of care to come to the rescue of another. This special duty between police officers was not just a matter of police discipline, and exists despite the absence of a general duty of officers to aid particular members of the public. ‘For public policy reasons, the police are under no general duty of care to members of the public for their activities in the investigation and suppression of crime But . . circumstances may exceptionally arise when the police assume a responsibility, giving rise to a duty of care to a particular member of the public . . Neither the police nor other public rescue services are under any general obligation, giving rise to a duty of care, to respond to emergency calls . . nor, if they do respond, are they to be held liable for want of care in any attempt to prevent crime or effect a rescue. But if their own positive negligent intervention directly causes injury which would not otherwise have occurred or if it exacerbates injury or damage, there may be liability.’
May LJ. Sir Christopher Slade, Hirst LJ
Times 15-Dec-1998, [1998] EWCA Civ 1898, [1998] EWCA Civ 3536, (1999) 11 Admin LR 81, [1999] ICR 752, [1999] 1 All ER 550
Bailii, Bailii
England and Wales
CitedOLL Ltd v Secretary of State for Transport QBD 22-Jul-1997
Coastguard Not liable in Negligence
Eight children with a teacher and two instructors set off on a canoeing trip but did not return. They got into difficulties at sea. Two became separated from the rest. The canoes capsized and sank. Some tried to swim ashore. Two more members became . .
CitedCapital and Counties Plc and Another v Hampshire County Council; Etc CA 20-Mar-1997
Three cases were brought against fire services after what were said to be negligent responses to call outs. On one, the fire brigade was called to a fire at office premises in Hampshire. The fire triggered the operation of a heat-activated sprinkler . .

Cited by:
CitedCowan 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 . .
CitedFay v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police QBD 6-Feb-2003
The claimant had begun proceedings for the return of money held by the respondent. His action was stayed for inactivity, and the respondent later had the claim struck out on the basis that it would be an abuse of process to proceed.
Held: The . .
CitedMullaney v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police CA 15-May-2001
The claimant police officer was severely injured making an arrest. He claimed damages from the respondent for contributory negligence of other officers in failing to come to his assistance.
Held: If a police officer owes a duty of care to . .
CitedWaters 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: . .
CitedAn 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 . .
CitedMichael 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 . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 01 January 2021; Ref: scu.145377