Gibson v Orr, the Chief Constable, Strathlclyde Police: SCS 26 Feb 1999

The pursuer and his passengers were injured when he drove off a bridge which had been damaged in a severe rainstorm. He claimed in negligence against the police, who had been informed of the collapse of the bridge, but had not erected any warning signs. As a result, a car fell into the river, killing two people and injuring a third.
Held: Lord Hamilton rejected a submission that, by reference to Hill, there was ‘no general duty of care owed by the police towards private individuals’. His Lordship said: ‘there is no close analogy, in my view, as regards the policy issue between the exercise by the police of their function of investigating and suppressing crime and the exercise by them of their function of performing civil operational tasks concerned with human safety on the public roads. It was not disputed that the police enjoy no immunity on public policy grounds in respect of the manner in which a constable drives his police vehicle or his motor cycle on the public roads. There would likewise be no immunity, in my view, in respect of the manner in which a constable in charge of directing traffic on such a road performed that function. Likewise, there is no immunity, in my view, in respect of the manner in which other civil road safety operational tasks are carried out by police officers where there is no inherent problem of conflict with instructions issued by superior officers or with duties owed to other persons.
Lord Hamilton later commented on what he called ‘a tide in the English courts’ towards a wide interpretation of what had been said in Hill, which he suggested ‘may now be running less strongly’. He continued: ‘Moreover, the decision of the Court of Human Rights in Osman v United Kingdom [[1998] ECHR 101], together with the position adopted by the UK Government before that court that ‘the exclusion was not a blanket exclusion of liability but a carefully and narrowly focused limitation which applied only in respect of the investigation and suppression of crime, and even then not in every case’, may also lead to some reconsideration of the scope of the public policy immunity accorded to the police in some of the English decisions.’
Lord Hamilton
[1999] ScotCS 61, 1999 SCLR 661, 1999 SC 420
Bailii, ScotC
Police (Scotland) Act 1967 39(1)
Cited by:
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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.
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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 . .
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 . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 08 January 2021; Ref: scu.169664