Green v Moore: 1982

The respondent, a probationer police constable was convicted for obstructing police officers in the execution of their duty under s51(3) of the 1964 Act. He was a regular in a bar he knew was to be raided. He warned the landlord who complied with the law that evening. A plain clothes constable was to drink there to observe if drinking was allowed after licensing hours, and let in uniformed constables who would be on patrol outside if that was the case. The Crown Court allowed his appeal saying that to establish the offence, the prosecution had to prove that the person aided by the alleged obstruction was at the time of the obstruction in the course of committing or had committed an offence, and since the alleged obstruction, namely, the warning, took place during licensing hours, no offence had been or could have been committed by the licensee at the time of the obstruction. The prosecutor appealed.
Held: To give a warning to a person so that he could postpone the commission of a crime until the danger of detection had past, was just as much an obstruction of a constable as was giving a warning in order that a crime already in the course of being committed could be suspended until the danger of detection had past. Donaldson criticised the case of Bastable: ‘If Bastable v Little has never yet been criticised, this is a situation which is capable of being remedied. It seems to us to be a very curious decision based on a highly eccentric view of the facts. The decision seems to have proceeded on the basis that prior to the warning the motorists concerned had not exceeded the speed limit and that the warning was intended to discourage them from ever so doing. If that were indeed the position, we would agree that no offence was committed. Far from obstructing the police in the execution of their duty, Mr Little would have been assisting them in one of their most important duties, namely, crime prevention. But a more realistic view of the facts is that the warning was based on a lively anticipation that even if the motorists were not then exceeding the speed limit, they were likely to do so over the measured distance and the warning was intended to discourage them from doing so until after they had passed out of the area of the police trap. However, the court never considered that hypothesis. We cannot see any distinction between a warning given in order that the commission of a crime may be suspended whilst there is danger of detection, which is an offence (see Betts v Stevens) and one which is given in order that the commission of a crime may be postponed until after the danger of detection has passed. We are, of course, bound by Bastable v Little and it must be left to others to consider overruling it. However, it is an authority which, in our judgment, should be strictly confined to the facts as the court found them.’
Donaldson LJ
[1982] 1 All ER 428
Police Act 1964 51(3)
England and Wales
CitedBastable v Little 1907
The police had set up a series of speed traps in London Road, Croydon. Mr Little occupied himself giving warning signals to drivers approaching the traps, thus ensuring that they did not exceed the speed limit. There was no evidence that the drivers . .
CitedBetts v Stevens 1910
The defendant, an Automobile Association patrolman was accused of obstructing a police constable in the execution of his duty. The police had set a speed trap, and the defendant had warned approaching vehicles of the trap. At the time they were . .
CitedRice v Connolly 1966
No Legal Duty to Assist a Constable
At common law there is no legal duty to provide the police with information or otherwise to assist them with their inquiries. Lord Parker set out three questions to be answered when asking whether there had been an obstruction of an officer in the . .

Cited by:
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions, Regina (on the Application of) v Glendinning Admn 13-Oct-2005
The defendant had been accused of obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty by warning motorists of presence of a police speed trap. The prosecutor appealed from dismissal of the charge.
Held: ‘the hand signals given by the . .

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Updated: 21 May 2021; Ref: scu.235214