Heath v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis: CA 20 Jul 2004

The female civilian officer alleged sex discrimination against her by a police officer. Her complaint was heard at an internal disciplinary. She alleged sexual harrassment, and was further humiliated by the all male board’s treatment of her complaint. The complaint now was solely as to her treatment by the Board.
Held: The body was a quasi-judicial body and as such its members enjoyed judicial immunity in their actions. It decided issues akin to civil or criminal issues, and had procedures akin to a court. The claim must fail.
Auld LJ said: ‘As the employment tribunal well described in paras 9(o)-(q) of its extended reasons, and as the Employment Appeal Tribunal also found, it attaches to anything said or done by anybody in the course of judicial proceedings whatever the nature of the claim made in respect of such behaviour or statement, except for suits for malicious prosecution and prosecution for perjury and proceedings for contempt of court. That is because the rule is there, not to protect the person whose conduct in court might prompt such a claim, but to protect the integrity of the judicial process and hence the public interest. Given that rationale for the rule, there can be no logical basis for differentiating between different types of claim in its application.’
Applying Marrinan, Auld LJ said: ‘The absolute immunity from suit is a core immunity in our system, critical to the integrity and effectiveness of our judicial system, which, save for a few well defined exceptions identified in para 17 above, applies to all forms of collateral action however worthy the claim and however much it may be in the public interest to ventilate it. Claims of unlawful discrimination are clearly of that importance, but no more than many others, such as the citizen’s right to protect his own good name or good character or to claim for conspiracy to injure or for misfeasance in public office, say, in giving evidence in a criminal trial resulting in the claimant’s loss of liberty.’


Lord Justice Auld Holman Mr Justice Holman Lord Justice Neuberger


Times 22-Jul-2004, [2004] EWCA Civ 493, [2005] ICR 329, [2005] IRLR 270, [2004] Po LR 259


Bailii, Bailii


Sex Discrimination Act 1975 6(2)(b) 41(1), EC Council Directive 76/207


England and Wales


CitedMarrinan v Vibart CA 2-Jan-1962
Two police officers gave evidence in a criminal prosecution of others, that the plaintiff, a barrister, had behaved improperly by obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty and subsequently gave similar evidence at an inquiry before . .
CitedRoyal Aquarium and Summer and Winter Garden Society Ltd v Parkinson CA 1892
The court described the characteristics of a tribunal to which absolute privilege attaches. Having spoken of ‘an authorised inquiry which, though not before a court of justice, is before a tribunal which has similar attributes’ and similar . .
CitedHasselblad (GB) Ltd v Orbison CA 1985
In the course of proceedings brought by the European Commission against Hasselblad, Mr Orbison wrote a letter to the Commission upon which the appellant then sued for damages for libel. The court considered the dangers of national and European . .
CitedGibbons v Duffell 1932
(High Court of Australia) A defamation case arose out of the report by a police inspector to his superior about a fellow officer.
Held: The report was not the subject of absolute immunity: ‘How far absolute privilege extends in naval and . .
CitedMunster v Lamb CA 1883
Judges and witness, including police officers are given immunity from suit in defamation in court proceedings.
Fry LJ said: ‘Why should a witness be able to avail himself of his position in the box and to make without fear of civil consequences . .
CitedSpring v Guardian Assurance Plc and Others HL 7-Jul-1994
The plaintiff, who worked in financial services, complained of the terms of the reference given by his former employer. Having spoken of his behaviour towards members of the team, it went on: ‘his former superior has further stated he is a man of . .
CitedArthur JS Hall and Co (A Firm) v Simons; Barratt v Woolf Seddon (A Firm); Harris v Schofield Roberts and Hill (A Firm) HL 20-Jul-2000
Clients sued their solicitors for negligence. The solicitors responded by claiming that, when acting as advocates, they had the same immunities granted to barristers.
Held: The immunity from suit for negligence enjoyed by advocates acting in . .
CitedDarker v Chief Constable of The West Midlands Police HL 1-Aug-2000
The plaintiffs had been indicted on counts alleging conspiracy to import drugs and conspiracy to forge traveller’s cheques. During the criminal trial it emerged that there had been such inadequate disclosure by the police that the proceedings were . .
CitedO’Connor v Waldron HL 1935
The kind of tribunal to which absolute privilege attaches is one which ‘has similar attributes to a court of justice or acts in a manner similar to that in which such courts act.’ It is a question ‘not capable of very precise limitation’. . .
CitedTrapp v Mackie HL 1979
Dr Trapp had been dismissed from his post by the Aberdeenshire Education Committee of which Mr Mackie was chairman. Dr Trapp petitioned the Secretary of State for an inquiry into the reasons for his dismissal. An inquiry was set up, and in the . .
CitedDawkins v Lord Rokeby 1873
Police officers (among others) are immune from any action that may be brought against them on the ground that things said or done by them in the ordinary course of the proceedings were said or done falsely and maliciously and without reasonable and . .
CitedMinister of National Revenue v Coopers and Lybrand 1979
(Supreme Court of Canada) The court sought to define the distinctive characteristics of a quasi-judicial act: ‘ (1) Is there anything in the language in which the function is conferred or in the general context in which it is exercised which . .
CitedRegina v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, ex parte Carol Ann Bennion CA 4-May-2001
The claimant sought a judicial review against a Chief Constable against whose force she had made complaints of sex discrimination and victimisation, not to remit disciplinary proceedings against her under regulation 14 of the 1985 Regulations to . .
CitedAddis v Crocker CA 1961
The proceedings of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal attract absolute privilege even though they sat in private. . .
CitedRegina v Chief Constable of Merseyside, Ex Parte Bennion QBD 18-Jul-2000
A senior officer had begun a claim against the police officer alleging sex discrimination. She complained that when disciplinary proceedings were commenced against her, the person making the decision would be the Chief Constable, and that his . .
CitedMarrinan v Vibart CA 1962
The court considered an action in the form an attempt to circumvent the immunity of a witness at civil law by alleging a conspiracy.
Held: The claim was rejected. The court considered the basis of the immunity from action given to witnesses. . .

Cited by:

CitedAmwell View School v Dogherty EAT 15-Sep-2006
The claimant had secretly recorded the disciplinary hearings and also the deliberations of the disciplinary panel after their retirement. The tribunal had at a case management hearing admitted the recordings as evidence, and the defendant appealed, . .
CitedLake v British Transport Police CA 5-May-2007
The claimant challenged dismissal of his claim of having suffered an unfair detriment having made a disclosure with regard to his employers. The employers had said that as a constable, his employment was outside the scope of the Act, and the . .
CitedSingh v Moorlands Primary School and Another CA 25-Jul-2013
The claimant was a non-white head teacher, alleging that her school governors and local authority had undermined and had ‘deliberately endorsed a targeted campaign of discrimination, bullying, harassment and victimisation’ against her as an Asian . .
CitedP v The Commissioner of Police for The Metropolis CA 20-Jan-2016
The claimant appealed against rejection of her claim of disability discrimination against the Police Misconduct Panel on the basis that the Panel was a judicial body and as such enjoyed immunity from suit. She had been assaulted, suffering PTSD. She . .
Overruled as to EU lawP v Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis SC 25-Oct-2017
This appeal concerns the directly effective right of police officers under EU law to have the principle of equal treatment applied to them. The question raised is whether the enforcement of that right by means of proceedings in the Employment . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Police, Discrimination

Updated: 16 September 2022; Ref: scu.199317