J W Dwyer Ltd v Metropolitan Police District Receiver: 1967

The owner of a jewellery shop claimed to recover compensation from the police for damage to his shop in a smash and grab raid. Since there were more than 3 robbers, the police accepted that there had been a riot but defended the claim on the basis that the property had not been damaged by ‘persons riotously and tumultuously assembled’ within the wording of section 2 of the 1886 Act. The claimant said that the word ‘tumultuously’ added nothing to riotously or that, if it did, it should be read disjunctively.
Held: The expression ‘riotously and tumultuously’ required there to have been behaviour which was not merely riotous but also tumultuous. The claim failed.
Lyell J provided an historical analysis: ‘I now turn to consider both the meaning of the words and the question as to whether the words ‘riotously and tumultuously’ from their history are to be read as cumulative requirements, differing in character. Until very recently the victims of crime had, in general, no claim to be compensated for the injury they suffered as a consequence of the crime. Compensation for loss caused by a riot was a special case. This raises the question: Why was it made a special case? If a crowd of people collect in angry and threatening fashion this should become obvious to the local forces of order, and it would then become their duty to prevent the crowd from becoming a riot. This is a duty which has been recognised for centuries, and which until the 19th century was put upon the local administrative area, the hundred or wapentake, or whatever name it might be called; and there was a duty upon them to compensate for damage which was done by persons assembled riotously and tumultuously. The Act of 1886, in fact, did no more than modernise the mode of obtaining compensation and transferred the burden from the inhabitants of the hundred or wapentake to the local police authority. There is nothing secret or furtive about a crowd of people who are acting riotously and tumultuously. It seems to me that the right to compensation from public funds was given because public authority had failed to protect the public who were menaced by a threat which was, or ought to have been, obvious to the forces of law and order as they existed from time to time. In my judgment, the word ‘tumultuously’ was added to ‘riotously’ for the specific reason that it was intended to limit the liability of compensation to cases where the rioters were in such numbers and in such state of agitated commotion, and were generally so acting, that the forces of law and order should have been well aware of the threat which existed, and, if they had done their duty, should have taken steps to prevent the rioters from causing damage.’


Lyell J


[1967] 2 QB 970


Riot (Damages) Act 1886


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedBedfordshire Police Authority v Constable and others ComC 20-Jun-2008
The authority insured its primary liability for compensation under the 1886 Act through the claimants and the excess of liability through re-insurers. The parties sought clarification from the court of the respective liabilities of the insurance . .
ApprovedDH Edmonds Ltd v East Sussex Police Authority CA 6-Jul-1988
The plaintiffs Brighton jewellers sought compensation from the police authority for a raid on their premises by three or four men. Kenneth Jones J at first instance held that the incident did not involve a tumultuous assembly and accordingly the . .
CitedBedfordshire Police Authority v Constable CA 12-Feb-2009
The police had responded to a riot at Yarlswood detention centre. They had insurance to cover their liability under the 1886 Act, but the re-insurers said that the insurance did not cover the event, saying that the liability was for statutory . .
CitedYarl’s Wood Immigration Ltd and Others v Bedfordshire Police Authority CA 23-Oct-2009
The claimant sought to recover the costs of damage to their centre following a riot, saying that under the 1886 Act, they were liable. It appealed against a ruling that they were unable to claim as a public authority, saying that the 1886 Act was . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Police, Damages

Updated: 18 May 2022; Ref: scu.270264