M’Glone v British Railways Board: HL 27 Oct 1965

The appellant sought damages in respect of injuries suffered by his son who received a severe electrical shock, climbing on a booster transformer on premises occupied by the respondents. The First Division had held that the respondents were not liable and granted decree of absolvitor.
Held: The father’s appeal failed. The 1960 Act abolishes the categories of invitee, licensee and trespasser, and installs a higher duty than before: ‘The care required is such care as is reasonable and it may be reasonable to require a greater degree of care in one such case than in another. In deciding what degree of care is required, in my view regard must be had both to the position of the occupier and to the position of the person entering his premises and it may often be reasonable to hold that an occupier must do more to protect a person whom he permits to be on his property than he need do to protect a person who enters his property without his permission. Trespassers on the steep bank were so frequent that I would be prepared, if necessary, to hold that licence to play on the bank could be implied. Certainly the respondents ought to have expected that boys would play on it near this transformer and the respondents’ witness admitted that, when such apparatus is erected at places open to the public, means are taken to warn people against climbing transformers. The question here is whether the means which were taken were sufficient to discharge the statutory duty.’
‘ The live wires were only a danger to a boy old enough to climb up this structure, and I think that the respondents could properly assume that such a boy would understand that the barbed wire was intended to keep him out and that there would or might be danger if he forced his way into this small enclosure. This is not a case of danger to a child too young to understand such things. The evidence shows that the boy knew quite well that the barbed wire was intended to keep him out and that to climb the transformer was dangerous. But he knew little or nothing about electricity and he did not know about live wires. So, even if he had read the notices, he would have learned little from them.
In a case like this an occupier does in my view act reasonably if he erects an obstacle which a boy must take some trouble to overcome before he can reach the dangerous apparatus.’


Lord Reid


[1966] SC (HL) 1 HL(Sc), [1965] UKHL 2, 1966 SC 1, 1966 SLT 2




Occupiers’ Liability (Scotland) Act 1960 2



Cited by:

CitedBritish Railways Board v Herrington HL 16-Feb-1972
Land-owner’s Possible Duty to Trespassers
The plaintiff, a child had gone through a fence onto the railway line, and been badly injured. The Board knew of the broken fence, but argued that they owed no duty to a trespasser.
Held: Whilst a land-owner owes no general duty of care to a . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury

Updated: 22 July 2022; Ref: scu.279723