Racz v Home Office: HL 17 Dec 1993

The Home Office can be liable for the actions of prison officers which amounted to an official misfeasance. The principles of vicarious liability apply as much to misfeasance in public office as to other torts involving malice, knowledge or intention. Lord Jauncey said: ‘My Lords, in my view, striking out paragraph 6 of this claim could only be justified if the inevitable result of proof of the averments therein was that the unauthorised acts of the prison officers was so unconnected with their authorised duties as to be quite independent of and outside those duties’.
And ‘ the Court of Appeal were dealing with the question of mode of trial upon the basis that the claim in respect of misfeasance in public office would not proceed. However, the facts relevant to that claim are likely to be identical to those which will be considered under the remaining heads of claim and the issue of exemplary damages also falls to be considered under those heads of claim.’ However, there can be no false imprisonment of a prisoner who is lawfully confined under section 12(1) of the 1952 Act, and a restraint upon movement which is not in accordance with the Prison Rules 1964 does not give rise to a cause of action for either false imprisonment or breach of statutory duty.

Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle
Times 17-Dec-1993, Independent 17-Dec-1993, [1994] 2 WLR 23, [1994] 1 All ER 97, [1994] 2 AC 45
England and Wales
CitedCanadian Pacific Railway Co v Lockhart PC 1941
When considering the imposition of vicarious liability, ‘the first consideration is the ascertainment of what the servant is employed to do.’ (Lord Thankerton) and ‘It is clear that the master is responsible for acts actually authorised by him: for . .

Cited by:
CitedThree Rivers District Council and Others v Governor and Company of The Bank of England HL 18-May-2000
The applicants alleged misfeasance against the Bank of England in respect of the regulation of a bank.
Held: The Bank could not be sued in negligence, but the tort of misfeasance required clear evidence of misdeeds. The action was now properly . .
CitedLister and Others v Hesley Hall Ltd HL 3-May-2001
A school board employed staff to manage a residential school for vulnerable children. The staff committed sexual abuse of the children. The school denied vicarious liability for the acts of the teachers.
Held: ‘Vicarious liability is legal . .
CitedMajrowski v Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust CA 16-Mar-2005
The claimant had sought damages against his employer, saying that they had failed in their duty to him under the 1997 Act in failing to prevent harassment by a manager. He appealed a strike out of his claim.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The . .
CitedHouchin v Lincolnshire Probation Trust QBD 9-Apr-2013
The defendant sought to have the claim struck out. The prisoner said that the defendant’s probation officer had through misfeasance in public office arranged for his transfer back to secure conditions from open ones. The parole board panel had found . .
CitedElliott v Chief Constable of Wiltshire and Others ChD 20-Nov-1996
Vice-Chancellor was asked to consider whether to strike out a statement of claim based upon alleged misfeasance by a police officer in his public office. The allegation against the police officer was that he had deliberately and falsely supplied . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Vicarious Liability, Prisons, Torts – Other

Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.85636