Ratcliffe v Eden et al: KBD 22 Nov 1776

There had been a riot by sailors in Liverpool. The cort was asked whether the victim of a riot could recover compensation not only for the damage to his house but for also the destruction of the furniture and household goods within his house. The hundred argued that the victim could not recover for the furniture and goods as their destruction was a separate and independent act from the damage to the house.
Held: The argument was rejected. The 1714 Act had altered the nature of the offence; rioters were no longer trespassers but felons and were to be hanged. Before the 1714 Act the trespassers would have been liable in damages. Under the Act the inhabitants of the hundred instead were liable in damages and this was an inducement to them to perform their duty of preventing or suppressing riots. As the destruction of the furniture and goods occurred at the same time as the damage to the house, it was part of the demolition of the house just as it would be if the pulling down of the house crushed the furniture.
Lord Mansfield stated: ‘This is the great principle of the law, that the inhabitants shall be in the nature of sureties for one another. It is a very ancient principle; as old as the institution of the decennaries by Alfred, whereby the whole neighbourhood or tithing of freemen were mutual pledges for each other’s good behaviour. The same principle obtains in the Statutes of Hue and Cry. It is the principle here.’ Ashhurst J agreed.
Aston J advocated a liberal interpretation: ‘The object and principle of this Act was, to transfer the damages occasioned by the trespass, from the rioters to the hundred; to make it felony in the offenders themselves, and to put the party injured in the same state as before. It is a remedial law, and ought to be extended.’


Lord Mansfield, Aston J. Ashhurst J


[1776] EngR 58, (1776) 2 Cowp 485, (1776) 98 ER 1200




Riot Act 1714


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedThe Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime v Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co (Europe) Ltd and Others SC 20-Apr-2016
The Court considered the quantification of damages to be awarded to a business suffering under riots under the 1886 Act, and in particular whether such recoverable losses included compensation for consequential losses, including loss of profits and . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Police, Damages

Updated: 15 May 2022; Ref: scu.373325