Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police: SC 8 Feb 2018

Limits to Police Exemption from Liability

The claimant, an elderly lady was bowled over and injured when police were chasing a suspect through the streets. As they arrested him they fell over on top of her. She appealed against refusal of her claim in negligence.
Held: Her appeal succeeded.
It is normally only in a novel type of case, where established principles do not provide an answer, that the courts need to go beyond those principles in order to decide whether a duty of care should be recognised. Since the police generally owe a duty of care not to inflict physical injury by their actions when such a duty arises under the ordinary principles of the law of negligence, unless statute or other common law principle provides otherwise, there was no requirement here to examine whether the recognition of the claimed duty would be fair, just and reasonable.
‘Properly understood, Caparo thus achieves a balance between legal certainty and justice. In the ordinary run of cases, courts consider what has been decided previously and follow the precedents (unless it is necessary to consider whether the precedents should be departed from). In cases where the question whether a duty of care arises has not previously been decided, the courts will consider the closest analogies in the existing law, with a view to maintaining the coherence of the law and the avoidance of inappropriate distinctions. They will also weigh up the reasons for and against imposing liability, in order to decide whether the existence of a duty of care would be just and reasonable.’
and: ‘On examination . . there is nothing in the ratio of any of the authorities relied on by the respondent which is inconsistent with the police being under a liability for negligence resulting in personal injuries where such liability would arise under ordinary principles of the law of tort. That is so notwithstanding the existence of some dicta which might be read as suggesting the contrary.’
[2018] WLR(D) 83

Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Reed, Lord Hughes, Lord Hodge
[2018] UKSC 4, [2018] 2 WLR 595, [2018] AC 736, [2018] PIQR P9, [2018] 2 All ER 1041, [2018] WLR(D) 83, UKSC 2016/0082
Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC, SC Summary, SC Video Summary, SC 12 Jul 2017 am Video, SC 2017 Jul 12 pm Video
England and Wales
Citing:
CitedHill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire HL 28-Apr-1987
No General ty of Care Owed by Police
The mother of a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper claimed in negligence against the police alleging that they had failed to satisfy their duty to exercise all reasonable care and skill to apprehend the perpetrator of the murders and to protect members . .
Appeal fromRobinson v West Yorkshire Police CA 5-Feb-2014
The claimant was a bystander, injured during an arrest on the street by officers employed by the respondent. She now appealed against rejection of her claim in negligence. Held; No duty of care was owed, and that, even if the officers had owed Mrs . .
CitedDesmond v The Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police CA 12-Jan-2011
The claimant appealed from the rejection of his claim in negligence against the police. He had been arrested on suspicion of a sexual assault, but the investigating officer concluded that he was not responsible for the crime. Despite this, several . .
CitedAnns and Others v Merton London Borough Council HL 12-May-1977
The plaintiff bought her apartment, but discovered later that the foundations were defective. The local authority had supervised the compliance with Building Regulations whilst it was being built, but had failed to spot the fault. The authority . .
CitedMarc Rich and Co Ag and Others v Bishop Rock Marine Co Ltd and Others HL 6-Jul-1995
A surveyor acting on behalf of the classification society had recommended that after repairs specified by him had been carried out a vessel, the Nicholas H, should be allowed to proceed. It was lost at sea.
Held: The marine classification . .
CitedMacFarlane and Another v Tayside Health Board HL 21-Oct-1999
Child born after vasectomy – Damages Limited
Despite a vasectomy, Mr MacFarlane fathered a child, and he and his wife sought damages for the cost of care and otherwise of the child. He appealed a rejection of his claim.
Held: The doctor undertakes a duty of care in regard to the . .
CitedSmith and Others v The Ministry of Defence SC 19-Jun-2013
The claimants were PRs of men who had died or were severely injured on active duty in Iraq being variously fired at by mistake by other coalition forces, or dying in vehicles attacked by roadside bombs. Appeals were heard against a finding that the . .
CitedMichael and Others v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police and Another SC 28-Jan-2015
The claimants asserted negligence in the defendant in failing to provide an adequate response to an emergency call, leading, they said to the death of their daughter at the hands of her violent partner. They claimed also under the 1998 Act. The . .
CitedBarrett v London Borough of Enfield HL 17-Jun-1999
The claimant had spent his childhood in foster care, and now claimed damages against a local authority for decisions made and not made during that period. The judge’s decision to strike out the claim had been upheld by the Court of Appeal.
CitedPerrett v Collins, Underwood PFA (Ulair) Limited (T/a Popular Flying Association) CA 22-May-1998
The plaintiff was a passenger in an aircraft which crashed, and there was a preliminary issue as to the liability to him of those who certified that the aircraft was fit to fly. The propeller was mismatched to the gearbox.
Held: A certifying . .
CitedEntick v Carrington KBD 1765
The Property of Every Man is Sacred
The King’s Messengers entered the plaintiff’s house and seized his papers under a warrant issued by the Secretary of State, a government minister.
Held: The common law does not recognise interests of state as a justification for allowing what . .
CitedMitchell and Another (Aps) v Glasgow City Council SCS 29-Feb-2008
(Extra Division, Inner House) The pursuers sought to hold the Council responsible in negligence after a neighbour (D) killed the husband and father. The defenders had been aware of D’s threatening and aggressive behaviour towards the deceased, . .
CitedThe Mersey Docks And Harbour Board Trustees v Gibbs And Others; The Mersey Docks And Harbour Board’ Trustees v Pierce, W Penhallow, And Others HL 30-Jun-1866
Persons who have a duty to perform, and who may be made responsible for injuries if they know of causes of mystery which in the discharge of that Duty they ought to remedy, are equally responsible if they negligence they remain ignorant of those . .
CitedGorringe v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council HL 1-Apr-2004
Statutory Duty Not Extended by Common Law
The claimant sought damages after a road accident. The driver came over the crest of a hill and hit a bus. The road was not marked with any warning as to the need to slow down.
Held: The claim failed. The duty could not be extended to include . .
CitedGeddis v Proprietors of Bann Reservoir HL 18-Feb-1878
The owner of land injured by operations authorised by statute ‘suffers a private loss for the public benefit’, and in the absence of clear statutory authority is unable to claim: ‘It is now thoroughly well established that no action will lie for . .
CitedEast Suffolk Rivers Catchment Board v Kent HL 1941
An exceptionally high spring tide caused many breaches of the banks of the River Deben, and extensive flooding, including the respondent’s farm. By section 6 of the 1930 Act, the appellants had a statutory power to maintain the flood defences, but . .
CitedDorset Yacht Co Ltd v Home Office HL 6-May-1970
A yacht was damaged by boys who had escaped from the supervision of prison officers in a nearby Borstal institution. The boat owners sued the Home Office alleging negligence by the prison officers.
Held: Any duty of a borstal officer to use . .
CitedSmith v Littlewoods Organisation Limited (Chief Constable, Fife Constabulary, third party); Maloco v Littlewoods Organisation Ltd HL 1987
The defendant acquired a semi derelict cinema with a view to later development of the site. A fire started by others spread to the pursuer’s adjoining property.
Held: The defendants were not liable in negligence. The intervention of a third . .
CitedStovin v Wise, Norfolk County Council (Third Party) HL 24-Jul-1996
Statutory Duty Does Not Create Common Law Duty
The mere existence of statutory power to remedy a defect cannot of itself create a duty of care to do so. A highway authority need not have a duty of care to highway users because of its duty to maintain the highway. The two stage test ‘involves . .
CitedAn Informer v A Chief Constable CA 29-Feb-2012
The claimant appealed against dismissal of his claim for damages against the police. He had provided them with information, but he said that they had acted negligently and in breach of contract causing him financial loss. The officer handling his . .
CitedMurphy v Brentwood District Council HL 26-Jul-1990
Anns v Merton Overruled
The claimant appellant was a house owner. He had bought the house from its builders. Those builders had employed civil engineers to design the foundations. That design was negligent. They had submitted the plans to the defendant Council for approval . .
CitedPhelps v Hillingdon London Borough Council; Anderton v Clwyd County Council; Gower v Bromley London Borough Council; Jarvis v Hampshire County Council HL 28-Jul-2000
The plaintiffs each complained of negligent decisions in his or her education made by the defendant local authorities. In three of them the Court of Appeal had struck out the plaintiff’s claim and in only one had it been allowed to proceed.
CitedGlasbrook Brothers Limited v Glamorgan County Council HL 1925
A colliery manager asked for police protection for his colliery during a strike. He wanted police officers to be billeted on the premises. The senior police officer for the area was willing to provide protection by a mobile force, but he refused to . .
CitedThe Attorney General v Hartwell PC 23-Feb-2004
PC (The British Virgin Islands) A police officer had taken the police revolver, and used it to shoot the claimant. It was alleged that the respondent police force were vicariously liable for his acts and also . .
CitedBlackburn v Commissioner of the Police for the Metropolis CA 1968
By common law police officers owe to the general public a duty to enforce the criminal law. However, police are servants of no one but the law itself, and a chief officer of police has a wide discretion as to the manner in which the duty is . .
CitedRegina v Dytham CACD 1979
A constable was 30 yards away from the entrance to a club, from which he saw a man ejected. There was a fight involving cries and screams and the man was beaten and kicked to death in the gutter outside the club. The constable made no move to . .
CitedKnightley v Johns and others CA 27-Mar-1981
There had been an accident in a tunnel, blocking it. The defendant inspector ordered a traffic constable to ride into the tunnel on his motorcycle against the flow of traffic. The constable crashed and sought damages for negligence against the . .
CitedRigby and another v Chief Constable of Northamptonshire 1985
The police were found liable to pay damages for negligence having fired a gas canister into the plaintiffs’ gunsmith’s hop premises in order to flush out a dangerous psychopath. There had been a real and substantial fire risk in firing the canister . .
CitedMarshall v Osmond CA 1983
The plaintiff was passenger in a stolen car seeking to escape the police as they chased. The car was stopped, the plaintiff got out of the car, and was hit by a police car. He sought damages.
Held: His appeal against dismissal of his claim was . .
CitedCalveley v Chief Constable of the Merseyside Police HL 1989
Police officers brought an action in negligence against a Chief Constable on the ground that disciplinary proceedings against them had been negligently conducted. They claimed that the investigating officers had negligently failed to conduct the . .
CitedElguzouli-Daf v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and Another CA 16-Nov-1994
The Court upheld decisions striking out actions for negligence brought by claimants who had been arrested and held in custody during criminal investigations which were later discontinued. The Crown Prosecution Service owes no general duty of care to . .
CitedAshley and Another v Chief Constable of Sussex Police HL 23-Apr-2008
The claimants sought to bring an action for damages after a family member suspected of dealing drugs, was shot by the police. At the time he was naked. The police officer had been acquitted by a criminal court of murder. The chief constable now . .
CitedSXH v The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) SC 11-Apr-2017
The Court was asked: ‘Does a decision by a public prosecutor to bring criminal proceedings against a person fall potentially within the scope of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in circumstances where a) the prosecutor has . .
CitedMinio-Paluello v The Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis QBD 16-Dec-2011
The Claimant sought damages for assault (or battery) and/or in negligence arising out of serious injuries which she suffered in the course of a pro-Palestinian demonstration. She was pulled up from the ground by a police officer with excessive . .
CitedMcDonnell v The Commissioner of Police for The Metropolis and Another CA 14-May-2015
The claim for damages by a suspected drug dealer for assault arising from the use of excessive force during his arrest failed only on its facts. . .
CitedBrooks v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and others HL 21-Apr-2005
The claimant was with Stephen Lawrence when they were both attacked and Mr Lawrence killed. He claimed damages for the negligent way the police had dealt with his case, and particularly said that they had failed to assess him as a victim of crime, . .

Cited by:
CitedSteel and Another v NRAM Ltd (Formerly NRAM Plc) SC 28-Feb-2018
The appellant solicitor acted in a land transaction. The land was mortgaged to the respondent bank. She wrote to the bank stating her client’s intention to repay the whole loan. The letter was negligently mistaken and the bankers allowed the . .
CitedJames-Bowen and Others v Commissioner of Police of The Metropolis SC 25-Jul-2018
The Court was asked whether the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (‘the Commissioner’) owes a duty to her officers, in the conduct of proceedings against her based on their alleged misconduct, to take reasonable care to protect them from . .
CitedDarnley v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust SC 10-Oct-2018
The claimant had been assaulted. He presented at the defendant hospital with head injuries. Despite his complaints he said he was not treated properly, being told to wait five hours at reception, and went home. Later an ambulance was delayed and he . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Negligence, Police

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.604215