ST v North Yorkshire County Council: CA 14 Jul 1998

The court considered the liability of the respondent for sexual assaults committed by an employee teacher when taking students on school trips.
Held: The Local Authority was not vicariously liable for sexual assault committed by employee teacher on mentally disabled child whilst on school trip to Spain. Such an assault was not a case of an authorised act carried out in unauthorised manner: ‘it is useful to stand back and ask: applying general principles, in which category in the Salmond test would one expect these facts to fall? A deputy headmaster of a special school, charged with the responsibility of caring for a handicapped teenager on a foreign holiday, sexually assaults him. Is that in principle an improper mode of carrying out an authorised act on behalf of his employer, the council, or an independent act outside the course of his employment? His position of caring for the plaintiff by sharing a bedroom with him gave him the opportunity to carry out the sexual assaults. But availing himself of that opportunity seems to me to be far removed from an unauthorised mode of carrying out a teacher’s duties on behalf of his employer. Rather it is a negation of the duty of the council to look after children for whom it was responsible. Acts of physical assault may not be so easy to categorise, since they may range, for instance, from a brutal and unprovoked assault by a teacher to forceful attempts to defend another pupil or the teacher himself. But in the field of serious sexual misconduct, I find it difficult to visualise circumstances in which an act of the teacher can be an unauthorised mode of carrying out an authorised act, although I would not wish to close the door on the possibility.’


Butler-Sloss LJ, Thorpe LJ Chadwick LJ


Gazette 26-Aug-1998, [1999] LGR 584, [1998] EWCA Civ 1208, [1999] IRLR 98, [1998] ELR 625, (1998) 10 Admin LR 573, [1999] BLGR 584, [1999] Ed CR 353, (1999) 49 BMLR 150




England and Wales

Cited by:

OverruledLister 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 . .
CriticisedBazley v Curry 17-Jun-1999
(Canadian Supreme Court) The court considerd the doctrine of vicarious liability: ‘The policy purposes underlying the imposition of vicarious liability on employers are served only where the wrong is so connected with the employment that it can be . .
CriticisedJacobi v Griffiths 17-Jun-1999
(Canadian Supreme Court) A children’s club was not vicariously liable for the acts of an employee which took place in the employee’s home outside working hours. It was not enough that his employment in the club gave him the opportunity to make . .
CitedBrown v Robinson and Sentry PC 14-Dec-2004
(Jamaica) The deceased claimant had been shot by a sentry employed by the respondent company. His estate appealed a finding that the sentry was not acting in the course of his employment.
Held: Older authorities had now been replaced by recent . .
CitedLister and others v Hesley Hall Ltd CA 7-Oct-1999
Where a residential worker at a children’s home committed sexual abuse on children within his care, the company running the home were not vicariously liable for the acts themselves, but also were not responsible where the worker did not report his . .
CitedKR and others v Royal and Sun Alliance Plc CA 3-Nov-2006
The insurer appealed findings of liability under the 1930 Act. Claims had been made for damages for child abuse in a residential home, whom they insured. The home had become insolvent, and the claimants had pursued the insurer.
Held: The . .
CitedA v Hoare HL 30-Jan-2008
Each of six claimants sought to pursue claims for damages for sexual assaults which would otherwise be time barred under the 1980 Act after six years. They sought to have the House depart from Stubbings and allow a discretion to the court to extend . .
MentionedMaga v The Trustees of The Birmingham Archdiocese of The Roman Catholic Church CA 16-Mar-2010
The claimant appealed against rejection of his claim for damages after alleging sexual abuse by a catholic priest. The judge had found the church not vicariously liable for the injuries, and that the archdiocese had not been under a duty further to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Vicarious Liability, Torts – Other

Updated: 20 November 2022; Ref: scu.144687