The 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 negligent in failing to dismiss the officer for earlier misbehaviour.
Held: The officer’s activities once off duty and having left the island had nothing to do with his duties as a police officer. ‘Negligence as a basis of liability is founded on the impersonal (‘objective’) standard of how a reasonable person should have acted in the circumstances. ‘ and ‘one of the necessary prerequisites for the existence of a duty of care is foresight that carelessness on the part of the defendant may cause damage of a particular kind to the plaintiff. ‘ In this case the gun and ammunition were available to the officer, though his use was unlawful. A duty of care existed ‘when entrusting a police officer with a gun the police authorities owe to the public at large a duty to take reasonable care to see the officer is a suitable person to be entrusted with such a dangerous weapon lest by any misuse of it he inflicts personal injury, whether accidentally or intentionally, on other persons. For this purpose no distinction is to be drawn between personal injuries inflicted in the course of police duties and personal injuries inflicted by a police officer using a police gun for his own ends. If this duty seems far-reaching in its scope it must be remembered that guns are dangerous weapons. The wide reach of the duty is proportionate to the gravity of the risks. ‘ Given the eariler compliants about the officers dishonesty and his carrying of knives and guns, that duty had been breached.

[2004] UKPC 12, Times 27-Feb-2004, Gazette 25-Mar-2004, [2004] 1 WLR 1273, [2004] PIQR 27
PC, Bailii, PC
England and Wales
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 . .
CitedDubai Aluminium Company Limited v Salaam and Others HL 5-Dec-2002
Partners Liable for Dishonest Act of Solicitor
A solicitor had been alleged to have acted dishonestly, having assisted in a fraudulent breach of trust by drafting certain documents. Contributions to the damages were sought from his partners.
Held: The acts complained of were so close to . .
CitedOverseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Miller Steamship Co Pty (The Wagon Mound) (No 2) PC 25-May-1966
(New South Wales) When considering the need to take steps to avoid injury, the court looked to the nature of defendant’s activity. There was no social value or cost saving in this defendant’s activity. ‘In the present case there was no justification . .
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 . .
CitedJolley v Sutton London Borough Council HL 24-May-2000
An abandoned boat had been left on its land and not removed by the council. Children tried to repair it, jacked it up, and a child was injured when it fell. It was argued for the boy, who now appealed dismissal of his claim by the Court of Appeal, . .
CitedBolton v Stone HL 10-May-1951
The plaintiff was injured by a prodigious and unprecedented hit of a cricket ball over a distance of 100 yards. He claimed damages in negligence.
Held: When looking at the duty of care the court should ask whether the risk was not so remote . .
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 . .
DoubtedDoughty v Turner Ltd CA 1964
The cover on a cauldron of exceedingly hot molten sodium cyanide was accidentally knocked into the cauldron and the plaintiff was damaged by the resultant explosion.
Held: The plaintiff’s claim failed. The defendant employer owed a duty of . .
CitedHughes v Lord Advocate HL 21-Feb-1963
The defendants had left a manhole uncovered and protected only by a tent and paraffin lamp. A child climbed down the hole. When he came out he kicked over one of the lamps. It fell into the hole and caused an explosion. The child was burned. The . .
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 . .
CitedDominion Natural Gas Co Ltd v Collins 1909
The defendants had installed a gas apparatus to provide natural gas on the premises of a railway company. They had installed a regulator to control the pressure and their men negligently made an escape-valve discharge into the building instead of . .
CitedDonoghue (or M’Alister) v Stevenson HL 26-May-1932
Decomposed Snail in Ginger Beer Bottle – Liability
The appellant drank from a bottle of ginger beer manufactured by the defendant. She suffered injury when she found a half decomposed snail in the liquid. The glass was opaque and the snail could not be seen. The drink had been bought for her by a . .
CitedBurfitt v A and E Kille 1939
A shopkeeper in Minehead sold a ‘blank cartridge pistol’ to a twelve year old boy. Later, when the boy fired the pistol in the air, the plaintiff was injured by a tiny piece of copper going into his eye.
Held: The duty of care was owed not . .

Cited by:
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 . .
CitedCorr v IBC Vehicles Ltd CA 31-Mar-2006
The deceased had suffered a head injury whilst working for the defendant. In addition to severe physical consequences he suffered post-traumatic stress, became more and more depressed, and then committed suicide six years later. The claimant . .
CitedMitchell and Another v Glasgow City Council HL 18-Feb-2009
(Scotland) The pursuers were the widow and daughter of a tenant of the respondent who had been violently killed by his neighbour. They said that the respondent, knowing of the neighbour’s violent behaviours had a duty of care to the deceased and . .
CitedRobinson 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 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Police, Vicarious Liability, Negligence

Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.193879