Vellino v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police: CA 31 Jul 2001

The police were not under any duty to protect someone who had been arrested from injuring himself in an attempt to escape. The claimant had a history of seeking to avoid capture by jumping from his flat window. On this occasion he injured himself in the fall. The doctrine of ex turpi no oritur actio applied. In order to establish a claim he would have to rely upon the illegality of his own act. No duty would arise before his arrest, and the arrest acted to increase his duty not to seek to escape. Some duties would arise to an arrested person, but not this.
Sir Murray Stuart-Smith Set out the following principles: ‘1. The operation of the principle arises where the claimant’s claim is founded upon his own criminal or immoral act. The facts which give rise to the claim must be inextricably linked with the criminal activity. It is not sufficient if the criminal activity merely gives occasion for tortious conduct of the Defendant.
2. The principle is one of public policy; it is not for the benefit of the Defendant. Since if the principle applies, the cause of action does not arise, the Defendant’s conduct is irrelevant. There is no question of proportionality between the conduct of the Claimant and Defendant.
3. In the case of criminal conduct this has to be sufficiently serious to merit the application of the principle. Generally speaking a crime punishable with imprisonment could be expected to qualify. If the offence is criminal, but relatively trivial, it is in any event difficult to see how it could be integral to the claim.
4. The Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945 is not applicable where the Claimant’s action amounts to a common law crime which does not give rise to liability in tort.’


Schiemann LJ, Sedley LJ, Stewart-Smith Sir


Times 09-Aug-2001, [2001] EWCA Civ 1249, [2002] 1 WLR 218, [2002] PIQR P10, [2002] 3 All ER 78




Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945


England and Wales


CitedCaparo Industries Plc v Dickman and others HL 8-Feb-1990
Limitation of Loss from Negligent Mis-statement
The plaintiffs sought damages from accountants for negligence. They had acquired shares in a target company and, relying upon the published and audited accounts which overstated the company’s earnings, they purchased further shares.
Held: The . .
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 . .
CitedKirkham v Anderton, The Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester police CA 20-Dec-1989
The claimant’s husband hanged himself in Risley Remand Centre after the police had failed to warn the prison authorities that he was (as the police knew) a suicide risk. He was suffering from clinical depression and had previously attempted suicide . .
CitedCommissioner of Police for the Metropolis v Reeves (Joint Administratix of The Estate of Martin Lynch, Deceased) HL 15-Jul-1999
The deceased was a prisoner known to be at risk of committing suicide. Whilst in police custody he hanged himself in his prison cell. The Commissioner accepted that he was in breach of his duty of care to the deceased, but not that that breach was . .
CitedSacco v Chief Constable of South Wales Constabulary and others CA 15-May-1998
The claimant a seventeen-year-old youth who had been arrested during a drunken brawl, kicked his way out through the door of the police van in which he was being transported and jumped out while it was moving at about twenty-five mph striking his . .
CitedClunis (By his Next Friend Prince) v Camden and Islington Health Authority CA 5-Dec-1997
The plaintiff had killed someone and, as a result, been convicted of manslaughter and ordered to be detained in a secure hospital when subject to after-care under section 117 of the 1983 Act. He sought damages from the health authority on the basis . .
CitedHolman v Johnson 5-Jul-1775
ex turpi causa non oritur actio
A claim was made for the price of goods which the plaintiff sold to the defendant in Dunkirk, knowing that the defendant’s purpose was to smuggle the goods into England. The plaintiff was met with a defence of illegality.
Held: The defence . .
CitedRevill v Newbery CA 2-Nov-1995
The defendant owned a shed on an allotment and slept there at night in order to protect his property from the attentions of vandals and thieves. Among other items in the shed the defendant, aged 76 at the time, kept a 12-bore shotgun and cartridges. . .
CitedPitts v The Personal Representatives of Mark James Hunt (Deceased) and Another CA 1990
The plaintiff and a friend had spent the evening drinking at a disco before setting off on the friend’s motorcycle. The plaintiff was aware that the motorcyclist was neither licensed to ride a motorcycle nor insured. During the journey, the . .
CitedColburn v Patmore 1834
A person who is declared by law to be guilty of a crime cannot be allowed to recover damages against another person who has participated in its commission.
Lord Lyndhurst said: ‘I can see no reason, for my part, why a defendant, who is not . .
CitedCakebread v Hopping Bros Ltd CA 1947
Cohen LJ discussed the doctrine of ex turpi causa non oritur actio, saying: ‘The maxim ex turpi causa is based on public policy, and it seems to me plain on the facts of this case that public policy, far from requiring that this action shall be . .
CitedNational Coal Board v England HL 1954
The plaintiff sought damages after being injured when a co-worker fired a shot. The employee however had himself coupled the detonator to the cable rather than leaving it to the shotfirer, and had his cimmitted a criminal offence. He had been found . .
CitedStapley v Gypsum Mines Ltd HL 25-Jun-1953
Plaintiff to take own responsibility for damage
The question was whether the fault of the deceased’s fellow workman, they both having disobeyed their foreman’s instructions, was to be regarded as having contributed to the accident.
Held: A plaintiff must ‘share in the responsibility for the . .
CitedSaunders v Edwards CA 24-Mar-1986
The parties had agreed for the sale and purchase of land and chattels, but had deliberately misdescribed the apportionment so as to reduce tax liability. The purchasers then brought an action for misrepresentation. The vendor replied that the action . .
CitedHall v Hebert 29-Apr-1993
(Canadian Supreme Court) After they had been drinking heavily together, Mr Hebert, who owned a muscle car, allowed Mr Hall to drive it, including initially to give it a rolling start down a road on one side of which there was a steep slope. The car . .
CitedThackwell v Barclays Bank plc 1986
The plaintiff was party to a fraudulent scheme under which a cheque had been made payable to him. The plaintiff’s signature endorsing the cheque to a third party was forged and in reliance on the forgery the bank credited the third party. The . .
CitedCross v Kirkby CA 18-Feb-2000
The claimant was a hunt saboteur and the defendant a local farmer. The claimant shouted to the defendant ‘You’re fucking dead’ and jabbed him in the chest and throat with a broken baseball bat. In order to ward off further blows, the defendant . .
CitedTinsley v Milligan HL 28-Jun-1993
Two women parties used funds generated by a joint business venture to buy a house in which they lived together. It was vested in the sole name of the plaintiff but on the understanding that they were joint beneficial owners. The purpose of the . .
CitedRiches v News Group Newspapers Ltd CA 20-Feb-1985
The defendant published serious defamatory allegations against several plaintiff police officers. The defendant newspaper appealed against an award of andpound;250,000 exemplary damages for their defamation of the respondent police officers.

Cited by:

CitedGray v Thames Trains Ltd and Another CA 25-Jun-2008
The claimant was a victim of the Ladbroke Grove rail crash. He later committed and was convicted of a manslaughter and detained under the 1983 Act. He said that the accident had caused a major personality change. The defendant relied on the defence . .
CitedGray v Thames Trains and Others HL 17-Jun-2009
The claimant suffered psychiatric injury in a rail crash caused by the defendant’s negligence. Under this condition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the claimant had later gone on to kill another person, and he had been detained under section 41. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Police, Negligence

Leading Case

Updated: 02 May 2022; Ref: scu.136175