Special duty problems: omissions and acts of third parties

On the obligation (or otherwise) of a medical doctor to come forward when someone is in medical distress, even when it is not their patient, see the Australian case Lowns & Anor v Woods & Ors (1996) Aust. Torts Reports 81-376, 63,151, and a case note by Lynda Crowley-Smith commenting on the decision in (1996) 3 James Cook University Law Review 137
Note the different approach to that taken in English law.

Mother loses compensation battle
News report on the outcome of the Rosie Palmer case (Palmer v Tees Health Authority [1999])

Video/audio news clip on the Rosie Palmer case giving background and context

Child killer must serve 16 years – further context on the criminal aspect of the Rosie Palmer case

Home office blunder left man free to rape
A newspaper report on the story of Rashid Musa (K v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2002]) and the criminal trial against him. Musa was an asylum seeker who had been imprisoned for rape, and who committed two further rapes months after the home office negligently failed to deport him. He was given five life sentences and told he was a psychopath and 'an evil and dangerous man', but the civil case against him by one of the victims he raped after his release failed.

Freed to rape and kill: two men who should have been deported. More on Rashid Musa, also this time including a similar report about 18 year old Indrit Krasniqi.

Errors left 'sadist' free to kill
Despite earlier cases such as Palmer and K, errors are still sometimes made. In 2008, for example, two French students were murdered in London after ‘a catalogue of failures’ led to the murderers being free. At the time this looked likely to also become a civil case.

The parents of the two murdered French students said they will prosecute British authorities over the failures in the justice system which contributed to their sons' deaths. This is the Sky News report on YouTube.

Probation blunders in French students murder case: 'Levels of chaotic organisation in the public service', The Guardian
Here you can download an Alan Travis audio file on probation blunders involved in the French students murder case

See also this from Australia:

In Hunter and New England Local Health District v McKenna; Hunter and New England Local Health District v Simon [2014] HCA 44 (12 November 2014) the High Court of Australia unanimously overturned a 2-1 decision of the NSW Court of Appeal, by holding that a hospital which had detained a patient as mentally ill, did not owe a duty of care to the relatives of a person killed by that patient when released:

Review of 10 killings uncovers failings at NHS mental health trust that 'severely underestimated' risk posed by patients, The Telegraph, 18 October 2016


Chris Brennan inquest: Hospital neglect 'contributed to teenager's death' BBC News, 21 September 2016

‘NHS trust 'truly sorry' about death of teenager Connor Sparrowhawk’ The Guardian 18 September 2017

‘Neighbour from hell’ admits killing - a BBC report on the background to Mitchell v Glasgow County Council [2009]

Bangladesh: 77m poisoned by arsenic in drinking water – a BBC report updating the situation in Bangladesh (which led to the Sutradhar case in 2006) regarding arsenic in hand-pumped wells. The World Health Organisation described the exposure as "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history"

The problem does not seem to be going away:

‘Can technology help Bangladesh end mass arsenic poisoning?’ Reuters 28 August 2017

See also: ‘50 Million People in Pakistan Are at Risk of Arsenic Poisoning From Contaminated Groundwater’, Time, 24 August 2017
The news item contains a written and audio report on a similar issue to that in Sudtrahar occurring in Pakistan in 2017.

Negligence liability for omissions – some fundamental distinctions, Nicholas J. McBride, Cambridge Student Law Review [2006]
In his words, this article, by a Cambridge tort lawyer, ‘set[s] out some important distinctions that students should bear in mind in trying to understand and evaluate this area of the law’.

Human rights and clinical negligence claims – a patient’s Right to Life
1st March 2013
February 2013 marked the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment in Rabone and another (Appellants) v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust (Respondent). This was a significant anniversary due to the interesting interplay between Human Rights and Clinical Negligence law and its impact on subsequent cases in the courts; but is it still too soon for anyone to fully appreciate the decision’s significance, asks this blog entry written by a clinical negligence practitioner.

A blog entry from David Hart QC on the UK Human Rights Blog discusses the recently-decided Bedford v. Bedfordshire County Council [2013] EWHC 1717 (QB), a claim brought in human rights but with many similarities to other negligence omissions cases (which the court acknowledged would not work in the alternative): ‘Brain-damaged claimant fails in Article 8 claim against Council’ 2 July 2013 at

Joanne Conaghan, 'Challenging and Redressing Police Failures in the Context of Rape Investigations: The Civil Liability Route' http://private-law-theory.org/?p=6784
An audio recording of Professor Joanne Conaghan discussing the Michael case (also relevant to the public bodies chapter), and explaining the potential that civil remedies might have in such circumstances can be found here.


Home Office v Dorset Yacht Co Ltd [1970]

Barrett v Ministry of Defence [1995]

Costello v Chief Constable of Northumbria Police [1999]

Palmer v Tees Health Authority [1999]

Reeves v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2000]

Mitchell v Glasgow City Council [2009]

Michael v Chief Constable of South Wales Police [2015]

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