Special duty problems: public bodies

On Smith v Ministry of Defence [2013]

The Supreme Court judgment, from a seven-member court (with a 4-3 split), can be accessed here. Have a look in particular at the dissenting judgment of Lord Mance. Given the topic of the case (whether members of the armed forces are protected by Article 2 ECHR even when off-base, and whether the MoD – a public body – owes them a private law duty of care in negligence), whatever the outcome was it was likely to cause considerable debate. Some news reports of the decision and some responses to it are below.

Supreme court MoD ruling 'will have huge impact on military operations' The Guardian (19 June 2013)

‘The Supreme Court's ruling will be greeted with dismay at the MoD’ The Guardian (19 June 2013) – Joshua Rozenberg comments on the case, saying ‘The families of the soldiers killed in Iraq have won an important victory. But it is far from end of their fight for compensation’:

‘The Supreme Court Mothballs the British Army’ The Spectator (19 June 2013) – Alex Mackie argues that the decision was wrong:

Marko Milanovic, ‘UK Supreme Court Decides Smith (No. 2) v. The Ministry of Defence’, European Journal of International Law: Talk! (blog site) – this focuses more on the Human Rights aspect of the judgment but good in terms of what this might mean both for the law and for the claimants when their case is heard:

Hodge, Jones and Allen Solicitors’ press release ‘Supreme Court rules on MoD’s duty to equip troops’ contains comments from the lawyer representing the families:

Richard Scorer, ‘The judicialisation of war?’ New Law Journal 2 August 2013 http://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/nlj/content/judicialisation-war

Military Negligence: Reforming Tort Liability after Smith v. Ministry of Defence
Paper presented to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee by Dr. Jonathan Morgan, Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge, November 2013: http://www.biicl.org/files/6759_military_negligence_paper-_jonathan_morgan.pdf

See also:

Dominic Ruck Keen, ‘War inside the court room’ UK Human Rights Blog 29 March 2015

And the latest in the ongoing tale:

Clive Coleman, ‘Mother wins MoD apology over 'Snatch' Land Rover death’ BBC News 18 August 2017

Thomas Beamont, ‘The Round-Up: Rights in war, Rights at work, Rights in marriage’ UK Human Rights Blog, 20 August 2017

Jem Collins, ‘Ministry of Defence Finally Apologises After ‘Snatch’ Land Rover Death’ RightsInfo 18 August 2017

Resources linked to police negligence

Robinson (Appellant) v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police (Respondent) was heard in the Supreme Court in July 2017
The issue: The "Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police" immunity protects the police from claims when in the course of their core duties they negligently cause injury to passers-by. Does this apply in a case where the relevant police act was a positive act? Was the Court of Appeal correct to overturn the first instance findings of negligence?
The hearing can be watched via this link: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2016-0082.html

More than 200 police a year quit to avoid complaints

‘Police criticised over handling of Forest Gate mother’s murder’ 14 February 2017

Latest public views on Policing in the England and Wales 2015/16

In 2015, HMIC commissioned Ipsos MORI to undertake a survey of public perceptions of policing in England and Wales. This report sets out the results of this survey. Find out what over 25,000 people thought about policing: http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/publications/public-views-policing-england/

Stephen Lawrence

Guardian newspaper coverage of all items relating to Stephen Lawrence, subsequent inquiries, later findings about cover-ups, investigations of police officers involved etc.:

Stephen Lawrence murder: A timeline of how the story unfolded (6 March 2014)

The Guardian Audio Edition: Stephen Lawrence police smear campaign - 24 June 2013. Audio versions of a selection of articles from the Guardian newspaper and website at

Video clip - Doreen Lawrence speaks after meeting Met police chief (28 June 2013)
Stephen Lawrence's mother, Doreen Lawrence, speaks after meeting Metropolitan police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe. The pair discussed accusations that police officers were ordered to smear the Lawrence family to undermine their campaign to bring Stephen's racist killers to justice. She says it will take time for the police to regain trust

20th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence murder

An anniversary appeal broadcast on BBC1's Crimewatch in April 2013 asking for information on the murder of Stephen Lawrence in south-east London in 1993 (the same incident in which Dwayne Brooks was attacked),  has apparently prompted two ‘very significant’ phone calls which could yield a witness to the attack, according to police:

Stephen Lawrence clues in wake of TV appeal http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/stephen-lawrence-clues-in-wake-of-tv-appeal-8598295.html

Stephen Lawrence: Crimewatch appeal prompts 'significant' calls http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/apr/30/stephen-lawrence-crimewatch-appeal-calls

Stephen Lawrence’s mother, Doreen, has campaigned since the murder on behalf of her son. As politicians joined her at a service to mark the 20-year anniversary, Labour called for a new ‘MacPherson-style enquiry’: Stephen Lawrence's mother attends service to mark 20 years since murder http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/apr/22/stephen-lawrence-mother-service-anniversary and see http://archive.labour.org.uk/need-for-review-of-racism-in-the-police-service

In an ironic turn of events, one of the men convicted of the killing of Stephen Lawrence says he will sue the Ministry of Defence for failing to protect him inside prison:
‘Stephen Lawrence killer David Norris to sue government’ BBC News 19 February 2017

The MacPherson Report

The official report from the Inquiry into the Steven Lawrence murder, detailing the failings of the police on that night and looking at the operations of the Metropolitan Police as a whole.

Update on MacPherson Report 10 years on:

The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust

Hill v CC of West Yorkshire

After the trial of Peter Sutcliffe, two inquiries were set up to determine what had gone wrong in the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper (the subject of Hill). The then Secretary of State for the Home Department, William Whitelaw, instigated an inquiry headed by the Inspector of Constabulary, Lawrence Byford, who was assisted by members of the ‘Super Squad’, the external advisory team originally set up in November 1980 to investigate the murders.
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 the Byford Report was released to the public in June 2006:

More Ripper crimes, says report

A second inquiry into the Yorkshire Ripper case was instigated by West Yorkshire Chief Constable Ronald Gregory. This internal police inquiry was headed by Assistant Chief Constable Colin Sampson (later to become Chief Constable of West Yorkshire). The Executive Summary of the Sampson Report is available at

Ripper committed more crimes, BBC News report on the day of the launch of the Byford Report

Smith v CC Sussex

Times Law report on the Smith judgment: Police cannot be sued for failure to prevent crime

BBC News clip on the Smith v West Sussex judgment from House of Lords: Police cleared of negligence, 30 July 2008

Jane Doe

It is interesting, however, to compare the reasoning in the Canadian case of Doe to more recent feminist arguments which criticise the police for telling women to be careful, evident to some extent in the recent phenomenon of ‘SlutWalks’, which started in Toronto and has spread to cities around the world. These protests were sparked by Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police officer, who suggested that ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts’ in order to be safe (see http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/about/faqs) – suggesting that ‘reform’ of officers in the Toronto force has not occurred since Jane Doe. SlutWalks have ‘divided feminists’ (see Guardian article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/07/marching-with-the-slutwalkers and more generally on the Guardian newspaper’s online page dedicated to Slutwalks: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/slutwalks).

In addition to the cases mentioned/detailed in the textbook (chapter 6, section 5.5.3), what might be termed negligence by the police often makes the news reports, as the following examples show. Similarly, a look at the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) website will result in further examples.

Michael v CC South Wales Police

In 2015 a 7-member Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that the claimant, Joanna Michael, could not succeed in negligence against the police, who had failed to come to her aid promptly after she had dialled 999 while being threatened by a former lover. However, there were two strong dissenting judgments and indication that the alternative human rights claim (based on Article 2) might be viable:

The judgment is on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRaariMil6Q

Analysis: Why can’t we sue the police for negligence?

Kate Beattie, ‘Police not liable in negligence to victim of domestic violence, but Article 2 claim proceeds’, UK Human Rights Blog, 4 February 2015

The Worboys Case

Also known as ‘the black cab rapist’, John Worboys escaped detection by police after a series of failures in their investigation. See, among many examples:

Cab driver John Worboys jailed for rape and sex attacks

Bungling police left evil black cabbie John Worboys free to drug, rape and sexually assault women

Worboys victim ‘not taken seriously’

Later, compensation was won by two of the women he raped – not via the tort of negligence, but under the Human Rights Act:

Taxi sex attacks: John Worboys' victims win pay-out bid

100 victims could sue in 'black cab rapist' John Worboys case

Julie Bindel, ‘Will the John Worboys case force the police to take rape seriously?’

Rosalind English, ‘Police have “Osman” duty to investigate in date rape cases’, UK Human Rights Blog 7 March 2014

Joanne Conaghan, ‘Should the police be sued for failings? We must empower victims of rape, sexual and domestic abuse’ PolicyBristol Hub 12 February 2015

Joanne Conaghan’s inaugural lecture (on Michael and other police negligence cases) 19th February 2015 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1bawCpPr30

In June 2015, after the current editions went to press, the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in DSD & NBV v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis.

The full judgment, which upholds the lower court decision of Green J in finding violations of Article 3 in the police's behaviour when the crimes were reported, can be viewed at https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/dsd_-nbv_and_karaou_judgment_30-6-15.pdf

An interview on the Today Programme with Deborah Glass, deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, on the John Worboys case

In March 2017 the Worboys case was heard in the Supreme Court. Southall Black Sisters demonstrated outside the court on the platform ‘Violence Against Women & Girls: No Justice Without Accountability’

The Supreme Court hearing (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (Appellant) v DSD and another (Respondents)) that took place on 13-14 March 2017, can be watched via the link at the bottom of this page:

See also:Sandra Laville, ‘Police appeal against ruling in favour of Worboys rape survivors’ The Guardian  10 March 2017

Camilla Turner, ‘Human Rights Act should not be used to sue police, Home Office to argue in landmark Supreme Court appeal’ The Telegraph 13 March 2017

Others relating to rape

Police compensate rape victim (reports that Scotland Yard made an out-of-court settlement with a woman who made a rape complaint that was not properly investigated by police): Met Police pay-out for rape complainant http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20705707 and http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/dec/13/metropolitan-police-rape-investigation.

Ian Tomlinson case

The newspaper seller – a bystander – who died after being pushed over by a police officer at the G20 protests in 2009): PC Simon Harwood guilty of gross misconduct
The page also contains links to other information, including a video apology.

Horden shootings

A man shot and killed 3 women – the police force knew he was violent and should have better scrutinised his firearms licence applications: IPCC highlights Durham Police failings http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tees-20316578.

An inquest into the deaths took place in March 2013 – the coroner described them as ‘avoidable’: Coroner calls for gun reform after Horden shootings

On Sexism in the Police Force (similar facts to Waters v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [1997])

Belinda Sinclair talks on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour about 17 years of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination as a Metropolitan police officer. She was awarded £500,000 in compensation.

Resources linked to negligence of care authorities / social services:

A blog post discussing the Court of Appeal decision in X & Y v London Borough of Hounslow [2009] (see deep-linked cases, below)

A blog post discussing the ECtHR application in the same case

Newspaper report on the ECtHR’s decision to strike out X&Y’s application after they agreed to a £70K settlement

‘X & Y v UK settled without hearing’ – blog post commenting on the settlement of the European Court of Human Rights claim re local authority's ‘duty’ to protect residents with learning disabilities from harassment http://nearlylegal.co.uk/blog/2011/07/x-y-v-uk-settled-without-hearing/

Rochdale abuse: Social services 'missed opportunities' – A BBC news report detailing the fact that ‘Social services and police "missed opportunities" to stop the sexual abuse of young girls in Rochdale’, according to revelations from a report released into the Rochdale grooming and abuse scandal. The news report linked to here includes a video and links to an interview with one of the girls concerned on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour

Rochdale abuse scandal: Victims likely to sue – a report in the Independent newspaper on the potential fall-out from the Rochdale grooming and abuse scandal, including an interview with the solicitor representing some of the victims http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/rochdale-abuse-scandal-victims-likely-to-sue-8181056.html

A & S (Children) v Lancashire County Council [2012] EWHC 1689 (Fam) (21 June 2012) – a case taken on a human rights (rather than negligence) basis, though with similar and recognisable facts in comparison with some of the other ‘care’ cases discussed in chapter 6. Interesting to see a different approach to the claim(s):

Council to pay £17k damages for “truly lamentable” failures in child care case

Rochdale abuse: Council chief faces MPs' questions

Rochdale abuse 'not exceptional'
- in the wake of the report into grooming in Rochdale, former children's minister Tim Loughton tells The World at One news programme that the Rochdale abuse was "not an exceptional set of circumstances", adding: "I hope that this had been a very severe wakeup call for Rochdale and others in similar situations that they have got to take child sexual exploitation seriously and have proper joined up action plans with local agencies to make sure it doesn't happen again on this level."

Full report on Rochdale: Review of Multi-agency Responses to the Sexual Exploitation of Children

‘Rochdale council finally apologises for failing to stop historic child abuse at Knowl View and Cambridge House Schools’ (18 September 2017)
In an extraordinary unsolicited statement, the town hall’s chief executive said the authority ‘cannot turn the clock back’ but recognises it could and should have done more...

The impact of Human Rights law generally

A great infographic has been produced by RightsInfo detailing the top 50 Human Rights cases in the UK. While they are not all relevant to this chapter, many of them are (and in any case the infographic is helpful to all students of law, not just tort law):

‘50 Human Rights cases that transformed Britain’

Report on the Home Affairs Select Committee findings about the IPCC. Chair Keith Vaz says: ‘When public trust in the police is tested by complaints of negligence, misconduct and corruption, a strong watchdog is vital to get to the truth - but the IPCC leaves the public frustrated and faithless’:

Police in the East Midlands issue hundreds of 'Osman warnings' – a news report (video) from December 2012 explaining the ‘Osman warning’ including what, why and when it is used, as well as detailing (according to a Freedom of Information Act request) the increase in their use http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-20777349

Metropolitan Police 'Osman' murder warnings treble – similarly, a FoIA request from the BBC in 2011 found that the use of Osman warnings by the Metropolitan Police was going up year on year

Iraq damages cases: Supreme Court rules families can sue, BBC News Online (19 June 2013)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22967853 - contains video comment from Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond about what will happen when the cases proceed to trial and are defended by the MoD, as well as on the ‘inappropriateness’ of judicial intervention in military matters.


East Suffolk Rivers Catchment Board v Kent [1941]

Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [1989]

Osman v Ferguson [1993]

Stovin v Wise [1996]

Osman v UK [1997]

Capital & Counties plc v Hampshire CC and other cases [1997]

Z v UK [2001]

TP & KM v UK [2001]

Kent v Griffiths [2001]

Phelps v Hillingdon London Borough Council and other cases [2001]

Barrett v Enfield London Borough Council [2001]

D v East Berkshire Community NHS Trust and other cases [2005]

Brooks v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis & Ors [2005]

Smith v Chief Constable of Sussex Police [2008]

X, Y (Protected parties represented by their litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v London Borough of Hounslow (QBD) [2008]

X, Y (Protected parties represented by their litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v London Borough of Hounslow (CA) [2009]

X, Y & Z v the United Kingdom - 32666/10 [2011] ECHR 1199 (5 July 2011) (ECtHR)

DSD & Anor v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2014] EWHC 436 (QB)

Michael v Chief Constable of South Wales Police [2015]

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