Police Negligence – Victory on Hill Immunity

Yesterday the UK Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision on the tort of negligence in the case of Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [2018] UKSC 4.

In July 2008, the claimant (then aged 76) was injured when knocked over by two police officers in the course of the arrest of a suspected drug dealer. She suffered personal injury as a result.

It was held by the Court that it was reasonably foreseeable that in carrying out the arrest when and where they did; a pedestrian such as the elderly claimant, may be knocked over and injured. That “reasonably foreseeable” risk of injury was enough to impose a duty of care. The claimant was injured in the tussle that followed the officers’ intervention. There was no break in the chain of causation. The claimant was injured as a result of the officers’ breach of their duty to protect her.

In relation to the liability of the police and public authorities more generally, this is a landmark case in which the Court has decided that the police do owe a duty of care to avoid causing foreseeable personal injury to another person.  Furthermore, this duty extends to protect an individual from a danger of injury, which they themselves have created.

Case law has previously been interpreted so as to afford the police with immunity in relation to negligence by their actions.  However this case confirms that liability for personal injury arises against the police under ordinary principles. Immunity under the case of Hill arises only in relation to the protection of the public from harm through the performance by the police of their function of the investigation of crime.

If you would like to know more about this insight or for more information about actions against the police generally, please contact Amy French who heads our police action department.