On appeal from: [2014] EWCA Civ 15.

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal, though Lord Mance and Lord Hughes reached the conclusion that a duty of care existed by different reasoning. The proposition that there is a Caparo test which applies to all claims in the modern law of negligence, and that in consequence the court will only impose a duty of care where it considers it fair, just and reasonable to do so on the particular facts, is mistaken. The case of Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [1989] AC 53 is not authority for the proposition that the police enjoy a general immunity from suit in respect of anything done by them in the course of investigating or preventing crime. The effect of Hill is that the police do not owe a duty of care, in the absence of special circumstances, to protect the public from harm through the performance of their function of investigating crime. Applying this principle from Hill, the police may be under a duty of care to protect an individual from danger of injury which they have themselves created. The reasonably foreseeable risk of injury to the Appellant when the arrest was attempted was enough to impose a duty of care on the officers. The Appellant’s injuries were caused by the officers’ breach of their duty of care; she was injured as a result of being exposed to the danger from which they had a duty of care to protect her.

Lord Mance and Lord Hughes agreed with the majority that the present case concerned a positive act, not an omission, and that the finding of the trial judge on negligence should be restored.  However, Lord Mance concluded that the direct physical interface between the police and the public, in the course of an arrest placing an innocent passer-by at risk, as falling within a now established area of general police liability for positive negligent conduct which foreseeably and directly inflicts physical injury.

Lord Hughes referred to policy considerations in concluding that these considerations are the ultimate reason why there is no duty of care imposed on police officers engaged in the investigation and prevention of crime towards victims, suspects or witnesses. The greater public good requires the absence of any duty of care.

For judgment, please download: [2018] UKSC 4
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (12 Jul 2017 morning session) (12 Jul 2017 afternoon session)