A police officer shot an unarmed suspect, wrongly thinking he was aiming a gun. A claim for damages in Davis v Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis  EWHC 38 (QB) failed because the officer was reasonably and honestly mistaken and acted in self-defence. Briefing the officer with inaccurate information was not negligent because the suspect was not owed a duty of care.
The story of PC David Rathband, shot and blinded by Raoul Moat on 4th July 2010, and his subsequent suicide in February 2012, is one of the most traumatic for the police service in recent years. Prior to his death he had commenced legal proceedings against the Chief Constable of Northumbria Constabulary arising out of the shooting. The claim was carried on after his death by his brother and sister, on behalf of his dependants and estate.
Two weeks ago the High Court gave its judgment in Rathband v Chief Constable of Northumbria  EWHC 181 (QB). It dismissed the claim in negligence brought against the Chief Constable of Northumbria Police. In doing so the Court had to determine where the balance lay between the competing principles that (1) a Chief Constable owes a duty of care to serving officers, and (2) the immunity from suit in negligence that a Chief Constable generally enjoys in relation to operational decisions.
Last October Gilbart J gave judgment in Mohidin & Ors v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis & Ors  EWHC 2740 (QB), a case involving allegations of racially aggravated assault, unlawful arrest and false imprisonment against four officers within the Metropolitan Police Service. The litigation was unusual in that the Commissioner had opted to bring Part 20 claims against the individual officers, who were separately represented at the trial. In the recent, supplementary judgment ( EWHC 105 (QB)), Gilbart J has allowed the Commissioner’s claims for indemnity in respect of damages and costs against the officers who acted unlawfully.
The recent case of Ewing v Cardiff and Newport Crown Court  EWHC 183 (Admin) relating to restrictions on members of the public taking notes in criminal hearings in the Crown Court will have application in relation to similar restrictions in police misconduct hearings. The starting position is that note taking will be permitted – and a chair should not require observers to ask for permission before making any.
Last week the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decided in the case of Barbulescu v Romania  ECHR 61 that it was not a breach of an employee’s Article 8 rights for his employer to access a private, web-based email and messenger account. The case was widely reported in the press as a major development in the relationships between employers and employees. It has obvious ramifications for many aspects of policing, including officer’s conduct at work and the investigation of it by supervising officers or the Professional Standards Department.
So what does the decision actually change?