In Griffiths v (1) Chief Constable of Suffolk (2) Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust  EWHC 2538 (QB), the High Court dismissed claims that the Chief Constable and the NHS Trust were negligent in breaching their duties of care or had breached human rights. The case is interesting for reaffirming three points:
i. the law will generally not impose liability on a defendant for failing to prevent harm caused by someone else;
ii. obligations under Article 2 (right to life) or Article 3 (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) will not arise where the institution does not know of a real risk that those rights would be breached; and
iii. where there is a protective duty in respect of ECHR, Articles 2 or 3, a breach of Article 8 (respect for private and family life) cannot succeed where Articles 2 or 3 are not themselves breached.
The latest decision of the Court of Appeal in Parker v Chief Constable of Essex Police  EWCA Civ 2788 is important for all police lawyers. The facts are quite detailed but, essentially, where the police perform an unlawful arrest (which would result in unlawful detention), the arrested person will receive only nominal damages where they could and would have been lawfully arrested had the correct procedures been followed.
There is also a second element – which is that the question of whether the police have a reasonable suspicion for the purpose of making an arrest ought to be considered in the round; courts ought not to over-compartmentalise the issue by analysing each factor separately.
The High Court has held in Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v Brown  EWHC 2046 (Admin) that qualified one-way costs shifting (‘QOCS’) protection does not apply automatically in proceedings where a claimant is advancing both a claim for damages for personal injury and a claim other than a claim for damages for personal injury (a ‘mixed claim’).
The Supreme Court has held in James-Bowen & Ors v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis  UKSC 40 that the Commissioner owed no duty to protect the economic and reputational interests of officers whose alleged misconduct formed the subject of a civil claim, which the Commissioner had settled.
The officers had been involved in executing the arrest of BA at BA’s home in December 2003. BA accused the officers of having assaulted and abused him, allegations which received widespread media coverage. He brought a civil claim against the Commissioner, who was vicariously liable for the officers’ actions and who settled the claim with an admission of liability (relating to the officers’ alleged wrongdoing) and payment of compensation. The officers were not parties to the civil claim and had declined to give evidence at the trial due to fears for their own safety following the release of their identities into the public domain by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, now the Independent Office for Police Conduct. After the civil claim was settled, the officers were prosecuted in the Crown Court: a jury speedily acquitted them following disclosure of a probe in BA’s home which undermined his version of events.
The officers brought claims against the Commissioner, as their quasi-employer, for having failed to protect their interests in the conduct of the civil litigation including the settlement of the claim.