The working assumption of most police lawyers is that a common law duty of care will not arise where call handlers tell 999 callers that the police will attend and assist. The judgment in Sherratt v Chief Constable of GMP  EWHC 1746 (QB) demonstrates that a more careful analysis is required. In this case, some fairly common and non-specific assurances were sufficient to give rise to a duty of care.
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.
In Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police  UKSC 4, the Supreme Court made significant inroads into the principle that the police cannot be sued in negligence save in exceptional circumstances as a result of alleged failures in their core operational duties. Now, where a third party such as a pedestrian is injured as a result of a negligent arrest on the street by a police officer, the police are liable in negligence where that injury was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the police’s actions
This is the most important police law case for a generation. It goes to the heart of when a duty of care will be imposed on the police for the performance of their operational duties. The news is very bad if you are a Chief Constable. The news is very good if you are a claimant (or defendant) lawyer.
The case of McCarthy v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police  EWCA Civ 1257 provides an interesting analysis of the tort of battery, trespass ab initio and use of reasonable force relating to use of a taser in a policing context. The Court of Appeal judgments provide clear recognition of the difficulties and realities faced by police officers in the context of fast moving, violent incidents in which fine judgments are difficult and provide important guidance as to the correct factual and legal approach in such cases.
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.