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Mullaney v Chief Constable of the West Midlands, Court of Appeal, 15 May 2001

21 May 2001
The issues

Police – Duty Owed To A Constable – Dereliction Of Duty On The Part Of Colleague – Vicarious Liability

The facts

The Claimant was injured in the course of a police operation relating to importuning in public lavatories. Whilst alone and trying to arrest a suspect he was assaulted and seriously injured. He brought an action against the Chief Constable alleging that the injuries that he sustained in the later stages of the incident were caused by the failure of another Police Officer to come to his aid and stop the attack. At Trial it was found as a fact that there had been a serious dereliction of duty on the part of a fellow officer (K) – that the Claimant’s injuries would have been prevented had K come to his aid – that there had been a cover up by the creation of a false log and false evidence given in Court by Police Officers. The Chief Constable appealed.

The decision

K had failed to comply with a specific police duty that had exposed the Claimant to risk of injury. There was no distinction between the duty owed by an employer to his employee and the duty owed by a Chief Constable to Police Officers in his charge. The relationship between the Chief Constable and his Officers was so closely analogous to that between an employer and employees to make it just in principal to hold that he owed the same duties – namely a non delegable duty of care to devise and operate a safe system of work. There was no public policy reason why that duty should not extend to the system involving K. The Defendant was therefore liable for breach of duty if care was not exercised to operate the system safely. If K had exercised reasonable care the system would have been safely operated. The Defendant was liable vicariously for K’s failure.

Appeal dismissed.

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