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Scutts v PC Keys; Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

29 May 2001
The issues

Emergency Vehicles – Civil Liability Of Police Driver.

The facts

The Claimant then 17 was struck by a police car driven by the Defendant when on duty. At 10.15 p.m. the Claimant was crossing the road to catch a bus wearing dark clothing and apparently “keen to catch the bus”. The collision with the police car caused him severe brain damage from which he had recovered well although not to the extent that he would ever be able to hold down a responsible job or live independently. The Judge below had found that the lighting was not good and that although the police driver had a duty to reach the scene of a burglary to which he had been called out as soon as possible, he nonetheless owed a duty to the public to drive with due care and attention. Had he been driving at 30 mph within the limit he would have been able to stop in time. The Defendant appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The decision

Speed was not the deciding factor alone in determining whether the driver was negligent. Emergency service vehicles on duty were expressly exempted from criminal charges in respect of breaking the speed limit, ignoring keep left signs and traffic lights. A driver in the emergency services was entitled to expect that other people would note the signs of his approach such as sirens and flashing lights.

In the circumstances of the case the police officer had been entitled to accelerate through the green lights at the junction and to do so at speed.

Appeal allowed.

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