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Vellino v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester

6 August 2001
The issues

Lease – Duty of care to an arrested person

The facts

The claimant, a known criminal, was arrested in September 1994. It was known to the police that he frequently evaded arrest by jumping from the window of his flat, which was on the second floor. On this occasion he jumped from a bedroom window of his flat and fractured his skull. He sued the police. The judge at first instance found as a fact that the officers had permitted the claimant to jump and that if there was a duty of care to prevent that sort of injury they had breached. But he went on however to find that under these circumstances and relying on the ex turpi doctrine (i.e. you cannot bring an action based on your wrong doing) that he did not think there was a duty of care but if there had been the police would have had a defence.

The decision

1.There was no duty on the police to prevent him hurting himself whilst trying to escape.

2. Once he had been arrested, the police had certain duties of care. It was the detention and not the arrest that gave rise to the duties in those circumstances.

3. The claimant had injured himself when he had escaped from lawful custody. At that point he was committing a crime and no longer in the immediate power of the officer.

4. N.B. Mr Justice Sedley disagreed in the dissenting judgment that taking a view that the duty was owed not to give the claimant a temptation to escape or an opportunity of doing so when there was a known risk that he would do himself real harm.

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