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Millward v Oxfordshire County Council, High Court, 20 February 2004

2 March 2004
The issues

Teachers – assault – secure residential unit – Council Directive 89/391 – contributory negligence.

The facts

The Claimant was a 47-year old female Teacher who taught one day a week at a secure residential unit. In April 2000, she was assaulted by an in-mate at the unit who had arrived 10 days before. At other care homes previously, he had assaulted other members of staff and had shown an inclination to assault women. When he arrived at the care home, he had come without documentary evidence with regard to the previous assaults. The day after his arrival, staff had a meeting and the in-mate’s history of violence was discovered. The Claimant had not been directly told of the history of violence. The Claimant had asked the in-mate to “shut up” and had been responded to by an assault, causing minor bruising and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She brought an action against the Local Authority in respect of its alleged breach of duty of care and claimed that she had an enforceable right against the Local Authority under Council Directive 89/391.

The decision

1. The secure accommodation unit run by the Local Authority had a duty to obtain all relevant information before admitting him or her to the unit and to inform anyone likely to come into contact with the individual if they posed a risk or had a history of violence.

2. In this case the risk was clear and the Claimant had not been adequately informed.

3. The Claimant had no enforceable right under Council Directive 89/391 since the employer’s obligations at the time of the assault were too general to confer any right on individual workers.

4. In respect of the assault and PTSD likely to last for 6 years, general damages of £15,000.00 would be awarded. The Claimant would be found liable to the extent of 25% for contributory negligence on the basis that she had responded to the in-mates talking in class in a manner, which was confrontational and risky.

Judgment for the Claimant.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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