• What documents ought the Appropriate Authority to be disclosing to the officer, the panel and now the public?
  • One option is to supply the officer with the IO’s report “warts and all” with all statements and documents relating to the officer, together with an invitation to the officer either to agree duplication of service on the panel, or service of redacted material.
  • Adopting such an approach may avoid unnecessary arguments about bias and recusal on the grounds of prejudice.
  • However, it is attended by the risk that a complainant, or the IPCC, could complain that the AA is in breach of its Reg. 27(1) obligation. 

  • The majority of the Supreme Court have once again concluded that the police owe no duty of care in negligence to members of the public who suffer harm at the hands of criminals.  
  • However, the case of Michael v Chief Constable of South Wales [2015] UKSC 2 has confirmed that, although there may be no claim in negligence, the police may still be liable for a breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).  
  • Such claims can be brought in the domestic courts under the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998.  
  • The police may be held liable to victims (or their families) for clear failures to prevent a potentially fatal incident of domestic violence of which they have received specific warning.

A review of the reported legal decisions 2014 relating to policing demonstrates that many of the old risk areas for litigation continued to trouble chief police officers, and increasingly Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).   While it is difficult for a force to protect itself from litigation following unpredictable major events, such as the London riots, there are particular aspects of policing where forces continue to face repeated litigation, or trends suggest that claims are likely to increase in the future.  

The public scrutiny of police activity, and the rights of individual members of the public to bring action when their rights are infringed, are truly fundamental features of open democracy.   A certain amount of civil litigation is probably an inevitable feature of modern policing.  However, Chief Officers and PCCs ought to be examining carefully whether there are aspects of their police operations that are generating excessive civil claims.  Reducing the incidence of such claims ought to improve the standards of policing as well as reducing the annual drain on policing budgets caused by legal claims and their associated costs. 

A recent High Court case has recognised the heightened ethical and public law duty on Chief Officers when a Force provides references to outside bodies regarding officers who are leaving the police.  The duty is particularly pertinent to situations where officers leave under the cloud of potential or pending disciplinary proceedings. 

Following the death of Ian Tomlinson, the spotlight has been on internal police vetting procedures and how to ensure that information about an officer’s misconduct history is shared at the relevant points, such as when an officer seeks to transfer or re-join a force.  The decision in AB v A Chief Constable [2014] EWHC 1965 (QB) recognises a need to be just as alert, and where necessary to share information about, officers who are leaving the police force altogether.  

The obtaining and execution of search warrants remains an area of operational risk for the police. The margin for error is often narrow. In two cases in the last year the courts have provided useful and important clarification of issues concerning search warrants that had not previously been definitively determined. Further guidance has also been given on how search warrant applications should be drafted, and the impact that disclosure obligations have on the process. Judicial guidance can sometimes (understandably) be overlooked by officers, but will be relied upon in any subsequent challenge. This article highlights the guidance given in recent cases which has important practical implications.

On 7 August 2014 judgment was given in the Administrative Court in the  case of Woods and Gorton v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police [2014] EWHC 2784 (Admin).  The decision  has important implications for all forces in the operation of service confidence policies (SCP).  The Court held that:

  • decisions under the SCP were amenable to judicial review;
  • where reasons for the policy’s use in a particular case cannot be disclosed as a result of public interest immunity, then the threshold for judicial interference in the decision is very high;
  • the test is whether there is clear evidence of dishonesty, bias or caprice.

Central to the decision that the court should not intervene in this case was the finding at a separate hearing, by a different judge, that the reasons for the decisions under the SCP were subject to Public Interest Immunity (PII) and could not be disclosed.  

US journalist, James Foley, was seized by armed men in Syria in November 2012 and was killed by a man with an apparently British accent. David Cameron condemned the barbaric and brutal murder and confirmed that: “it looks increasingly likely that [the perpetrator] is a British citizen.” He explained that intentions of the British government were “…to arrest and prosecute those who take part in this extremism and violence.” So what are the powers of the English authorities to prosecute a murder committed abroad by a British citizen, and do any such powers extend to foreign accomplices in that murder? 

One of the categories of arrest that seems most likely to trigger a subsequent claim for damages is that following entry into domestic premises without a warrant. Claims for trespass, assault and false imprisonment are costly for the force, in terms of legal fees, time and resources, officer morale and reputation.

Claimants may feel particularly aggrieved: their privacy has been violated, and they will seize the moral high ground: an Englishman’s home continues to be seen as their castle. The courts are receptive to concerns about trespass and invasion of privacy. This was the case for centuries before the right to privacy and family life was enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1988 (Schedule 1, Article 8).

Over the years, judges have given firm guidance to constables, imposing a high legal threshold, for crossing the threshold into a person’s home. Nevertheless, the frequency with which civil claims are brought, and need to be settled, suggests that some confusion lingers. This may be because some of the case law is counter-intuitive; or perhaps the guidance is simply not being heeded, for instance because of poor training.