Law Pod UK latest: Do the police owe potential victims a duty to warn of harm?
5 July 2023
Traditionally, the courts have been extremely reluctant to impose a positive duty of care on the police to protect or warn members of the public who may be potential victims of crime. This sort of liability, it is thought, would lead to defensive policing.
In a leading authority on this issue, Hill v Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police (the Peter Sutcliffe case 1989), the House of Lords said that the imposition of a duty of care to individual members of the public would be detrimental.
“A great deal of police time, trouble and expense might be expected to have to be put into the preparation of the defence to the action and the attendance of witnesses at the trial. The result would be a significant diversion of police manpower and attention from their most important function, that of the suppression of crime”.
Only in exceptional cases would a remedy sounding in damages be granted to a victim or their family. Now that has all been changed by a recent decision from the High Court in Woodcock v Chief Constable of Northamptonshire  EWHC 1062 (KB)
In Episode 187 of Law Pod UK, Rosalind English discusses with barrister Conor Monighan of 5 Essex Court the implications of this decision for the police and other public authorities in the UK. I would urge anyone interested in this subject not only to listen to the podcast but also to read Conor’s deep dive into the case in his recent post on UKHRB: A Common Law Duty of Care to Issue an Osman Warning? In that post you will find references to previous authorities on police liability in this context, with full citations.
And … please keep the feedback rolling! It will only take you a couple of minutes to fill in this very short anonymous survey. Thank you in advance. www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/LawPodUK