Dr Nicholas Bevan

Dr Nicholas Bevan
www.nicholasbevan.com

Friday, 7 March 2014

HUMAN RIGHTS ACT PLUGS GAP IN TORT LAW

Police liable to victims of serial rapist


Perhaps one reason why many of us are not well served by our local police force may have something to do with the arcane policy that holds that the police are not subject to a duty of care in their investigation of crimes, see for example: Smith v Chief Constable of Sussex [2009] 1 AC 225.  This is surely a disincentive to greater diligence and effort in these matters and it probably accounts for that special brand of insouciant complacency peculiar to certain police officers.  

However they may like to dress up their role and their constitutional relationship to the Crown and perhaps more importantly, to the tax-paying public (who pay their wages, in what is supposed to be a representative democracy) the Police are de facto public servants: no more and no less.  As such the Police should be held accountable for gross neglects of duty,  especially where they result in reasonably foreseeable consequences of such dire gravity - to the very people whom they are supposed to protect.

In  DSD and another v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2014] EWHC 436 (QB) Mr Justice Green ruled that article 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 entitled claimants who were raped and assaulted by the odious ‘black cab rapist’ Mr Warboys to compensation  because the Police's incompetent investigation over many years had infringed their article 3 rights.  This judgment exposes the deficiencies in a tort law system that would otherwise have denied over 100 victims any compensatory redress either from the Police (on policy grounds) or from the perpetrator's motor insurers, as to which see: AXN & Ors v Worboys & Ors [2012] EWHC 1730 (QB).  Article 3, prohibits torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and it has repeatedly been held to enshrine one of the most fundamental values of any democratic society. 

It is deplorable then that Theresa May appears to have committed the Conservative party to abolishing the Human Rights Act if they are re-elected.  O tempora, o mores!

See: MoD loses its ability to hide its neglect, in which I comment on a Supreme Court HRA ruling that plugged another gap in the protection afforded under under our domestic law  Smith & Ors v Ministry of Defence [2013] UKSC 41 

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