The police have many powers to apprehend offenders, some of which necessarily involve putting bystanders to inconvenience. However, the Supreme Court (the highest Court in England and Wales) have recently emphasised that the police have a duty to protect innocent standers by from injury when carrying out their operations.
In July 2008 Ms Robinson, a 76 year old lady living in Huddersfield, was walking in her home town centre. She was knocked suddenly and forcefully to the ground by two police officers trying to apprehend a drug dealer. All three men fell on top of her, causing her serious injuries.
The Court had to decide was whether the police officers owed Ms Robinson a duty of care to keep her reasonably safe when carrying out the arrest, and whether they had breached that duty. They had not noticed she was there but admitted that it was foreseeable that the offender would run away and that members of the public might get in the way. The first Court decided that the officers had been not taken sufficient care for Ms Robinson’s safety, but that it was not fair, just and reasonable to impose a duty of care for bystanders on the police when carrying out arrests. This meant that she was unsuccessful.
Ms Robinson appealed to the Supreme Court, who confirmed that the police were not immune from liability for injury caused to innocent persons when investigating or preventing crime. Although their duty to keep people safe is not absolute, when they themselves have created the danger (as they did with Ms Robinson) they should be held liable. Ms Robinson will therefore compensated for her injuries by the police.
If you have been injured during a police operation in which you were not the offender, please contact us for a free initial opinion.