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Leach v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary [1999] 1 WLR 1421.

DUTY OF CARE

Facts

The plaintiff had acted as the ‘appropriate adult’ during the police questioning of a criminal who was accused of numerous murders. Her role was voluntary, she had received no specific training, and she was given no warning of the nature of the crimes of which the accused was charged with before agreeing to act as the appropriate adult. Her role included attending interviews and crime scenes with the defendant, and at times she was even left alone with him. She suffered post traumatic stress disorder as a result of her involvement in the case and sought to recover damages from the defendant police force for the psychiatric damage which she had suffered. At first instance Batterbury J held that no duty of care existed, and the plaintiff appealed this finding.

Issue

The issue on appeal was whether the police owed a duty of care to a volunteer to consider their suitability of a volunteer for the role of appropriate adult and to provide information, support, and counselling to those undertaking such a role.

Held

The Court of Appeal held that a duty of care did exist. In arriving at this decision, they considered it critical that the element of proximity was established by the fact that the police had placed the plaintiff in the stressful situation. In doing so, the police had assumed a responsibility towards her. Pill LJ compared the duty to the plaintiff to that which would exist towards any member of the public who was placed in the presence of an individual known to pose a risk of verbal or physical violence.


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