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Tort Law - Principles limiting actions in negligence against public bodies - Essay Example

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Critically assess the rule in Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [1989] AC 453 and consider both the justifications the courts have offered for maintaining the rule; and how the rule compares to other principles limiting actions in negligence against public bodies…
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Tort Law - Principles limiting actions in negligence against public bodies
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Download file to see previous pages This essay also analyses how the exclusionary rule compares to other principles used by the court to limit claims in negligence against public bodies. The Rule in Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire In Hill, the plaintiff’s son was the last victim of a serial killer known as the Yorkshire Ripper. The plaintiff claimed that had it not been for police negligence in detecting and apprehending the Yorkshire killer, her daughter would not have been murdered by him. The court ruled that the police do not owe the public a general duty of care in terms of apprehending criminals that are not known, unless failure to exercise care results in more risks. Moreover, police do not owe a general duty of care to individuals except in circumstances where there is proximity of relationship between the police and an identified victim.3 Lord Keith acknowledged that there may be a number of circumstances in which there may be a duty of care to the general public in the conduct of a number of activities that may require a higher standard of care. However, it is unreasonable to expect this kind of general duty to be applied to the activities that police conduct. Lord Keith went on to state: The general sense of public duty which motivates police forces is unlikely to be appreciably reinforced by the imposition of such liability so far as concerns their function in the investigation and suppression of crime. From time to time they make mistakes in the exercise of that function, but it is not to be doubted that they apply their best endeavours to the performance of it.4 It would therefore appear that in formulating and justifying the exclusionary rule, there is an assumption that in the investigation and suppression of crimes, police put forth their best efforts and any missteps are regarded as excusable errors. Such an assumption is unrealistic, but at the same time, police are accountable for intentional torts in terms of assault and battery. In such instances, proximity is clearly established. The court was very careful to emphasize that the exclusionary rule would apply only in some instances.5 Lord Keith clearly stated that it would be unreasonable to impose a duty of care I “some instances” as this “may lead to the exercise of a function being carried on in a detrimentally defensive frame of mind”.6 The court explained that the specific instances where it would be unreasonable to impose liability on police would be instances in which police were conducting investigations and suppressing crimes. Lord Keith specifically stated that the likelihood of the police conducting their duties with a “defensive frame of mind” when conducting investigations “cannot be excluded”.7 Thus liability could not be imposed when police were conducting investigations and this part of the ruling was prefaced by the presumption that police conduct their investigations putting forth their best efforts. The justification for the exclusionary rule may therefore be counterproductive. In safeguarding against the risk that police may become too distracted by the prospects of being found liable for negligence in the performance of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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