DPP v Santa-Bermudez- Case Summary

DPP v Santa-Bermudez

High Court

Citations: [2003] EWHC 2908 (Admin).


A police officer attended Stockwell Underground Station to investigate ticket touting. She saw the respondent, who appeared to behave like a tout. She approached him, and after a brief conversation she asked him to come with her to the station supervisor’s office. He agreed.

At the office, she informed the respondent that wanted to perform a full body search, and asked him to turn out his pockets. He did so, putting needleless syringes on the table. She then asked him to turn out the linings of his pockets. He complied, but he could not turn out the linings of two breast pockets.

The police officer then asked the respondent if that was everything he was carrying. The respondent stated that it was. She then sought to clarify whether he had any needles or sharps on him. He told her that he did not. In fact, there was a hypodermic needle in one of the breast pockets. The officer started the search, and pricked her finger on the needle. The respondent smirked and revealed another needle in his trouser pocket.

The respondent was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm. In his defence, he argued that he had not applied force to the officer – she had touched the needle herself.

  1. Could battery be committed by omission in these circumstances?

The High Court held that the respondent’s behaviour amounted to battery. He had created a dangerous situation by putting an exposed needle in his pocket. He also gave her dishonest reassurances which foreseeably put her at risk of harm. This was a ‘continuing act’ which placed him under a duty to inform the officer that she was coming into the vicinity of the danger. As such, this was not a case where the injury was caused purely by omission.

This Case is Authority For…

A person can come under a duty to act for the purposes of criminal law if they create a dangerous situation. If their failure to act causes force to be applied to a person, they can be liable for battery and other offences against the person.