Calveley v Chief Constable of Merseyside
Worrall v Chief Constable of Merseyside
Park v Chief Constable of Merseyside
House of Lords
Citations:  AC 1228;  2 WLR 624;  1 All ER 1025; (1989) 153 LG Rev 686; (1989) 86(15) LSG 42; (1989) 139 NLJ 469.
The claimants were police officers working for Merseyside Police. The officers had complaints made against them by members of the public. As a result, they were subject to disciplinary proceedings. These disciplinary proceedings took just under three years to complete. For two of those years, two of the officers were not even aware that a complaint had been made against them.
The first officer was ultimately not prosecuted. The second was acquitted. The third officer was prosecuted, found guilty and dismissed. This dismissal was overturned on appeal to the courts, on the basis that the delay had prejudiced the officer’s ability to defend himself.
The officers claimed that the delay in the investigation was negligent and in breach of the duties imposed on the defendant by the Police (Discipline) Regulations 1977. On this basis, the officers sued for damages relating to economic and psychiatric harm which they had suffered.
- Do the Police (Discipline) Regulations 1977 give rise to an action for breach of statutory duty?
- Do the police owe a duty of care in negligence to suspects to investigate crime in a reasonable and timely manner?
The House of Lords held in favour of the defendant. No action lay for breach of statutory duty. No duty of care was owed at common law.
This Case is Authority For…
The Police (Discipline) Regulations 1977 do not give rise to an action for breach of statutory duty. The purpose of the duty is to protect the officer from prejudice, not to protect the officer from psychiatric or economic harm. If delay leads to prejudice which cannot be remedied, the proper course of action is judicial review of the decision to continue the proceedings.
The police do not owe a common law duty of care in negligence to suspects requiring them to conduct investigations in a timely or reasonable manner.
The Lords gave two reasons for refusing to create a duty of care in negligence:
- Economic and psychiatric loss is not a foreseeable result of a negligently handled criminal investigations;
- It would be contrary to public policy to impose such a duty. The threat of a negligence action would hamper the ability of the police to act fearlessly and efficiently.