GB v Home Office – Case Summary

GB v Home Office

High Court

Citations: [2015] EWHC 819 (QB).


The defendant (the Home Office) unlawfully detained the claimant at an immigration centre for over a month. The defendant had delegated administration of the centre to a third-party company. During this time, a medical practitioner gave her an anti-malarial drug. This was required for all detainees likely to be deported to Nigeria. The drug caused her to have a psychotic episode.

The claimant sued the defendant in the tort of negligence. She alleged that the defendant owed her a non-delegable duty to take reasonable care in the medical treatment of detainees.

  1. Did the defendant owe the claimant a non-delegable duty of care in the medical care given at the immigration centre?

The High Court held in favour of the claimant. The criteria set out in Woodland v Essex County Council [2013] UKSC 66 for identifying whether a non-delegable duty exists were established:

  1. The claimant was especially vulnerable or dependent on the protection of the defendant against the risk of injury;
  2. Due to the detention, there was an independent relationship between the claimant and defendant. This relationship placed her in their custody or care and a positive duty of protection could be imputed from it;
  3. The claimant had no control over how this duty was executed (or by whom). This was particularly so as she could not reject the treatment;
  4. The defendant delegated performance of the duty to a third party; and
  5. The negligence alleged was part of the performance of that delegated duty. The provision of medical care preparing a detainee for removal was an integral part of the delegated duty.
This Case is Authority For…

Prisoners and other people who are involuntarily detained will generally meet the first Woodland criterion.


Another issue in this case was whether these facts could properly be distinguished from Christina Morgan v Ministry of Defence [2010] EWHC 2248 (QB). That case held that a Young Offenders Institution did not owe a non-delegable duty to detainees regarding medical treatment received there.

Coulson J explained that Christina Morgan was decided prior to Woodland, at a time when the law was ‘extremely confused’. The judge in that case relied on several assumptions to reach his conclusion which Woodland had expressly disavowed. Coulson J therefore thought that a modern court would decide Christina Morgan differently. It therefore could not affect the ruling in this case.