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No duty of care owed by employer to employees in the conduct of civil litigation

25th July 2018

James-Bowen & Ors v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2018] UKSC 40

The Supreme Court has held that the Commissioner owed no duty to protect the economic and reputational interests of officers whose alleged misconduct formed the subject of a civil claim, which the Commissioner had settled.

The officers had been involved in executing the arrest of Babar Ahmed (who was subsequently convicted of terrorism offences and served a sentence in the USA) at BA’s home in December 2003.  BA accused the officers of having assaulted and abused him, allegations which received widespread media coverage.  BA brought a civil claim against the Commissioner, who was vicariously liable for the officers’ actions and who settled the claim with an admission of liability (relating to the officers’ alleged wrongdoing) and payment of compensation.  The officers were not parties to the civil claim and had declined to give evidence at the trial to due fears for their own safety, following the release of their identities into the public domain by the IOPC.  After the civil claim was settled, the officers were prosecuted in the Crown Court: a jury speedily acquitted them following disclosure of a probe in BA’s home which undermined his version of events.

The officers brought claims against the Commissioner, as their quasi-employer, for having failed to protect their interests in the conduct of the civil litigation including the settlement of the claim.

The judgment is important for all employers (or, like the Commissioner, quasi-employers) who defend civil claims brought against them based on their vicarious liability for the actions of their employees.

To read Cecily White’s full commentary of this case on our UK Police Law blog, please click here.

John Beggs QC, James Berry and Cecily White acted for the Commissioner in the Court of Appeal [2016] EWCA Civ 1217 and at first instance [2015] EWHC 1249 (QB)

John Beggs QC and Cecily White also acted for the Commissioner in Mohidin v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2016] EWHC 105 (QB), which was cited  in the James- Bowen proceedings as an example of a case where there may be different interests between different employees, with the associated possibility of contribution proceedings being brought.

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