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Smith v Chief Constable Sussex Police House of Lords Facts C reported to the police that he had received persistent and threatening telephone, text and internet messages from his former partner following the break up of their relationship, including threats to kill him. He provided the officers with details of his former partner's previous history of violence, his home address and the contents of the messages. The officers declined to look at or record the messages, took no statement from him and completed no crime form. However they took steps to trace the calls and informed him of the progress of that investigation. Shortly thereafter he was attacked at his home by his former partner and sustained severe and continuing injuries Sedley LJ COA
Sometimes when someone places life so much in hands of police, have a duty beyond that of the normal person to protect them. Held Lord Bingham
I would hold that if a member of the public (A) furnishes a police officer (B) with apparently credible evidence that a third party whose identity and whereabouts are known presents a specific and imminent threat to his life or physical safety, B owes A a duty to take reasonable steps to assess such threat and, if appropriate, take reasonable steps to prevent it being executed
Much attention has rightly been directed to the public policy considerations which weighed heavily with the House in Hill , leading to the decision that no duty of care should be imposed o Lord Keith's second reason was that in some instances the imposition of liability might lead to the exercise of a function being carried on in a detrimentally defensive frame of mind, and the possibility of this happening in relation to the investigative operations of the police could not be excluded. This was, with respect, an entirely apt observation on the facts of Hill , where the plaintiff's complaint was directed to the investigative operations of the police. It is not, however, easy to see how acceptance of the liability principle could induce a detrimentally defensive frame of mind. All that would be called for in the first instance would be a reasonable assessment of the threat posed to an identified potential victim by an identified person o Lord Keith's fourth reason, closely linked with the third, was that if actions were allowed to be brought a great deal of police time, trouble and expense might be expected to have to be put into the preparation of the defence and the attendance of witnesses at the trial, which would be a significant diversion of police manpower and attention from their most important function, that of the suppression of crime
? But acceptance of the liability principle does not distract the police from their primary function of suppressing crime and apprehending criminals but calls for reasonable performance of that function
the law attaches particular importance to the protection of life and physical safety, and I do not think it necessary for present purposes to analyse in detail the cases on property damage
Public policy itself o the public policy consideration which has first claim on the loyalty of the law is that wrongs should be remedied and very potent considerations are required to
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