Do Police Officers have a duty of care in the exercise of his/her duties?. Maybe – after two decisions, one in the Supreme Court of NSW and one in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
In the NSW case the deceased was killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2013. Approximately 7 months later members of the deceased’s family visited the accident scene. They claimed to have suffered psychological injury as a consequence of discovering parts of the deceased’s foot and ankle, as well as remnants of clothing containing his remains at the scene. The family members commenced proceedings for nervous shock against the State of New South Wales. At hearing the proceedings were dismissed on the application of the Police on the basis that police officers owed no duty of care to the family members.
The family members appealed and the appeal was allowed, the Appeal Court noting that given the present state of the law, there is a degree of uncertainty regarding the circumstances in which police owe a duty of care. The Court held that there is a reasonable argument that the law should recognise a wider scope of liability. As the Appeal was upheld the matter is now to be decided in a Full Court Hearing.
In the Victorian case, a mother and her 3 children sued the State of Victoria in relation to repeated instances of family/domestic violence by the biological father of the children, with whom the mother had a relationship. The father had perpetrated many repeated instances of family violence against the mother and her children. The State of Victoria sought dismissal of the proceedings alleging there was no duty of care owing by the Police. The mother alleged that the Police Officers owed her and her children duties of care as victims of family violence and that as a result of breaches of those duties they suffered harm.
The Court determined a duty of care investigating criminal conduct may exist where certain features are satisfied – these features including foreseeability, knowledge, responsibility and control. The State of Victoria argued that the claim by the mother and her children had no real prospect of success. This argument was rejected by the Court and the Application of the State of Victoria was dismissed.
The ultimate outcome of the two abovementioned matters in the Supreme Courts of NSW and Victoria will be interesting. It may be that if the Courts hold that the Police have a duty of care to members of the public in the execution of their duties a claim may be able to be made for compensation if that duty is breached.
If you would like to know where you stand in relation to a possible compensation claim or if you have been injured in an accident at work, in a motor vehicle accident or in a public place such as a shopping centre, call Peter Moore, Specialist Compensation Lawyer now on 4324 7699.