Duty of care owed to police officer

Waters v Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police IDS Brief 668, House of Lords.

In 1988 Waters alleged that while off duty and residing in police accommodation she was sexually assaulted by a fellow officer. Waters’ colleagues persistently victimised and harassed her after she complained and the cumulative effect of this caused her psychiatric injury.

In 1994 Waters commenced High Court proceedings against the commissioner alleging he was personally liable for failing to investigate her complaint, was negligent in preventing the harassment and was vicariously liable for that harassment. Waters’ claim was dismissed. Police officers are “office holders” not employees and as a matter of public policy the commissioner owed no duty of care. The Court of Appeal agreed.

The House of Lords held the claim could proceed. Waters was in a “quasi-employment relationship”. The commissioner owed her a duty of care and could be liable for negligently permitting the harassment.

Waters’ sex discrimination claim had been dismissed by the tribunal, EAT and Court of Appeal because the assault had not occurred during the course of employment.

Discrimination against own racial group possible

Graham v London Borough of Barnet IRLB 647, EAT

Graham, a training adviser and Bennett, her line manager, were both black. Graham was responsible for presenting a three-day training course but after the first day delegates complained the course was too basic. Graham agreed to change the content but half way through the second day abandoned the course after learning her daughter was ill. She was suspended on full pay and subsequently given a written warning by Bennett for unacceptable behaviour.

Graham’s internal appeal was dismissed as was her race discrimination claim. The tribunal held Graham had suffered no financial detriment and it could not infer from the facts Bennett would have treated a white woman differently. It considered it unlikely Bennett would have discriminated against someone of the same race.

Graham appealed. The EAT held “detriment” was not limited to financial detriment and should be interpreted broadly. Further, it cannot be assumed that two individuals of the same racial group will not discriminate against each other although the “sameness” could be taken into account. Bennett’s treatment of Graham, however, was not determined by race and the appeal was dismissed.

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