Can you sue the Police for negligence when they admit they have made mistakes?
A recent Supreme Court decision has reinforced the long established legal position that the Police cannot be sued for negligence.
In 2009 Joanna Michael was murdered by her former boyfriend. Cyron Williams had broken into Joanna’s home having learned of her new relationship, he made threats to kill her. Joanna called 999. The call was taken by Gwent Police before being transferred to South Wales Police. The call should have been graded as requiring an immediate response but was wrongly downgraded to a lower level. Joanna made a second 999 call but by the time the Police arrived at Joanna’s home, she had been stabbed 72 times.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled that both South Wales and Gwent Police had made mistakes.
Joanna’s family issued court proceedings for negligence against both police forces, hoping to secure compensation to help support her 2 children. The Court of Appeal had previously ruled that the claim could not succeed as the Police have immunity from negligence claims. This decision has now been upheld by the Supreme Court.
This is a tragic case. A young mother’s life has been ended in a brutal way. Her death may have been prevented if the Police had not wrongly downgraded her call and had attended her home immediately. It may appear a harsh decision to prevent her family from claiming compensation where the Police themselves have admitted their errors. Against this we have to consider the position of the Police. The Police have to be able to carry out their duties without the fear of being sued for every action they take. If the Police could be sued, their precious resources would be spent trying to avoid claims rather than being used to benefit and protect the greater community. This is the public policy reasoning behind the Court’s decision.
There are no easy answers to cases such as Joanna’s, but certainly for the time being the only person that can be held liable, is the person that causes the actual harm.
There’s Snow Need to Worry!
Having had the first snow falls of the winter and with more predicted for the coming week, you may be worrying about what you should you or shouldn’t do about clearing snow and ice.
Every single winter, someone somewhere, likes to worry all decent, helpful neighbours by suggesting that they may be sued if they clear snow from their paths and driveways and then someone falls and is injured.
This is ridiculous! When it comes to making a legal claim, there is a big difference between a simple accident and someone acting negligently. To be responsible for someone’s injury, the person clearing the snow would have to be negligent and make the conditions worse. An example of negligence would be if someone used hot water to melt the snow which then re-freezes and creates a dangerous sheet of ice. To do this would defy any common sense! If you are sensible, use a shovel and some salt/grit, you won’t be able to go wrong.
For further advice on snow clearing go to www.rospa.com/wintersafety or www.gov.uk/clear-snow-road-path-cycleway
As schools get ready to break up for the summer and you start packing your suitcase ready for a fun packed fortnight in Benidorm, it’s worth familarising yourself with a recent Court of Appeal decision.
In the case of Huzar v Jet2.com, the Court of Appeal held that the airline, Jet2.com, was liable for a “technical fault” and Mr Huzar was entitled to compensation for his delayed flight.
Mr Huzar originally brought the claim against Jet2.com when they refused his request for compensation when his flight from Malaga was delayed by 27 hours. Under European Regulations, any passenger who is delayed by more than 3 hours is entitled to receive compensation of up to €600 from the airline. However airlines do not have to pay if there are “exceptional circumstances”. Jet2 argued that they were not liable to pay as the delay was due to a technical fault with the plane and that amounted to “exceptional circumstances”. Many airlines reject compensation claims on this basis.
The Court of Appeal however ruled that technical faults are inherent in the normal activity of an airline and therefore do not constitute “exceptional circumstances”. Mr Huzar was awarded compensation of £526.
This may provide you with some comfort when faced with that all too familiar flashing notice board indicating FLIGHT DELAYED, now where did I put my passport....
Happy New Year!
How many of you have made a New Year’s Resolution? How many have already broken it? Some of us may try to lose weight, join a gym, do more charitable work or give up smoking.
Now is a good time to look at your personal affairs and consider making some important resolutions that could make a big impact on your life in the coming year.
1. Make a Will – A Will is one of those things we keep meaning to make but never quite get round to. Making a Will is not difficult or expensive and it is the only way that you can ensure that your loved ones are provided for after your death in the way that you want them to be. If you have already made a Will, review it. Make sure it still reflects your wishes and your current family circumstances.
2. Consider a Lasting Power of Attorney – there are currently 800,000 people with dementia in the UK and the number is steadily increasing. By making a Lasting Power of Attorney now, you can choose who you would like to make important decisions about your care, medical treatment and money, if in the future you are unable to make your own decisions, giving peace of mind both to you and your family.
3. Review your business relationships – if you are in Partnership do you have a Partnership Agreement setting out your responsibilities, shares in the profit and losses of the business and what happens if you want to end the business? Review your Terms and Conditions. Do they define what you have agreed to supply and more importantly what you haven’t agreed to supply? Is the price clear? Is the extent of your responsibility clearly defined? Taking these simple steps now could help you avoid a lengthy and costly dispute in the future.
4. Review your personal relationships – sadly January is the busiest month of the year for divorce lawyers. If you have come to the realisation that there are cracks in your relationship which simply cannot be repaired, then get some professional advice as to the options open to you. If you are considering moving in with a partner, sit down and discuss with your partner the basis on which you will be living together, who owns the property and what should happen if you are to split up. Get your agreement recorded in writing. If you are taking the plunge of marriage, consider whether a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is a sensible step.
Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2014.
HELP! I NEED A NOTARY AND DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START
Right! You’re about to do something that involves a foreign country, whether it be moving there, working there, or dealing with assets there. You’ve had a document or a set of instructions from the relevant authority and often there will be an instruction to have a notary public sign or witness the document. The chances are that you have rarely heard of a notary public before this point and are therefore not sure where to begin.
A notary public, generally speaking, is a legally trained individual who has the role of attesting, authenticating, and certifying documents under their seal and signature for use anywhere in the world.
For instance, if you have a property in Florida that needs to be sold and you cannot go to Florida to sign the papers, the relevant papers can be signed in England or Wales before the notary. If you are starting a job in China, the authorities in China will need sight of your qualification certificates but will only verify them as authentic if a notary has certified them as authentic.
And it gets better. The receiving country might also want something called an ‘apostille’ attached to the notary’s certificate. The apostille is a small certificate that can be attached to a UK document enabling that document to be recognised outside of the UK. Most European countries require this.
The best place to start is to contact your local solicitor practice to see if they have any notary public working there. Failing that, the Notaries Society website is useful for finding a notary local to you:
A notary will insist on a face to face meeting with you. You must provide satisfactory evidence of ID to confirm you are who you say you are. The notary will usually sign and seal the documents at the meeting for you to take away…subject to payment of the notary’s fee.
If you need any further assistance with what a notary does or if you need one, contact me and I will do my very best to assist.
It’s Illegal to eat Mince Pies on Christmas Day!
I suspect that most of us would like to consider ourselves to be upright, law abiding citizens. However you may just discover that in fact you are a serial offender...
Here are a few bizarre laws that remain on our statute book and could still get you arrested!
1. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.
2. In the Cathedral Close of Hereford it is legal to shoot a Welshman with a long bow.
3. In Scotland it is an offence to be drunk in charge of a cow.
4. It is illegal to have a pigsty in front of your house. A good excuse to keep your front garden neat and tidy!
5. Under the terms of the Protection of Wrecks Order 2003, a person shall not enter the hull of the Titanic without permission of the Secretary of State.
6. In London it is illegal for cab drivers to transport rabid dogs and corpses.
7. It is an offence to beat or shake your carpet, mat or rug. You may beat your doormat but only before 8am.
8. It is illegal to sing any profane or obscene song in the street. Try telling that to certain football fans!
9. It is illegal to gamble in a library. No internet poker then on the library computers!
And the one I find the most ridiculous:
10. It is illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day! Apparently we have Oliver Cromwell to blame for this. He banned these yummy treats when he was trying to tackle rising gluttony.
Now you know, you have no excuse....
YOUR TITLE DEEDS: MISSING PRESUMED…?
I renewed my car tax last month. It is probably the only time of the year where I have to make sure I know where my car insurance certificate, logbook, and MOT certificate are kept. Also, having moved house, the details on the logbook needed updating, but could I find the logbook or reminder? Not at all.
It was all sorted in the end, but it reiterated the importance of knowing where your documents are kept.
Now, I have come across a recurring problem when dealing with property sales over the past six months: clients cannot find the original title deeds to their property. These are essential when it comes to selling or (re)mortgaging the property as the buyer or lender will want evidence that the owner ‘owns’ (i.e. has title to) the property.
If you bought your property since 1990, it is conceivable that your property has been registered with the Land Registry. What this means is that you can obtain a copy of your property deed by ordering this online for a small fee. Even if you misplace the original deed, you can usually obtain copies from Land Registry without any serious concerns.
However, if the property has not been sold or mortgaged since 1990, it is possible that the property is unregistered, which means the deeds to the property will consist of a large bundle of documents such as conveyances, assignments, mortgages, and Land Charges searches. If these documents get misplaced, then any chance of a quick conveyancing sale disappears.
If you have a bundle of deeds and you know they require registration, I would strongly advise that you get them registered. The benefits of registration, according to the Land Registry, are that it establishes proof of ownership and produces an easy-to-read document reflecting the contents of all the paper title deeds. This simplifies conveyancing, making transactions easier and potentially less costly for all involved.
And…it makes our job as solicitors easier too!
Gwyn James offers registration services including:
· First registrations of deeds;
· Tracing of title deeds; and
· Registration based on lost or missing title documents
If we can assist, please give us a call or drop us an email.
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